Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

A spat in the ad industry puts spotlight on gender diversity

Ways to Subscribe
Chase & Sandborn

Are there enough women in powerful positions in the ad industry? Why does it matter?

The Mad Men days seemed great: wearing nice suits, having three martini lunches and jet-setting around the world.

But then again, overtly sexist ads weren't out of the question.

Some argue that the advertising industry in 2016 has not progressed very far from its male-dominated roots.

Those people had a fierce reaction to Kevin Roberts, a powerful ad exec who claimed it did.

Roberts, who's with one of the world's top advertising firms Saatchi & Saatchi, said in an interview with Business Insider, "the fucking debate is all over."

"I can't talk about sexual discrimination because we've never had that problem, thank goodness," he added, backing his claim up by saying more than half of his firm is composed of women.

Those comments drew fire from Cindy Gallop, an ad consultant who frequently speaks about improving gender diversity within the advertising industry.

"At the top of every industry is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys," Gallop tells Take Two, stating that women are often locked out of top positions within many firms. "Ninety-seven percent of all advertising agency creative directors are men, and so we as women are played back to ourselves through the male gaze."

She says women are the primary purchasers and purchase influencers in the country, and that agencies should employ people who are able to understand and speak directly to that audience.

"We are missing out on the enormous creativity, innovation and disruption that comes from the talents of women and people of color," says Gallop.

If they are behind the scenes, she argues, then they can push for messages that are not based on gendered and negative stereotypes.

"Not only will we see better depictions of women in advertising, but we'll be better depictions of men," she says. "I'm really tired of seeing young male morons in beer ads and hapless husbands: it's disrespectful to men."

Hear more of what Gallop says by clicking the blue audio player above.

Stay Connected