Vedashree Khambete
Aug 11, 2011

Veda's Blog: What Are These “Equal Opportunities” You Speak Of?

When it comes to women in advertising, just listen to Morpheus and free your mind, says Vedashree Khambete, associate creative director with Mudra

Veda's Blog: What Are These “Equal Opportunities” You Speak Of?

There are some things I absolutely love about Mad Men.

Jon Hamm, naturally. The fact that everybody in an ad agency is in suits and there isn’t an ass-crack in sight. And the fact that the series depicts 1950s advertising culture quite honestly. Watching servicing take clients to strip clubs and creatives down Scotch during board meetings, makes you realize that the world was a different place back then. It was a time when men were men and women were inconsequential. Except as objects of desire, who could only do things that involved looking good and keeping the house presentable.

Thing is, it’s not the 1950s anymore. And some people haven’t got the memo.

These include creatives, servicing, planning, media and even clients. Evidence? I’ve had roughly the same conversation with various people over the past few years:

They: Do you know a good writer / art director? We’re hiring.
Me: How many years?
They: 1/2/3/4 or more.
Me: I’ll ask around and let you know.
They: Thanks. Just one thing though - we’d prefer a guy.
Me: Great. Wait, what?

Oh, the reasons are all genuine apparently. “There will be a lot of late nights and girls can’t handle that”. Or “you have to watch what you say around women”. Or even “girls can’t understand the sensibilities of this brand.” Don’t be silly, it’s not because we’re sexists.

No, of course not.

I agree that late nights and advertising are virtually synonymous. When artworks have to go out or a particularly pig-headed client refuses to approve the final layout or gives changes which HAVE to be made at 2:00 in the night – we’ve all been there. And some of us actually ENJOY staying back every night. But the ones who don’t, can we say for sure that they’re ALL women?

As for watching what you say around ladies – let’s stop pretending that every man in the world has had a rhino-hide skin graft. You don’t need a crash course in psychology to know that everybody has different comfort levels. Some men blush when a woman uses the f word in front of them, some women don’t bat an eyelid in the face of a dead baby joke. This is not some revolutionary social finding – we learned all this back in college, when we realized what jokes get you a slap on the back and which ones get you thrown out of polite company. Now where does gender come into the equation?

While you mull over the question, consider this: some of the leading beauty brands in India today have been built by men. Some of the most insightful lines aimed at women have been crafted by male writers. (My favourite? A headline for a British women’s rugby team that read “PMS is not an excuse. It’s a weapon.”) If a man can successfully navigate those famously murky depths of the female mind, can’t a woman make sense of what goes on in a man’s head? After all, if men themselves are to be believed, they’re simple creatures really.

Cars, electronics, motor oil, business and auto magazines, condoms, male grooming products, insurance, banking and finance – a woman may not WANT to work on brands in these categories. She may not be interested in learning the functions of a cathode ray tube or what the hell a credit card balance transfer is. But that doesn’t mean she CAN’T understand the concept, the brand or the category. Now if she’s plain incompetent, that’s another issue. Then nothing, least of all her gender, should prevent her from being taken off the account. But to not let her have a crack at it, not hire her at all because she’s a woman?

You might as well wear your leopard skin toga, pick up your club and make “ugg-ugg” sounds.

Vedashree Khambete is an ACD with Mudra, a writer at heart and a coffee-addict by vocation.


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