Friday, October 21, 2005

Ah crap!

Anyone who allows themselves to be described as 'The best advertising copywriter that ever lived' really shouldn't be taken very seriously. And thank god no one in the advertising world does. Apart from a few starry eyed junior writers who have read only HIS ads in the copybook, Mr. Neil French is widely regarded as a bit of a moron.

Neil French - ad guru, 'copywriter par excellence' and ego maniac has come up with yet another immortal line -'They're crap' - i.e women in advertising are crap. This was in response to a question on why women were under-represented among the ranks of sr. creative directors at ad agencies.

A good question - WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? While the number of female junior writers and visualisers is rather high, advertising is predominantly male in the higher echelons. Of course there are highly regarded female creative directors but apart from Ambience Publicis head honcho Elsie Nanji, even I can't name famous female creatives. Something I'm a bit ashamed of as a woman and copywriter.

But is advertising female friendly enough? After a stage it is hard being in an industry that requires you to be at it's beck and call every waking and non waking moment. I imagine it's hard being a mother and having to sit at office till 3 am cracking campaigns. It's not impossible - my fist boss was a woman who had raised 2 boys while rising through the creative ranks. She retired as Creative Director after more than 2 decades of working. But it's not easy.

Among my own contemporaries there are women with a fire in their bellies to get ahead. To become creative directors. To correct the imbalance. And I know they will do it. Because they are immensely talented writers, visualisers - THINKERS. Because they've made a conscious choice to succeed. They are not crap Mr. French, and for you to suggest such a thing - even in jest - shows us exactly why you are not the world's best copywriter that ever lived.

UPDATE Found this great write up by Nancy Vonk, Co-Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy Toronto via Charu's blog. It says what I would like to but in a far more eloquent manner. Do read it.

32 comments:

TomCruiseChellum said...

TomCruiseChellum has the honor of writing the first comment on this post ( A sort of Mudal Mariadai!)First I dont know who Mr French is. If you can hate someone whom you dont know (Hitler, Osama et all)I can hate Mr French.
Having made my posish very clear viz a viz Mr French, women copy writers have all my sympathies. (I know one or two rather well)Perhaps they should petition Sonia and Amma for a 33% reservation! As a beginning

Charu said...

you know, I thought of you when I was writing this post - honestly! have not been in advertsing - but came out of an ad school and have loads o friends in ad agencies - and also as a MR person, used to work with agencies all the time...
in fact, seems to me the situation in india is far better - sure no BIG women names but good ones who have a chance of making it... esp in the media dept...
was also going to point you to the Nancy Vonk post, but see you have been there, done that already. really liked her take on it - no gushing despite the fact that she knows and respects the man - the man's work, i.e.

Shyam said...

Read Nancy Vonk's article - it made very good reading, but I thought she wasnt nearly hard enough on the old windbag!

RS said...

I am a female Mechanical Engineer in Texas and I know exactly what you are talking about. I am constantly challenged and know that I have to put in 190% just because I am a female in a man's world!

But, its a challenge that I meet head on.

Sujatha said...

This is the same in almost every field I think. Was (and I'm sure, is) definitely true of the legal field. None of my seniors had kids, certainly none of the women that made partner.

Übermaniam said...

He wasn't referring to all women as crap. What he said was the women who cannot make the committment that being a good creative director demands are crap. And women, who tend to have more duties to fulfil and roles to play than men find it hard to bring that committment to being a good CD. Such women Cds are crap. No point in reacting as a woman because you are a woman to somethign that supposedly smears all women, when it doesn't. Great blog. Thank you. We will be back. And any writer who says Neil French is crap doesn't know crap.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

tc - u make me smile as always

charu, shyam - i think vonk's article was good because she didn't spend too much time bashing french and adressed the actual issue instead

ramya - good for u! onwards upwards I say


sujatha - i think it's sad that some women have to make a conscious decision to rule out certain things in life to make other things happen - but then to each his own

dr...1. I am not reacting because it's a smear on all women or because I am a woman. If someone had said single dads are crap parents I would have been just as offended.

2. To me Mr. French's statement seemed more like a motherhood statement that women creatives are not as good as their male counterparts. And I think the message he is sending out to women in advertising is that 'hey you are not good enough to make it up here.'

3.Mr. French has written some wonderful copy... and some of his ads are among my favourite - but I still think that he tends to be self indulgent at times - it's almost like he's writing to please himself. Again my opinion. Also for a man who can write so well I think it's a shame that he didn't choose to express his sentiments in a manner that behooves him.

Übermaniam said...

Dear Shoe, neither are you reacting to what Mr. French said. You are reacting to what you think he may have implied. If you've been in advertising, and I think you have, you will know how bad female copywriters with other things on their mind, write. For that matter, men copywriters with other things on their mind write crap, too. but it's women who tend to have more things to handle and thus make for more crap writers when they can't do the writing because they have other things to take care of. It's not the fault of women, like them, that they write crap. They have too much on their plate. Male writers tend not to. Cheers. Great blog.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

dr doppsy

if mr french had meant to say something else I am sure a man with such a grasp of the language would have indeed said something else. So no, i don't think I'm reacting to something I think he said.

With respect to your opinion that women copywriters write more crap because they have other things on their mind - i disagree. While you may have come across such copywriters - male and female I have not. The writers that I have had the privilege of working with have been extremely focussed on their jobs and have never let other things get in the way of their writing. I think we should agree to disagree on this matter. Thanks for dropping by

Übermaniam said...

Dear Shoe,
before you decide to agree to disagree, it would be worhtwhile for your evolved sensibilities to read the interview with French in Advertising Age. You'll see why it's not about women but what women who think they can have it all end up writing like. The women who are focussed and great at their jobs, and believe it or not i have met a few of them too, happen to be crap at nurturing families. Stop reacting and think about how impossible it is for a woman to be great at home and great at her job. No wonder the women who try to be both end up as crap. Now, we may agree to disagree. But apart from ihaveanidea.org, you really ought to get a different idea of this whole story from Advertising Age. Thank you.

Doggeroo said...

Dr.D
Please stop using the phrase "women ar crap". Its totally pissing me off.
In this day and age it scares me that (seemingly) intelligent men like you think that women cant balance a successful career and a family.

It can be done, because I am one such example. And can ONLY be done when you have support from your spouse. My husband pushes me to succeed in my career and helps at home.

The women you know who are great at work but are "crappy" nurturers probably have poor excuses for husbands.

Perhaps if you and others of your ilk spent a little time shouldering the burden of 21st century families, women can stand shoulder to shoulder to men and tell people like Mr.French to "FUCK OFF".

Anonymous said...

doggeroo,

brilliant brilliant brilliant.

in all our discussions of whether women can or can not handle work and family, WHERE ARE THE MEN?? Why is this SOLELY a woman's issue, this balance what women choose to do, etc etc? Surely these women who have families and careers and have to make difficult decisions about home and family have male husbands, partners, boyfriends. I bet the majority of those H/P/B are working. So what do they do and think about their wives, girlfiends, partners making these decisions? Do they also take this deprioritizing decision? In which case we should conclude that childrearing is incompatible with career development BOTH for men and women. But I don't see that conclusion anywhere - it seems that only women need to balance work with family .

Anon.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

dOGGEROO AND anon - well said

Übermaniam said...

This discussion was only about woman because Mr. French supposedly said women who can't balance a great career and a family life end up as crap writers. Had he said it about men, it would have been about men. Men who do make it as great writers, also, need the support of their spouses. My problem is with this becoming a discussion about men v/s women. It's not. It's more about how advertising is a profession, more so than others, that tends to make anything else impossible to fit in. This ought to be a discussion about the latter rather than about how little we respect women and similar such crap. Mr. French was stating a fact of life. That women are expected to do more than men. Not suprisingly, most women who try to do more end up as crap writers. Had men been expected to do similar things, they'd end up as a crap writers, too. Btw, great blog. And great writing. Pretty fucking good for a woman. :-)

Übermaniam said...

Would anyone object if I were to post Neil French's point of view here? Just so we know what the man had to say for what he said? Regards. DU

TomCruiseChellum said...

TomCruiseChellum sitting in far off Chennai (on the Coramandel Coast!!!!!!!!!)finds that the debate is becoming curioser and fiercer. Expletives have been introduced and that promises a lot of action in the comments to come.Yes Mr French's article should be published so that more people can write more comments (with or without expletives) The article should be analysed to establish
1. what he actually wrote
2. what he meant
3. what he could have meant
4. Take it to Dr Fernandez in Chennai to have a psychiatric sketch of the author
I have a couple of questions.
1.Is Mr French in the ad business?
(I suppose he is; but in this trial his credentials have to be establised. Like in a court when the lawyer asks ""Neenga thane Ramasamy?)
2.If he is, is he good at his work ? (like some people I know !!!!!)
3. Does he have a woman boss who is crapping on him and his work all the time?
Let us have a party

Anonymous said...

Dr. dopppsy,

You are right - advertising (actually any corporate profession) is one that makes it impossible to fit work and family life. But it is impossible for ANY person regardless of gender. Or should be.

Unfortunately it seems to be MORE impossible for women than for men. And that is where the inequality kicks in. Part of that is where you state so matter-of-factly "Mr. French was stating a fact of life. Women are expected to do more than men." And that is exactly what is being debated. Who expects women to do mroe than men? Why? Is this not discrimination where an accident of birth determines who gets to do more work and who gets to do less?

Anon.

Übermaniam said...

From the guardian media interview: He said his speech was taken out of context and that he was making the point that women cannot work the hours required by the industry if they have families to look after. But he admitted he used the word "crap".

"Oh, of course, I did, yes. But I didn't say all female creative directors are crap. 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.

The DU adds: Women writers in advertising, most, are crap because too much is expected of them. Mr. French was just stating the truth. A bitter truth that ought to be blamed on the society that makes society.

TomCruiseChellum said...

The DU adds: "Women writers in advertising, most, are crap because too much is expected of them"
I think we are getting closer to the crux of the problem, even if inadvertently
First why is "" too much expected of them"" why not just about as much as expected of men copywriters.
So you start off with expecting "too much" and when that too much is not delivered, you think that what you get is crap.
Do you ever expect "too much " from men copy writers?
Do men copy writers never produce crap.?
I think they do and in large quantities too.. It is simple.
Given the fact that there are not as many women copywriters as men copywriters and given the large ouput of copy most of which is crap --- yes yes that is the point most of the crap is produced by men copy writers.
Even the never so brilliant Dr Watson would have deducted this. Why the fuss then?

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

wow. so i wake up late on sunday morning and this is what i see. glad you've all been debating while i've been catching up on sleep.

I'm not going to respond point by point to what people have said. I'd like to say just this.

I agree with those who say that in any job if you have alot on your mind it makes it hard to concentrate - whether ur a guy or a woman.

i agree that the debate on why more is expected from women is for another post and should not be confused with this topic though it is a big part of why we are having this debate in the first place.

as someone who is in advertising - let me first say that the hours this industry demands are gruelling - and often for no reason at all - how many of u have worked till 4 am and then found out it could have waited. alot of the time we work late becoz of spinless acc execs who cant tell the client to wait - or because we wer too busy reading archives during the day to actually do any work. again i digress - sorry.

i agree that one must have the support of families in order to do well.

i diagree with the the common theme running though this that most female copywriters are crap. for whatever reasons u have. im not saying this because i'm a woman - i;m saying it because i through my own personal experiences in the industry do not find it to be true.

i react so strongly to mr french's words. writers look up to him. yes he has a right to say what he chooses but he's making more and more women think 'this isn;t possible'. i can't do it. and its wrong that he sows the seeds of doubt in so many minds.

Not that that will stop writers of any gender trying to do their best. But it would help if crap writer wasn't bandied around so much and people tried to be more encouraging. The End. Time for my coffee.

TomCruiseChellum said...

TomCruiseChellum is very disappointed. SF seems to have put an end to the debate.
Namsthe/Subham/Vanakkam

Übermaniam said...

Wow!

Übermaniam said...

You know, but, there's one more thing...erm...never mind. Next :-)

ammani said...

Just as it is misleading to let women think that they are 'crap', it is equally wrong to make them believe that they can have it all. In the PC Paradise that we live in, we want to believe that as women we can have everything - the wonderful career, the 4-bedroom house, the 2.5 kids, dog and an accomodating partner. Not quite. Our biological functions mean that we have to bear the kid for all of 9 months and then have a child attached to one of our mammaries for the next couple of years. And that's just the beginning.I can write an entire tome on the emotional side to being a mother.
Sadly, such maternal emotional rollercoasters have no place in today's harsh, competitive and unforgiving corporate world. What do you expect when it's still largely run largely by men?
Everyday I see women struggling to do everything. And becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to. They are unable to comprehend why. And worse, they are not allowed to say so. They're supposed to be superwomen. And superwomen don't fail. Can't fail.
I see women falling apart at the seams and yet put on a brave front of keeping it together. After all she has to compete against male colleagues.
I ramble. Anyway, I feel that until such time as we have to bear kids (forever!) and left largely to raise them (hopefully not forever) and have to work in environments that are not sympathetic to our needs, such conflicts will continue.
I have great respect for women who have chosen to take on the challenge of having kids and balancing that with demanding careers. Let's not make it any more difficult than it already is for them.

Übermaniam said...

And that's that :-) Btw, great blog.

Übermaniam said...

So what you're saying is, even if true, nobody should state the state of affairs and utter it. It's best not to criticise anyone. Best not to rock the boat. I know what you mean. I also know what Mr. French means. Sigh and thank you.

sonia said...

well since advertising sucks as an industry and a profession its not surprising a lot of people wouldn't be prepared to make the sacrifices. and if a lot of those are women, clearly this is an instance where said women have made smart choices.

( now i dont mean to slag you off for working in advertising. obviously people do what they do. but you gotta be reflexive about it. eh. and i guess your other 'cynical' post re: xmas shopping indicated you have some measure of understanding about this.. )

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