Is Neil French Sexist, Old, Or Just Telling It Like It Is?

Well, I don’t have any direct quotes or transcripts, but apparently Neil French had some choice words to say about women creatives at a speech in Toronto last week.
Nancy Vonk, Co-CCO of Ogilvy in Toronto and co-author of the new book “Pick Me,” had a response, clearly taking exception to Neil’s views that women don’t belong in the creative department:

It’s too easy to discount Neil’s views as those of a man from an era and geographies that reinforced that the role of women should be reserved for pleasing the men, marrying them, bearing and caring for their offspring. What struck me so hard as he described a group that will inevitably wimp out and “go suckle something” after their short stint in advertising, was that in his honest opinion he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in the senior ranks of our business. Before us was a big part of the explanation of why more women aren’t succeeding in advertising. If male CD’s even a little like Neil see the female creative coming towards him with her work and he’s already convinced she’s extremely limited in her ability and value, what lens is he seeing her work—her—through? Would you expect that CD to offer the same support and guidance and consideration he gives the men? Might that woman keep herself down on the farm when her leader conveys in countless ways she’s not as good as the boys? Might she respond with less than her best effort when the adored leader expects little of her? Might she want to leave, not to have babies but because the conditions for her to succeed don’t exist and the message she can’t succeed is too discouraging?

Whether you agree with Neil or not, the face of the ad industry, and the face of the consumer, is changing, at least in America. There will be more women and more minorities all around, and it will change the nature of the creative work, whether it’s in the tonality or the sensibility. It seems like we’re reaching a tipping point in the ad industry, where middle-aged (or in Neil’s case, old) white males won’t be the sole standard-bearers of what constitutes great advertising, or what constitutes the “universal truths” that go into the making of great advertising. Or are we?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Carl LaFong says:

    Sexist? Old? Telling it like it is? You’re discounting a fourth possibility: that Neil set out to be deliberately provocative by saying something calculated to outrage and offend. He may or may not actually believe that women are unfit to serve in creative departments. But I suspect all he really cared about was stirring a tempest in a D cup. And it worked: It got everyone talking about him — although why someone with such a God-like standing in the ad biz would feel the need to stoop to this kind of contrived controversy in order to score a few inches in a couple of blogs is beyond me. Is he that starved for attention? I guess even the biggest names are insecure at heart.

  2. “Many young women in school”. . .
    That’s what I read in Nancys Vonk’s response. Should I have stopped there? Was she speaking to me?.
    Kids are a great thing to have, care for, and stay home with. Life begins at 45. You can still get in a good 20 years in this business. So do it if you want… one after the other. Besides, by this age AND fresh out of school, one is feisty enough to bust out laughing at Neil and old enough to put it behind you.

  3. Carl makes an interesting yet disturbing point. If French did indeed deliberately say something calculated to outrage and offend, then he is truly a sad, old man.
    I wonder if his statements weren’t more in line with William Bennett’s recent comments about reducing crime rates by aborting Black babies. Bennett insists he was making a negative, impossible argument that he deemed reprehensible. At the same time, that he could even brainstorm the idea reveals underlying beliefs that Bennett now denies.
    Or maybe French was commenting like the late Al Campanis, who made his infamous remarks about Blacks and sports.
    Regardless of the motivations, it’s unfortunate that anyone might think remarks rooted in discrimination — whether calculated, sarcastic or whatever — would ever be acceptable. And it’s really sad when considering our business has a history of problems with discrimination. We don’t need alleged leaders perpetuating the stereotypes.

  4. Regardless of what Neil said about women that night, it was an incredible show. I hope that any negativity about Neil’s comments is not reflected onto the hardworking people of I Have An Idea, who put together a fantastic evening.

  5. Well, Casey, one would hope no negativity is cast upon the event organizers. But your opening statement, “Regardless of what Neil said about women that night, it was an incredible show,” is reminiscent of a classic line:
    “Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

  6. True, HighJive, but I find so much attention is being paid to Neil’s remarks on women and advertising, and Nancy’s response to them, that the rest of the evening is getting lost. Neil, Mark and Rick had a lot to talk about, and a lot of interesting points were made. Thoughts on craft vs. art, being a creative vs. a creative director, great advertising vs. famous advertising. Even amongst the bluster of the Great Non-Debate —non-debate because as upset as some people were, nobody openly objected him at the time— Neil made some valid points that could be debated intelligently instead of being tossed aside as the ramblings of horny old chauvanist. And how about those flamenco dancers!
    It looks like everyone will be able to see for themselves what Neil actually said, as I Have An Idea is releasing a DVD of the entire show.

  7. Well, Casey, you make a lot of valid points. And it all reflects the disruptive nature of Neil French and his remarks.
    A number of people commenting at other blogs also argue that no one challenged French at the event. Most folks were probably too shocked to respond. After all, it was advertised as An Evening with Neil French — not a debate with the man. Sure, someone like French is expected to ruffle feathers and be “provocative” — but few folks assumed they had paid money to be insulted and attacked.
    I was not at the event, but things I’m seeing and reading — including the French maid prop — speak volumes about the state of our industry. Plus, some of it may be the fault of the event organizers (i.e., did French insist on having the sexy French maid available?).
    It is unfortunate that the great insights and points may be forgotten over the furor. But let’s properly place the responsibility for this on Neil French, not his audience.

  8. The show was promoted as “A Night With Neil French” and promotional material (including the website, which is still up) talked about his previous career as manager of Judas Priest and a pornographer and the promise that “no question will be spared” and “no topic will be taboo.” Tickets were priced at $125. Mr. French apparently believed that creative people actually would enjoy his tweaking of the politically correct thinking.
    It seems some questions were taboo – or at least, the answers were. See, the creative people in the ad business would prefer that rogues like Mr. French only say what they think only if it corresponds to what everyone else thinks. This proves to me what I’ve always thought: creative people like to see themselves as being open-minded, but in fact, they really like only hearing opinions that mirror their own.

  9. Well, My Man, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
    I’m not convinced Mr. French apparently believed he was tweaking anything. I suspect he believes what he said. Nancy Vonk apparently believes he believes what he said. Mr. French has his opinions, and he presented them in his own unique style. The rest of us can and will do likewise.
    You have a unique perspective about creatives. You’re wrong to think we only like hearing opinions that mirror our own. It’s just that a few of us don’t believe in remaining silent when someone presents discriminatory, outdated attitudes that are hurting the business.
    But that’s just my biased opinion.

  10. well whatever the case may be, neil french has been let go, fired, debunked, see ya later you old bastard!

  11. you all are idiots. Neil lives in asia. Ever been? It’s a land where the truth is told, no matter how politically incorrect it may be. Fact is, the man was married to the most successful female creatice director in asia (Much less the world) Linda Locke for over ten years. I hardly think he is saying this for shock value. Let the numbers speak for themselves.

  12. I’m a cd of a worldwide advertising firm, local and international awards, wife, mother, stepmother, daughter of ill parents, 3 dogs, 2 houses and 44 years old.
    Goodbye Mr. French.
    Bet you know this:
    You’re as good as your last ad.

  13. I live in Asia. In India. Its different out here. While women in the West may be outraged about Mr. French’s comments, the point is that many of them are outraged women with jobs. Here in India, women are only at the beginning of a long uphill struggle reminiscent of the suffragette days of the 19th century in America. We have our Emmeline Pankhursts but they battle against a system that uses weapons like female infanticide and pulling female children out of school early. In China, locally made ultrasound machines are a boom industry – for all the wrong reasons. In India, sex determination is against the law. If I sound too grim, there are signs of hope. ICICI Bank, one of India’s biggest, for example, has women in all key positions. Then there’s the software and call-centre business. But overall, and this includes advertising, sexist attitudes are deeply ingrained.
    I would really like to read the full transcript of Mr. French’s speech before I make a final call, but from where I sit, this kind of grenade-lobbing is depressing and recidivist.
    Find another way to grab your audience Mr. French.

  14. i wonder when it was that we gave the ad business to such a bunch of PC vomiting wimps?
    is this really all you can take from a man’s long career, one small set of statements?
    and you know what, whether he was being deliberatly provocative or merely stating his beliefs it really doesn’t matter. Should we attempt to stop him speaking? Of course, his opinion differs from other peoples, well damn, let’s slap him down, shut him up and hang him.
    Dear dear, what a load of sad sad fools we have become.

  15. chas heale says:

    Neil French,obviously a sexist t**t. (The asterisks are there in case someone running this messageboard is upset by offensive language). The pathetic attempts to try and justify this guy’s behaviour, are just that: pathetic. This guy isn’t controversial or radical, just boring (perhaps this is why most advertising is sexist and racist (and complete s**t as well)). I’ve heard enough sexist s**t from inadequates during my life not to want to hear more. The first thing is that a woman cared for him during his early years and this is the way he thanks her. Don’t get me wrong, women have their faults but they like everyone on the planet should be treated with respect.

  16. Mr. Diplomacy strikes again………:))))))))
    I saw him give a “lecture” at Cannes this summer during which he mentioned that Australian culture and Irish intelligence where good examples of oxymorons.
    What he didn’t realise is that he came across as a bit of a moron himself. Great writer though. I like him. The Bernard Manning of advertising.

  17. Big deal. All he said was that women aren’t good creative directors. I am sick of all the sanctimonious farts out there who think this is tantamount to saying ‘I hate niggers’ or something like that. It’s not. ‘I hate niggers’ reveals a malicious, insecure, narrow-minded personality. By saying women make crap CDs he was only making an observation, which is, contestably, true. It’s like saying ‘Chicks won’t make it in organised crime’. This is a business unlike any in the artistic field. It feeds on cut-throat competition, a really, really thick hide and in a lot of third-world countries, the ability to work longer hours. Also, to handle the fragile egos of creatives and the devious corporate games of suits, you need to have ‘an animal presence to be a natural leader of men’ (from the ‘Godfather’, which, incidentally is what a lot of people in the industry call Neil). The closest job to that of a CD’s is that of a football coach. Would it be so wrong to say ‘All female football coaches are crap’? I’ve just heard that he’s been asked to quit his role as worldwide CD of WPP. What a crock! I think they probably were fixing to get him out and they simply used this as an excuse. Knowing Neil, he’ll use this to his advantage and laugh at the schmucks who paid for his 6-month vacations to Spain. The loss is WPP’s. I work with Y&R in Asia and I’m aggrieved to hear of his exit. He was the face of this place. Without him, we’re just a bunch of d*ckless account men.

  18. Well, for those struggling with the political controversies, perhaps it would be easier to consider the professional aspects.
    Neil French stumbled for his failures as an adman.
    First, he failed to consider a key advertising tenet: Know your target. He walked into an audience with lots of women and young professionals and spewed outdated perspectives.
    Second, his quotes during an Advertising Age interview spoke volumes. “If you can’t commit yourself to any job then, by definition, you’re crap at it. If you can’t commit 100% to your job, don’t pretend you can. Nobody deserves a job unless they can commit to it,” he insisted. Neil French couldn’t commit to keeping up with the times, which is what the advertising business has always demanded.

  19. Who is more irritating? The chauvinist pig or the ones that cough up untold cash for his blabbering?

  20. no, you’re just dickless, malicious, insecure and narrow-minded.

  21. Advertising is a bunch of lies and half-truths designed to manipulate people, women men, rich poor, ugly attractive, healthy unhealthy, on the edge, old young, and make as much money without consideration for the consequences as possible. It is funny that a bunch of people in the business actually judge this man for anything other than whether or not he made a tactical mistake in his “career” or financial goals.

  22. I am so tired of the “all people are equal” blather! Men can’t have babies; women can. Biologically they were expressly made to “go and suckle something”. That they give into their biology doesn’t make them bad people or any less deserving or worthy as creatures on God’s green earth. It might, however, make them less steady and reliable workers! It might, with all the hormones involved in procreating and carrying a child, make them more emotional. And having a baby at home to care for and worry about, might make women more distracted. That men’s only contribution to this entire process of preserving the human race on this planet (!) is to donate a few sperm 9 months before the real work begins, may make them better capable of sitting in an office all day bullshitting, and hanging out with clients all night drinking. But none of this practical reality of God’s grand design changes or confers status on one gender over the other.

  23. Canajan Ad Girl says:

    Humanfly, Neil didn’t say that “women aren’t good creative directors”. He was making the completely different point that the reason there are fewer women creative directors than men is primarily due to the increased responsibilities that many women carry when they become mothers. As a senior level writer, I’ll be the first to agree with him. I’ve always put my children first – and yes, it’s affected my career, and I’ve happily let it do so. Hell…I even turned down the position of CD at a multinational agency because I knew the hours I would have to put in would mean more time away from my family. Everyone’s knocking Frenchy for basically telling it like it is. I was there, by the way.

  24. springbyker says:

    I’ve worked in advertising for 2 1/4 years, and I see that it suffers from the same problems as other US industries: everyone, male and female, is expected to sacrifice our lives to our jobs. We get more generous salaries and vacations than workers in some other fields, but we’re supposed to work evenings and weekends with no overtime pay and without complaining. Anyone, male, female, or transgender, who wants to have a healthy family life — hell, a healthy *life*, period — is considered a slacker. This is screwed up. As one of my co-workers who escaped used to say when we had to have something done yesterday, “It’s an ad, not a case in the emergency room.”
    And Neil is an anachronistic, misogynist freak who should go live on a desert island somewhere. What he produces in the ad world for women is known legally as “hostile climate.” Maybe he pulled his shenanigans in a venue where he knew he couldn’t be sued. Good riddance, and may he take all his cronies with him.

  25. richard walsh says:

    I want to know the name of any company he had any contact with so I know which companies to boycott.

  26. anna nomber says:

    I think he is a ridiculous fool

  27. I worked with Mr. French over 16 years and firmly believe that his views were his true opinion and not some attempt at sparking debate. I’ve sat in meeting rooms with him as he lit up his cigar (surrounded by no smoking sign & non-smokers) & expounded or spewed his misogynistic opinions. As part of the “Good Ole Boy” club, that was his right…his destiny. He fancied himself a god & who could bring down almighty Zeus? Mr. French DOES view women as second class in the advertising world…he may not have stated that specifically, but that was the sub-text. I gave up 100 hour weeks the day my son was born. Best decision I ever made. I work smarter, more balanced now & bring more to the creative process as a result. It’s ironic that Ogilvy just finished their mandatory “Diversity” training, maybe WPP could benefit from forcing their upper level management to do the same.

  28. Canajan Ad Girl says:

    …and today the Toronto Star reports that Nancy Vonk – who started the whole thing with her rant – is currently taking a leave of absence to help her daughter transition to a new school. Good for you, Nancy. But it does back up what I said in my post. And totally proves Frenchy’s point! How ironic. I wonder if this is why she reacted so strongly??

  29. SO we are sad pathetic wimps for wanting Mr. French to not use his position to make offensive statements. Fine. Maybe this is why so much of advertising just doesn’t work – because in our testosterone-fuelled drive to do in-your-face work, we tend to mostly piss off consumers, in whose homes were unwanted guests in any case. It’s about time we remembered that as guests in consumers’ lives, we have some basic responsibilities such as ( dare I say this without being labelled wimpy or vegetarian?) manners.It’s marketing communication, guys, not a way to work off your anger at your parents. Get with the program.

  30. Obviously, Neil was thinking only of his own limited capabilities when he said that women can’t be great creatives “because you can’t commit yourself to the job.”, and “You can’t be a great creative director and have a baby and keep spending time off every time your kids are ill”.
    He doesn’t understand how an individual takes on multiple responsibilities in different areas of one’s life, perhaps because he can only do one thing at any given time – advertising – and he is most likely “crap” at everything else in his own life.

  31. Instead of debating what he said, wouldn’t it be more interesting to figure out a system where we could help producing more female CD’s?

  32. Let me start of by saying if you work hard, you deserve time off if you require it. I think the concept of working yourself into the ground needs to change. Especially if you’re having a baby. That is, unless companies want to start sponsoring abortions. I’m sure that’d go over well.
    I think Mr. French’s comments were insulting to me as a woman not only because they were made in a generalizing and sexist way; but because he doesn’t seem to think that a single father would run into the same problems. Why? Because he’s a “man”?
    Mr. French is telling it like it is. Yeah. He just opened his mouth and poured out all of his ignorance for everyone to see. Good for him. He can be an asshole in public. So can my uncle with a few shots of whiskey.
    The sad part about this entire thing is some people actually agree with that crap. People have all kinds of limitations they bring with them to the work place. There are people with handicaps, with mental disorders, with other jobs. But that doesn’t mean they just give up. Just because I may have children doesn’t mean I would just give up because some crusty, old white man thinks that I can’t do it. Women work just as hard if not harder for their positions. They’ve fought bias and discrimination from men like Mr. French. Sometimes they’re single and are pulling the weight of two people with their home life while /having/ to work. They should be respected for it, not stepped on.
    Peter – I may be “biologically-made” to have children, but that does not make me less of a worker. In fact, I did better than most males in school who were, for the most part, less motivated than I was. I’m intelligent and hardworking. I /deserve/ whatever job I get. And being “emotional”? Women learn to deal with it, just like some men learn how to deal with their needle-wide perceptiveness. Not living with emotions is a very masculine concept and one that I don’t believe in. Emotions give people fire and make them human. If there was more emotion in the workplace, maybe some people would learn a thing or two. Like how to respect others. Hm, what a concept.
    Also, if you think a man is only obligated to donate some sperm in the process of bearing and raising children? You should never get married. A trip to the sperm bank would suit you better, since that would be all that you’re good for. Don’t talk about God’s grand design unless you have a little red phone that connects directly to heaven.
    I’m a woman and I’ll have children if I want to. If I ever give up my job for my children, it won’t be because some man told me I should. I /am/ equal to any man and in some ways, better.
    I think Mr. French needs to be a single parent for a week who needs to cook dinner. Or at the very least, give the man some cramps. Then we’d see if he’d be as outstanding at doing /his/ job as some women are at theirs.

  33. Who is Neil French? An old, out-of-touch, bloviating self-promoter who has written some good ads. Why people in advertising want to go hear other people in advertising say anything besides “boy, am I fortunate I get paid an outrageous sum to write cartoons for a living” is beyond me. Whoever had the misfortune to give birth to Mr. French probably rued the day she stretched her uterus out for him to greet the world.

  34. mike magoo says:

    billybob said it just right

  35. Cast your eyes around, there are plenty of male CDs who are crap, so what’s their excuse?
    And more importantly why do they get to remain in their jobs? Especially the lazy ones? By Neil French’s definition they shouldn’t but they are, especially in Asia where he’s based. So what’s his arguement constructed on? Hot air?
    We are talking about a man whose career is based mostly on scam ads or probono ads as they are called political correctly these days (I know, I grew up in Singapore). So who cares what he said? He resigned from WPP? Please get him and his scammy boy’s club out of Singapore too.

  36. harry wolf says:

    Who fucvking cares?
    Advertising is just another idiot poison that we gaily swig down and then complain about the effects.
    Women who work in advertising probably deserve all that Neil French and other arseholes like him throw at them.
    Grow up, ad-twats.

  37. wideeyedgirl says:

    I can’t work out whether I want to laugh or cry – I think the reality of my situation, being a female creative, makes the latter more likely. I don’t believe for one second that Neil was being controversial – he believes what he said down to the last letter. Thank god he said it where he did – in public forum – so that justice could be at last done and hopefully send a message to the thousands of mysogynists that currently rule advertising and say these things behind closed doors.
    I believe there is a strong link between mysogynistic beliefs and an incredibly poor education. I am looking forward to the day when Creative Directors stop celebrating that anyone off the street can get a job in the creative department of advertising. This is definitely still the attitude in Australia – here you get into a local course run by the current australian creative directors, 99% male and 99% not tertiary qualified, and you get the next round of “bright” young creatives. One highly paid CD brags about coming from sign writing, another working as a waiter and the list goes on. And we wonder why suits are taking over the running of agencies? We wonder why we don’t (or can’t) be client facing? Because on the whole this breed of Creative is ill-educated and unprofessional. Yes they may be able to write some good copy but how relevant can their copy and creative comprehension be to a society that has moved ten years ahead in attitude, responsibility and indeed, intelligence.
    I hope this is the start of an educated and therefore non-ignorant, business savvy creative department that is a true counterpart to Account service in moving the industry forward.
    An award-winning creative, probably having to go client-side so as to have a satisfying and developed career.

  38. Well, what Mr. French says is obviously not true, but its not a gender issue here and discussing it as one makes morons of us all.
    Being a guy, i love going home at dot 6 pm. Its just a relief from being at work, around other morons trying to push their point of views whilst blocking your thoughts in the process. So, would Mr. French call me crap. Let him, i dont give a ratz ass cause i can be successful from the 9-6 i do in my agency. God bless us and God help you Mr French

  39. Anastasia says:

    God help Mr. French….More like God HELP our children. I have been in upper managment for 15 years and I am a woman with children. I understand nobody wants to admit it but between private school, nannies and housekeepers to keep up with the care of children of professionals we are losing the battle of creating caring, communicative and smart communities as well as children. Our children are out of control. We are paying for not having a enough time. I don’t care what anyone wants to hide from our children are suffering and it directly relates to the lack of time parents spend with their children due to career commitments. We have completely forgotten that we can measure our success by how happy our children are. Go ahead Mr. or Mrs. professional I urge you to sit at a dinner table with a dinner you actually cooked from scatch and ask your children if their was one thing you could do for them what would it be….I guarantee you the answer…Try it…..

  40. I’d just like to say THANK YOU, Neil French. I hope this opens the doors of communication and education among females as much as it does for males. Bringing this up now, in 2005, is shocking but as you probably noticed, their times to stir things up a bit. Females still do not have opportunities for much say in the world today; people in high positions of power do. These people are mostly males. It often shocks me when I stumble upon anything proven otherwise. In fact, I’m quite shocked this information was brought to my attention at all! It’s a slow process, as Mr. French has well established, that woman don’t seem to be up to par with his standards of what he believes are acceptable as quality of work. Women are only just beginning to network outside the realm of having babies. I’m in great anticipation of what a greater pool of communication will bring to society. Imagine a world where men and women can learn from each other. For a long time, I’ve felt angry and hopeless for the known fact which came clear to me at age 9, was that I wouldn’t have much say in the world, being female. Thankfully, I am well over that anger. A lot of this negative energy is what generates bad ideas and could lead to shocking and horrible consequences. This is true for children, adolescence and adults. Unfortunately, some adults do not grow out of this angry behavior. If anyone has bothered to read this, I’m quite curious of what it means to be male these days. This is new territory for men to adjust to. I’d like to continue believing this is possible to achieve. Thanks.

  41. GayLikeAFox says:

    One thing that amazes me is how Mr. French’s detractors repeatedly call his views “outdated”. Given that there are so few women in the very upper echelons of the corporate world, his views are either still held erronously by a significant number of people, in which case they are not outdated, or else his views are correct, in which case it shouldn’t matter if they are outdated.
    Personally, I suspect the dearth of top-level women creatives is rooted in nature. Looking beyond the realm of advertising we see that, historically, very, very few of the top contenders in any field have been women. In other words, there are relatively few women among the world’s best chess players, chefs, mathematicians, composers, painters, bloggers, web designers, etc… People who say this is because of discrimination might want to explain why FEWER women won Nobel Prizes in Mathematics between the years 1950-2000 than between the years 1900-1950, despite the mass opening up of educational and vocational opportunites for women in the 60’s and 70’s throughout the very countries from which most Nobel Prize winners are drawn.
    Maybe it’s because women really just don’t have the same capacity for work-obsession that men do. Maybe women are more interested in personal relationships than they are in their own selves and their careers. Maybe there’s something to what Camille Paglia once said about there not being a female Beethoven because there is no female Jack the Ripper (i.e. that men naturally embody the extremes of human behavior much more frequently than do women, and thus have a much higher chance of being geniuses are serial killers). However you look at it, the reality of female underacheivement relative to men is a long-standing and universal phenomenon. Non-p.c. explanations for it shouldn’t just be shoved down the memory hole because they hurt your feelings.

  42. Here’s what I wrote to Virginia Galt, Globe & Mail, October 22, 2005:
    It’s unfortunate that Neil French’s remarks have been taken out of context and re-interpreted to suit the need for headlines. But given that’s how reputations are lost, embellished and sometimes won, let’s re-interpret some more and get him off your skewer. Let’s imagine instead of ‘women’ he had simply said ‘committed caregiver’ – which is undoubtedly what he really meant, right? Because everyone knows that, when organizations look for people that can lead them to success, given a choice between two people with identical capabilities, the one that can work 80 hours a week and travel weeks on end, without random exposure to unplanned time off due to caregiver obligations, is the one who’ll get the job. Simple. Happens everywhere and for good business reasons. And all your quoted experts either missed or avoided the issue too. Very neatly done, and disappointing too.
    If you want to expose a related problem attitude, how about making it the one about overwhelming choice of women as primary caregivers, hence they’re the ones most likely exposed to random time-off obligations away from businesss commitments? That’s the real problem isn’t it? Then you can segue to that other ridiculous corollary that in the event of separation and divorce, overwhelmingly the default parent to whom custody of children are awarded is the mom. How incorrect and inappropriate is that? And so on…
    Oh so many oxen to gore and so few half-pages available! Make your headlines out of issues – not conveniently-shaded interpretations.

  43. Neil French is a prick. He can rot with Stan Richards and the rest of the blatantly sexist creative directors in the industry.
    I was in the ad biz for 15 years. I left when I had my children. Proving Neil correct? Maybe.
    I agree that the pool of qualified, strong, intelligent women gets smaller the higher up the position. He was right that we tend to have the family commitments and it’s hard to do both well. But what I take issue with is that women are insulted, berated and thought of as weak because we have these obligations and these choices (“women are crap”).
    I look forward to the day (probably not in my lifetime) that the ad industry has open-minded individuals at the upper-levels that understand that women are no less capable and worthy of respect.

  44. Harvey Felcher says:

    Stan Richards is sexist?

  45. Armageddon says:

    Anyone care to read this?

  46. canajan ad girl says:
  47. canajan ad girl,
    i think this DUMBED it up pretty well. couldn’t even read the entire mess without tripping.
    french was out of line, given his ex-position in a major company. rumors are the dvd of the event won’t be released because french and o&m lawyers are blocking its production. why? because french has placed his company in dire legal straits. every woman at wpp would have evidence that the company is potentially discriminatory.
    everyone seems to avoid the legal ramifications of french’s statements. doesn’t matter if it’s an honest opinion. honesty of this type doesn’t win the approval of judges and juries.

  48. Given the complexity of this topic and centuries of hard work involved by both sexes, the solution to this on going (debate?) discussion seems not even close to being “summed up.” If anyone is interested in an extremely hopeful article that involves the benefits recently discovered by scientists, I urge you to check this out:
    Any thoughts?

  49. Neil French simply held the white male dominant hierarchy yardstick up to measure women’s performance, and, to no one’s surprise, women came up short. However, the dominant culture has yet to be held to an increasingly strong alternate yardstick – that of women, and non-white males. Having been born with the silver spoon of getting jobs and promotions based almost entirely on their anatomy, and the fact that white men have abdicated any responsibility for the many other things that make this world go round for the rest of us (children, and by extension one’s sense of community) they have been free to focus solely on their interest – in most cases, their career. Consequently, over the several centuries of their hegemony, they have done this very well. Unfortunately, today, being singularly focused borders on the myopic. Women and minorities have spent 2000 years multi-tasking. The reason Mr. French thinks that you have to give 100% to the job at all times is because HE has to, in order to stay focused and therfore successful. Really, white men have little practice at juggling multiple and conflicting demands, and being the dominant culture, since they can’t do it, well, it can’t be done, right? Lacking such ability, which ultimately broadens and enhances one perspective – it’s not just about YOU, it’s about you and evreyone else affected – means they tend to see things in a very black/white, linear way. It’s not very creative actually. But it’s been good enough all this time because everyone else (women, minorities) have been excluded from the playing field. While that change is slow to come, it is absolutely coming – Mr. French and his ilk are the last dying bleat of bloated ego that may be starting to recognize their power base is slipping away, and they are going to do eveything they can to hold it. Hence all these arguments about how we take time out for children, therefore are less competent. What twaddle. We take time to invest in children and community, and are therefore MORE competent – more balanced, and we are creating a world that reflects that, for women and those men who see that ‘their’ way isn’t so perfect after all, and perhaps could use the input of women to make it more fulfilling.

  50. Kalli:
    Don’t take this the wrong way, but that was some damn sexy writing, girl!

  51. To MC and others, no, this really is not a complex issue. It is very simple. The reality is that women have the babies, and this is just a constraint that ALL members of society must ackowledge and work within, including all companies and ad agencies. If women don’t have the babies, then who in the hell is going to?
    So, corporates and advertisers need to get over it and learn that this is not grounds on which to criticize women, but it is something to accommodate for maximum productivity. Most academic research supports that discrimination of any kind actually hurts levels of productivity at both the micro level, a firm, as well as at the macro, level, a whole society or market. It is impossible for any entity to reach its maximum level of productivity when discrimination or bias is practiced against any segment of the population.
    This constraint of giving birth results in medical time off from work to recover, and some time off when a child is ill. HOWEVER, let’s keep in mind that medical leave lasts 6-12 weeks. Therefore, a women still has a lot of time left in a career to be very productive and generate and execute some very good ideas. Also, most women who I know in professional positions can be very productive working from home, even while nursing a sick child. Some men have trouble understanding that, although a woman may not put in a certain amount of “face time” in the office that occurs during the same windows of time in which he happens to be in the office, that this women can still be just as/more productive in her job if she spent that time in which she works at home in the office.
    Let’s also keep in mind that fathers are just as capable as mothers at staying home with sick children and addressing other needs. And, many of them do share this responsibility. I know one particular MALE ad executive who actually stayed home for a few years with his young son while his wife pursued her career. So, now that he has returned to the ad industry, is his work “crap” now? Hardly.

  52. I believe Mr. French knew the effect his remarks would have. But as an agency copywriter for over 15 years, female, with no children (yet), I’m not offended. I know that the children these women raise will end up being much more valuable to our world than the last award-winning liquor ad they wrote.

  53. A non mouse says:

    I just read that French made the CNN grand-prize winner category for Dumbest Moments in Business…
    All I can say:
    1) How sweet it is!!!!
    Check it out here:

  54. scott mollan says:

    Let French know i agree with him about women.
    No offence girls. Besides I am sure most of you have your comments about him too. Big deal.
    How one way.
    cheers sportsfans

  55. Just stumbled on this now. Hmm. Let’s see: armies of scorned ladies flanked by a few new age wimps, and a sprinkling of, what i suspect are, jealous Creative Directors.
    The initials CD, having a few awards and big accounts all mean zilch, ladies. Sorry, I know you all worked hard and stabbed a few backs (like the men)to make it there. Yes, this paragraph’s all for you. Female Creative Directors.
    It all means nothing. Because after all advertising means NOTHING – unless, you’re, y’know.. in It. Not saving kids from starvation exactly, know what i mean?
    But then neither are a million other ‘more acceptable’ professions. The million dollar question however is this: will you rise above the arbitrary and nudge your job description to the level of an artform?
    The bliss is in the craft; not the silverware, titles, fancy initials, etc. (Sorry again. This should have been explained at the outset of your long slog to the top of your pile. Wups.)
    Anyway, in advertising, as in many professions, that level of artform is inhabited by very few people.
    One of whom is Neil French. A Man. None of the posters above or below my comment will reach that level (a matter of stats as opposed to personal opinion). How sad for them.
    Got that? Good.
    Now that we’re clear about what’s actually important, go and read the bloke’s ‘apology ad’ on his website. Employ all your reading and analytical facilities.
    Yes, for one brilliant, novel moment DIVORCE yourself from your anxieties* and your addiction to indignation – and just read.
    * a lot of women seem to think they’re not good enough to be sharing the oxygen on Planet Earth if they’re not doing the same things as men. A bit mad, if you ask me. What’s next? A controversy on who farts better: men or women?
    The men that are clever enough to love and adore you do so in a VERY different way to how they appraise other men. Call me nuts, but I think that’s a good thing!
    DON’T try to be honourary men (and Wimps, please avoid trying to be the reverse. It’s unbecoming.) Find your own power. Be the best CD you can be from a women’s perspective. Simple. Men can’t beat that.
    Though if you do try to sacrifice it all to be top-dog – the expense of your kids, unless you forgo having any – it’s your choice. Sad for the kids but they’ll have plenty more to be screwed up by than just a too-busy mom & dad.
    I wish I could tell you life was easier and that we could all earn and live without worry but it’s a harder reality than that.
    The question is, which role do you want to play in making it a better world? Is being a CD worth it? Would men, if they could give birth, do as you do? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure, fair ladies of the jury: you can’t play all the roles.
    Now get back to work.

  56. Frank Spinks says:

    What he said was taken out of context. As I understood it, it was in refference to mothers not being able to work the long hours of the business. Either way, the man has made created some of the best advertising there is, and that is why he is giving the speeches to begin with. Who gives a sh@t what his views are. He does the job well and his opinions are his own.

  57. Hola everybody, Happy Fool’s Day!!
    At a local coffee bar, a young woman was expounding on her idea of the perfect mate to some of her friends.
    “The man I marry must be a shining light amongst company. He must be musical. Tell jokes. Sing. And stay home at night!”
    An old granny overheard and spoke up, “Honey, if that’s all you want, get a TV!”
    Happy April Fool’s Day!