Media: The Fairer Sex Sells ; Do Women Have to Emulate Men to Get Ahead in Advertising? or, Asks MEG CARTER, Is There Another Creative Route?

By Carter, Meg | The Independent (London, England), January 21, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Media: The Fairer Sex Sells ; Do Women Have to Emulate Men to Get Ahead in Advertising? or, Asks MEG CARTER, Is There Another Creative Route?


Carter, Meg, The Independent (London, England)


Consider what the following have in common. An ad for Vogue's website with a nipple representing the dot in the web address. An ad for Britvic juice in which a male fairy in a bulging jock-strap is the butt of a joke about "cramming in" 12 oranges. And an ad for Molson beer featuring an elderly man with the line: "Hang out with the guys while you can. Soon they'll be dead and then it's just sex, sex and more bloody sex."

Laddishly humorous each may be, but in fact they represent some of the cream of British advertising created by women, which goes on show in central London this week.

The aim is not just to show how women can be as creative - and as sexist - as men. Nor is the show, Women's Work, a pat on the back. No, the idea is to tackle adland's most embarrassing problem: its lack of women creatives.

For in the exhibition organisers' own words, women creatives remain "a rarity" - accounting for just 17 per cent of UK ad agency creatives. And worse, little has changed in more than a decade: in 1990 the figure was 18 per cent.

Opinions differ on the cause. Some cite the traditional path into advertising, with wannabe creatives expected to work for little or no pay to prove their worth.

According to one young all-female creative team, it's about breaking into a "homogeneous, male, middle-class" fortress: "We're frequently told the longer you are `out there' trailing around agencies the higher you are regarded, so advertising has turned into survival of the fittest."

Others highlight a pervading macho culture. "As a woman you must conform by becoming as laddish as them, fight extremely hard to stand out, or bail out," one female creative admits.

Adland has been working to improve the creative placements scheme to ensure that young hopefuls are properly paid and not strung along by the unscrupulous. But the fact remains that few female creative role models exist.

Which is where Women's Work comes in. Trouble is, the selection of work poses a fundamental question.

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