Sunday, March 3, 2013

The 3% Conference Makes the Business Case for More Donna Drapers.

It’s fairly mind blowing. Eighty-percent of all household purchases are determined by women, while only three-percent of our nation’s advertising creative directors are women. (And let’s be honest, women probably practice veto power over the other twenty-percent of purchase decisions anyway.)

But, in a study where female consumers were asked if brands understood them, ninety-percent said no.

So there it is. As advertisers, we’re tasked with marketing to women for much more than the stereotypical lady brands. You know, the spots featuring freshness-challenged women running through flower fields, dancing with mops, or sniffing scent illusions.

In fact, much of our challenge lies in coming to terms with bigger misperceptions.

Believe it or not, women currently out-use men in all social media channels except for LinkedIn. Statistically, they’re also bigger gamers and they watch more television. Women demonstrate more technology usage and more social influence.

Kat Gordon, founder of the 3% Conference said, “It’s not about equal rights, it’s about serving our clients better.” And women are notoriously bad in focus groups. They’ll tell half-lies because they self edit. However, when they’re on the other side of the agency table, they bring unfiltered intuition to the mix.

Let’s rethink how we market to women.

The key is to have people on your team that are not all like you. That’s how you find the uncharted truths. Fear not, marketing with women in mind does not have to alienate men. When positioning a brand – make it human, think collectively, don't sanitize, show diversity, and practice storytelling.

There are inherent differences between how men and women think, and divergent perspective is a good thing.

It shows up in childhood play. Boys enjoy reigning over their toys, and when they destroy things, it’s merely an act of fun and power. Girls empathetically imagine themselves as the toys and become part of the make-believe worlds. So, if a boy comes along and takes out the meticulously arranged princess castle, the girl is devastated. And the boy has no idea why.

So, what is it that’s making it so difficult for women to advance to ACD, CD, or beyond?

Times are changing. This is by no means a pity party for creative industry women. It’s about supporting talent. At all levels, advertising industry women are negotiating for the same salaries as their male counterparts. The biggest difference is that women are unlikely to ask for raises. It’s largely a matter of teaching women to be assertive and confident.

As a creative builds career momentum, this often coincides with family growth. The industry demands full commitment for advancement, and those with young families require more schedule predictability and flexibility. Many struggle with the challenge of work/life balance.

Mentoring enables advancement.

After Gordon’s keynote, the audience enjoyed mentorship from a truly stellar regional panel consisting of Dave Schiff, Partner/Chief Creative Officer of Made Movement; Charlotte Isoline, Executive Creative Director of Karsh Hagan; Jonathan Shoenberg, Executive Creative Director/Partner of TDA Boulder, Rachael Donaldson, Client Services Director of Made Movement; and Dani Coplen, Vice President/Creative of The Integer Group. Our excellent host Serena Wolf, Founder of Wolf Creative Company, moderated the panel.

"Women have to help other women. The greatest mentors I've had have been a combination of nurturing and badass." – Rachael Donaldson

"It's not about if you're male or female, it's just about who's good." – Dave SchiffHe also hilariously thanked his many mentors that may or may not have been state-appointed. And, he’s convinced that rock star ladies will inevitably phase him out.

Jonathan Shoenberg told us how he rose through the ranks, which involved a former employer liking his “country-ness.” Apparently, he had a great deal of farm experience on his resume back in the day.

Charlotte Isoline advised us to not be the genius in the room, but to maximize the collective genius.

Dani Coplen encouraged women to avoid invisibility. Say what you want to say.

Some of the advice from the panel that really resonated with me was the emphasis on mentoring. It’s crucial for career advancement. And in my mentoring experience, I’ve learned a great deal from those I’ve mentored. Always take time to help the driven ones; it’ll come back to you. The event was a full house, men and women. Everyone left inspired and excited about how they were going to move this knowledge forward. So, let’s empower some future Donna Drapers and keep this moving forward, shall we?

This piece is cross-posted on The Denver Egotistdesign TAXI, and the Vladimir Jones Blog

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The new business battle.

The new business pitch experience is kind of like a slow motion, extended director's cut fight scene. You have no idea where your competition or your breakthrough idea will come from, but you must be ready to defend it. All while maintaining your now business. And maybe some semblance of sanity.

(More specifically, I picture this way over-the-top scene from Boondock Saints II. Although, for what it's worth, I totally would have paired that scene with Conscious Killer from BRMC. I mean, come on, the MacManus brothers were religious vigilantes. It just fits.)

So, you get the new business creative brief. You may or may not have a clear weapon, but you most definitely will be blindfolded. That's the thrill of it though. In most cases, you have no idea who you're up against. What insight will your competition have that you don't? Are they close friends with one of the potential clients? Will they be smarter, or more funny, or find that one thing that the client can't deny?


Don't think about any of that. You have to put all that anxiety aside and work harder to create something undeniably true. Something right. Be certain that everyone will be bringing their best to the table and push yourself and your team harder.

The whole process is a grueling mental spectacle clouded with adrenaline and anticipation. You'll wake up in the middle of the night and send ridiculous emails to your team. (Sorry team, it felt like urgent genius at 4:00 AM. At 8:00 AM, though still entertaining, clearly not genius.) You'll forget to eat. (However, you probably will not forget to drink coffee.) You'll annoy your family and friends who maintain a normal work/life balance. (Yeah, during a pitch, 'work' holds its side of the teeter totter down like a relentless schoolyard bully while 'life' gets stranded in the air. Legs flailing.)

Time stands still, but there's never enough of it. You fill the wall, your sketchbook, and your free-time with conceptual angles. Then, just when everyone has second-guessed themselves to death and almost lost hope, you get the inspiration when you're not looking for it. A big idea effortlessly launches more supporting ideas. And it all starts to make sense. You build it as quickly as you can.

Then, pencils down everyone. You submit the idea. And you wait.

Coming off the high of a pitch is both exhilarating and exhausting. Those of us who seek the thrill of new business will continue to collect our arsenal of randomness and find satisfaction in the delirious aftermath of the pitch. We'll gladly subject ourselves to the uncertain creative smack-down. We'll build our team and hone our plan of attack. Growing from mistakes and briefly relishing victories.

Wait, what's that? There's another new business opportunity? Already? Alright. Cover me, I'm going in.

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