Gray Lady Chimes In On French Debacle

NYT: Among the 33 top agencies, as ranked by the trade publication Adweek, only 4 have flagship offices with female creative directors. Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam – both owned by WPP – have women as chief executives.
Linda Kaplan Thaler
“Thirty years ago we were nowhere,” said Carol Evans, the chief executive of Working Mother Media and president of the Advertising Women of New York, an organization with more than 1,200 women members. “There were no agency C.E.O.’s, and it was a very bad business for women. But the Neil French incident shows how much work still needs to be done.”
The dominance of men on the creative side of the business is even more striking, considering that women commonly make up to 80 percent of household purchasing decisions, according to the Polling Company in Washington.
Women are rarely acclaimed for creative work. Last month, the One Club inducted Diane Rothschild to its Creative Hall of Fame, the first woman chosen since 1974. In remarks at the Metropolitan Club, she called Mr. French a “bombastic, insecure throwback to the 1970’s,” and said his attitude was emblematic of his generation.
“Based on the world according to uninspired, rigid, time-warped and aging advertising men, I should be home right now in a little apron,” Ms. Rothschild said. “Where I shouldn’t be is here being inducted into the Creative Hall of Fame.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Hi David,
    Probably just an oversight on your part but you left out of your post this tidbit from the same NY Times article:
    “In 2003, women far outnumbered men in advertising agencies, accounting for 65.8 percent of the work force…”
    It’s ironic that with women holding a large majority of positions in the agency biz that the Grey Lady editors still find a way to title the article: “Stuck at the Edges of Ad Game”.
    I wonder what the percentages need to be in order for the headline to change to “In the Middle of Ad Game?”.

  2. Thanks, Mike. That is a key fact that I did overlook.

  3. i would be curious to know how the numbers break down according to power roles. yes, 65.8 percent of the workforce may be female. but i’ll bet a bottle of french wine served by a french maid that the numbers skew far differently when viewed according to leadership positions.

  4. I’ll take the bet. Now lets define the terms. Power roles? Far differently? Leadership position? Study methodology?

  5. mike, i think the opening line of the post probably proves my position.
    “Among the 33 top agencies, as ranked by the trade publication Adweek, only 4 have flagship offices with female creative directors.”
    for every linda kaplan thaler, there are infinite neil frenches.
    no need to define any terms. just try proving your case. numbers mean nothing, particulalry when they probably include support staff and janitorial maintenance.

  6. High Jive,
    The number of women CD’s is a fact. We can’t debate that. The number in power roles can be debated. My take is that most flagship CD slots are primarily ceremonial – judging award competitions, facing major client relationships, and dealing with SEC and Justice Department investigations.
    The real power resides with the art directors, designers, writers, directors, producers, account geeks and media folks. They pitch the business, produce the work, and manage the client. More importantly they make the decisions on who to hire and who to promote. And as the statistics indicate the majority of these folks are women.

  7. Gee, Mike,
    You have an idealistic definition of power. You’d be hard-pressed to find art directors, copywriters, producers, etc. who would agree they are in power. The ground troops may keep the engine running, but they don’t make the hiring decisions. Hell, most creatives have enough trouble filling out their own timesheets and expense reports. No one’s going to hand over organizational responsibilities to them.
    Forget CDs. Count the number of agencies with women at the helm in any department. I defy you to name a dozen female heads of broadcast production. I won’t even limit that category to the U.S. In the current climate, the accounting department has gained tremendous clout. Name a dozen female CFOs. OK, name half a dozen.
    Yes, there are lots of women in the business. But probably not a lot who would agree with your contention that they hold true power and authority.