Magazine article Marketing

How a Women's Ad Agency Failed to Impress with Its 'Gender' Pitch

Magazine article Marketing

How a Women's Ad Agency Failed to Impress with Its 'Gender' Pitch

Article excerpt

The UK's first women-only advertising agency folded last week. Steve Bell looks at how Gotham failed in its bid to win over marketers

It was a brave effort, but five years after its launch, Gotham, the UK's first advertising agency run and staffed by women, has closed its doors, The end was brutal; parent company Interpublic faxed the London office's five staff a note closing down the operation. Gotham, which attempted to offer 'feminine insight' into the marketing of female products, was finished.

The company's collapse,attributed to "finance and politics", raises the question of whether the concept of gender-specific marketing - women working on women's products and men working on men's products - has any real appeal in the market.

It is a neat idea. After all, how many men are intimately familiar with the troubles of monthly menstrual cycles and how many women could empathise with shredded face skin after using a razor that loses its edge in a day.

Ironically Gotham did not set out to become a female only agency. It launched on the back of a Yardley account which was handed to it by its US sister. Wasser Stein Pereola, a US venture capital operation owned Yardley and was pleased with what Gotham New York had achieved for its other cosmetic interest, Maybelline. The UK office was born and in came female managing partner Ali Large, who teamed up with creative director and managing partner Eliza Parker.

Gotham really won its 'women's agency' tag on the back of its pitch for the [pounds]10m launch by US company Ultrafem of its sanpro product Instead, The client said it had been persuaded by the all-women team and their approach to the brand. But no one ever got the chance to see how this would translate into advertising work. The US client hit hard times and pulled the launch. Last year saw more bad news when Gotham's launch client, Yardley, went into receivership The agency's work for this client had included executions showing Linda Evangelista in handcuffs to show the "locked in" strength of its make-up products. This followed the decision by the Arcadia-owned Evans, which supplies big clothes for big women, to pull out of the agency. …

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