4 Aug 2016

Ad-land under spotlight for galloping sexism

From Mediawatch, 12:22 pm on 4 August 2016

Former Saatchi and Saatchi executive Kevin Roberts isn't the only New Zealand adman called out by one of the industry's most outspoken women over sexism lately.

Ad man James Hurman on TV3's 'Paul Henry'.

Ad man James Hurman on TV3's 'Paul Henry'. Photo: screenshot

In the advertising industry, people come and people go a lot. It doesn't usually make headlines outside the business itself.

But the latest career move of New Zealand’s best known adman ended up leading Morning Report on Thursday. 

Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts Photo: Supplied

Kevin Roberts - a CNZM who led at Lion Nathan, Telecom and the NZRFU and who dreamed up concepts like Lovemarks and Sisomo - stepped down from his top job as global chair and 'head coach' at Saatchi & Saatchi four days after a controversial interview with a business magazine

“The f***ing debate is all over,” Kevin Roberts said firmly when Business Insider said a gender diversity debate was "raging" in the advertising industry.

Many women did not have a "vertical ambition" and instead had only a "circular ambition to be happy," he added.

Light the blue touchpaper

Photo of Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop Photo: supplied

Kevin Roberts might have got away with it (or lasted a bit longer at least) if he hadn't also criticised one of world advertising’s most outspoken women, Cindy Gallop, who campaigns to feminise the ad industry . . . among others.  

“I think she’s got problems that are of her own making. I think she’s making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box],” Mr Roberts told Business Insider.

Cindy Gallop counter-attacked on social media to acclaim. Few people rallied behind Kevin Roberts.  

"Saatchi boss resigns in a blaze of management-speak," was the brutal headline in the UK's Daily Telegraph.

The National Business Review's Chris Keall noted that Kevin Roberts didn’t change his position when he resigned. Instead, he regretted "offence and upset caused”.  

Four out of ten NBR readers answering an online poll question reckoned it was “political correctness gone mad." But the NBR didn’t disclose how many people cast a vote  - and a breakdown by gender would have been interesting too.

Screenshot of statement from Kevin Roberts' employers announcing his resignation.

Kevin Roberts' employers announce his resignation. Photo: screenshot

In her sights

"I don't want one man made a lightning rod for a fundamental problem in our industry. It's not about one bad apple but stopping the rot," Cindy Gallop told Morning Report from New York on Thursday,

At the same time, Auckland creative consultant James Hurman was on TV3.

"It's for women to say when the gender debates (in advertising) is over," he told Paul Henry. James Hurman didn't mention that was in Cindy Gallop's sights himself recently. 

In June, every delegate at at the Cannes Festival of Creativity - the Oscars for the world’s ad industry - was given a copy of James Hurman’s latest book. The Case for Creativity collected thoughts from 15 leading creative thinkers in advertising and marketing.

This was a coup for a Kiwi - until Cindy Gallop got hold of her copy in Cannes and pointed out all 15 contributors were blokes.  

James Hurman - citing "unconscious bias" - responded quickly:

“I had been so focused on gathering material for the book and not at all on who that material came from. The book should have represented a better balance, "James Hurman later told advertising industry news website StopPress.

"Cindy was right to call it out, and to advocate as she does for better gender diversity in the advertising industry,” said Mr Hurman.

Opportunity knocks?

Whether Cindy Gallop’s complaints played a role in Kevin Roberts “retiring early” this week isn't clear, but maybe Kevin Roberts wasn’t wide of the mark when he said Cindy Gallop had her own profile in mind - as well as principles of diversity and equality.  

RNZ's Susie Ferguson wound up her Morning Report Cindy Gallop interview with this cheeky pitch: 

"She noted Saatchi & Saatchi now had a leadership coach vacancy and was very happy to offer her services, obviously at the same salary" 

And before Kevin Roberts resigned, Cindy Gallop posted on Facebook: "I AM AVAILABLE AND READY TO BE PAID."

For some of today's Mad Men and Women it seems all publicity really is - if not good publicity - then certainly an opportunity.

Photo: screenshot