Women in adv direction: la nostra ricerca delle donne ai vertici della creatività va anche all’estero. Perché il tema del talento e della carriera al femminile è sentito pure oltralpe. Vi presentiamo Christina Knight, Creative Director The Amazing Society

Why are there less female creative directors than male ones?

“The ad industry is to a large extent a blueprint of the American advertising industry the way it was established and organized in the 50’s and onwards; i.e. quite a hierarchical and a very male dominated organizational structure. This has in many ways become the template for how agencies around the world are organized; who is in power and how agency cultures are defined. Because the agency cultures were largely male dominated and power mainly distributed among white males, women were not only not recruited into powerful positions, but their experiences and perspectives were not really welcome or respected. The short answer to your questions is; power; both the power to lead and the power to make creative decisions as a Creative Director, is and has by tradition be a male exercise, a boys’ club to which women have not been invited  – and perhaps also were not even interested to enter due to the very laddish culture. Many women have sought and found alternative ways of working with communication, deliberately dismissing the norm of agencies; for example, we find more women in design, in PR, as freelancers or at inhouse agencies”.

Although there are many women in this industry, why is it more unlikely for them to achieve high level roles? What would you change?

There are several reasons. Women are still, unfortunately, mainly responsible for the care-taking of children when starting a family, from birth and onwards, even in a fairly gender equal country like Sweden. This responsibility is important and huge but not always compatible with long working hours and a lot of responsibility in the agency world. The day women and men, mothers and fathers, share this responsibility this will help enormously to create power and gender balance in the ad industry, preventing women from ‘having to’ take part time jobs and have less responsibility, and enabling them to take on leading roles and have more power. But there is yet another challenge – because men are in power at agencies they also have the primary power of recruiting, and people tend to recruit their own mirror image – men recruit men, white men recruit white men and so the pattern keeps repeating itself. Also, the male dominated ad agency cultures have a deterring effect on women in the sense that they do not always offer comfortable, safe environments where women feel they share the culture, the code of conduct, creativity, values or the sense of humor, for example.To change this we need to change the way we recruit, listen to, include, promote and pay women”.

In your personal experience, what is the greatest difficulty you have found and to whom or what do you give the credit to for having made it?

“One of the great challenges I have been part of was merging Ogilvy Stockholm with Grey Stockholm into one new agency, INGO, in 2011.  It meant merging two different agency cultures, moving Grey into Ogilvy’s office and starting from scratch with a new agency where it was important that everyone was seen and heard and felt equally important in creating the new agency. I am glad the two management groups realized that nothing of this would happen by itself, but rather that it required a real effort. I and a colleague from Grey were appointed as ‘Cultural ambassadors’ and all the activities and strategies we came up with helped to enable an incredibly smooth and successful merge.

Another, more personal challenge, was writing my first book ‘Mad Women’ at the same time as I worked full-time as a Creative Director at Ogilvy; but I managed (working during holidays and nights and on trains and flights!) The support from my Art Director, Helena Thorsell, my publisher OLIKA and KOMM (The Swedish Association of Advertising Agencies) certainly helped”.

 What is the campaign you are proud of the most and which is the one you would have liked to sign?

“One of my most successful campaigns is the work we did for The Children’s Cancer Foundation here in Sweden, when I was still at Ogilvy/INGO. We managed to raise a hell of a lot of money towards research and family support, by creating a new, strong concept which moved the brand from quite a sad, emotional expression to a much more empowering, positive position. I’m proud of the creative work and I’m proud of the money we raised. If I had signed Apple’s ‘Think Different’ I would have been happy and proud forever”.

 Upcoming challenges?

“The industry faces many challenges in the shape of diversity, representation and inclusion, but above all and always – our challenge is to move consumer’s hearts and minds in a respectful, humanistic and relevant way, when communicating brands. That’s true regardless of platform or channel. It will always require a true, human interest in what touches people and means something to them; it requires strategy and creativity and skilled craftsmanship. That is something new technology, AI or whatever it is next, will never, ever change”.


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