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

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. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.