Neil French speaks at ihaveanidea in Canada

Neil French, ( the man with the highest rated portfolio website In our links here) hosted "A Night with Niel French" at I Have an Idea (also popular!) in Toronto, Canada.

During his chat he had a woman in a french maids uniform serve him drinks. Niel French. French maid. There's a joke in there somewhere. The reactions seem to all agree that Niel is often brilliant, and often a misogynist - though what ad-man of his generation isn't? The Truth is in Neil French's Jack and Coke, found on room 116 RSS feed but seems to have vanished from their site. Nancy Vonk writes about it at

"I almost managed to blank out the idiocy of the French maid for awhile because the Fenske-Boyko-French combo was on the whole so interesting and enjoyable. But by the time Neil let into the women---the slacker breeders who he made clear really don’t belong in this man’s game, my jaded jaw hit the floor."

Brett McKenzie lead writer at ihaveanidea, tells us even more about the evening. "For those who weren’t in attendance but heard whispers about the evening, you most likely heard about the part when Neil's musings turned toward the topic of women in advertising. Yes, the tension in the room definitely raised a few notches when Neil had some pretty harsh words for the females in creative. A number of people squirmed in their seats, and a few even got up and left the event altogether. However, whether you agreed with Neil's views or not, or whether you thought HE believed what he was saying, or just turned up his opinions for shock value (as showmen tend to do) the majority of the crowd hung on his every word.

There was a great moment of levity when an audience member asked Neil what he'd come back as if reincarnation existed, and Boyko and Fenske answered "an accounts guy! A FEMALE accounts guy!" Neil sheepishly admitted that if karma were real, they’d probably be right"

Adland® is supported by your donations alone. You can help us out by buying us a Ko-Fi coffee.
Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
Files must be less than 5 MB.
Allowed file types: jpg jpeg gif png wav avi mpeg mpg mov rm flv wmv 3gp mp4 m4v.
CopyWhore's picture

Funny how the bit vanished from the VCU AdCenter website.

But seriously. If women feel slighted by Frenchie's comments, they should prove him wrong. Simple as that...

Dabitch's picture

How? By never breeding? How do we settle the score - can we collect a 30 year great career at the end of our fertility, or can we cash that prize out in advance? ;))As for that review of the night being removed from room's pages, that is very strange isn't it? Perhaps the author decided against being so frank? Perhaps they were gagged? Who knows. Anyone? Bueller?

CopyWhore's picture

I mean prove him wrong by being great. I'm not saying not to have a family or devote time to raising kids. All that matters in the end is great creative. So whether you choose to raise a family or not, all that matters is that you do a stellar job.

It's difficult, for sure, but definitely not impossible...

Dabitch's picture

As far as I could tell from the quotes in the posts that I linked to, Neil never denies that women can be great creatives. His problem was that they take time off when having babies.

But not all women (or men for that matter), have babies. And not all women stay home with their babies either. But all women are judged as if we will breed and take time off for breeding at some point in our career - while men (equally fertile) are not, even though they too can choose to stay home and take time off. s'all I'm sayin'.

Dabitch's picture

(admittingly, it's really hard to know what Niel meant or actually said since there are no transcripts - just three different peoples interpretations of what Niel said.)

caffeinegoddess's picture

And why should it be any more difficult for a woman than a man? Claiming that it is difficult but not impossible just illustrates the point that gender IS an issue even more so.

I'd also like to know exactly how you can say it's only great creative that matters with an issue like this one.

When you're up against a guy for a job and people with that mentality about breeding decide on the man over the can you prove these close minded idiots wrong?

And beside the fact that this kind of mentality is's also illegal. It's called discrimination. Some may poo-poo it but it's not right, and I don't give a rats ass if you're a world-renouned CD or whatever but it's not something to make light of.

AnonymousCoward's picture

It is amazing how out of touch some ad folks are. It's one thing to have highly offensive personal views, but to have such poor judgment that you air them in public is another.
Not so long ago, I came across a comment by Gerry Moira in Campaign's Cannes speical supplement where he made comments along the lines of "if you want to get ahead, you got to sit with the Japs in the theatre". More recently, there was Maraschino nominating the name "Enola Gay" as one of their runners-up in the Name Game competition. Right about the time of the 60th anniversay of Hiroshima. Their intentions may not have been to cause offense, but they should know better. After all, they are in the business of selling products to the public-they should be aware of what dosen't pass as the norm outside of advertising.

caffeinegoddess's picture

True. I think the worst part of his defense is saying that he was trying to be humorous or whatever about it...
From NYTimes:

Mr. French said he believed that the event was private and he was there to entertain the crowd. "I wasn't joking, but I was saying it in a jokey way, in a situation that was supposed to be entertainment."

Neo's picture

I remember. the name game that Marachino won