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8th March 2018
Creative gaze
As advertising and filmmakers increasingly refocus on telling women’s stories where the female experience feels authentic, we asked leading international creative directors to comment and select film work, made by either gender, in which the portrayal of women best resonates with them

    Laura Muse, associate creative director, NOW, London

I love the Lucia, Before and After film (see above) because she’s complex and broken, but at the same time incredibly strong. She processes this traumatic situation and gets on with life. It’s understated and leaves room for you to think how you would feel, rather than telling you what to feel. But we don’t have to have this level of tragedy to get some depth in our female characters – I think advertising has a lot of catching up to do. 
Although there have been some empowering pieces. The Bodyform work has been good for a while – not just the blood stuff of late. I actually loved this one for its body positivity –  their normal knickers, their excitement. The HUMOUR. View here.
The new  Blood Normal one is good but it’s guys coming to terms with what periods mean for women. It’s periods through the male gaze. Ingenue women. Sexy pain. Period blood in the shower, yes, but not a hairy leg or wobbly flesh in sight. 10/10 for message, but 4/10 for execution.
The new Cadbury’s Mum’s Birthday ad is good for its portrayal of women (and people in general). But I’m waiting for a woman as the hero of the story.
Hat tip to this from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend too. SHE’S NOT WEARING A BRA AND SHE’S IN A DRESSING GOWN. I had to actually text my mates about how I loved seeing that. 

    Susan Hoffman, co-chief creative officer, Wieden + Kennedy

Nike India’s video hit a chord (see above) and started a movement with Indian women.
They are not encouraged to work out and sport is considered a waste of time. 
Instead they are taught that success is studying to be a dr, lawyer or an engineer. 
da da ding reminded Indian women of their strength and power.
da da ding!

    Charlene Chandrasekaran, creative, Droga5, London

I couldn’t for the love of life think of a commercial that has genuinely resonated with me. Perhaps I’m too cynical. Or forgetful. Or both.
So I’m going to choose Kendrick Lamar’s Humble music video (see above).
The world didn’t need another woman strutting her Photoshopped derrière in a hip-hop video. 
But it did need another woman strutting her non-Photoshopped derrière in a slick hip-hop video. That coupled with his clever and sincere lyrical abilities, made this a thumbs up music video for me. 
It was a detail made within the context of a broader story, but at the time I remember thinking ‘Yes. I. Like. This.’ 

    Juana O Gorman, global creative director, Ogilvy Paris

I’m off brief:( None of the following is a portrayal of women. Simply because most of the ones I saw in the last five years just don’t represent me. Especially in advertising, which is quite sad. Seems that if you’re too feminine you’re probably frivolous or dumb; if you shoot a ball like a girl you’re a weaker version of yourself (maybe you’re not interested in shooting with the physical strength of a boy?); if you want to be respected in the workplace, you’d better be a “badass” (who, of course, dresses in dull colours but has very sexy hair because probably we need to sell some shampoo) and if you want to be seen as equal to men, you’d better drive a truck, play rugby with a face covered in mud and blood or, the biggest cliche I hate the most, be a tough but of course sexy as hell boxer!

So basically, to be respected as a woman we need to act like men. Fuck it. I do box and I enjoy it very much. It’s probably the moment I feel less sexy and feminine so I’m happy to do it at 7:30am when no one sees me, even if I’m proud of my non-skills for sports. But I enjoy boxing as much as dressing nicely everyday, being as feminine as possible, having my manicure done, leaving my hair grey and messy, having big hips which I might move a bit more “enthusiastically” depending on who’s coming behind and, guess what, I do want to be treated as equal. Basically because I work as hard and I’m as good at what I do as any other guy out there. 

The whole point here is making the difference between being treated as equals and being the same. Equals, yes. The same, no, thank you. We both have strengths and weaknesses which hopefully compensate each other at work and in any other aspect of life. Needless to say I do strongly believe and support with the positive change of mindset we’re doing around the world though there’s still a lot of work to do. I just don’t agree with the representation of women we’re seeing lately.

Isola: The voice of Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa and the moves of dancer Leo Walk couldn’t live without each other here. There’s a man at his best and a woman at her best; and the combination is unbeatable. At the end, we all want to be respected and appreciated based on our best selves, whatever we chose to be, however we chose to achieve it. And the only way to reach this is working together.

(I also chose this video because Mercedes Sosa is anything but beautiful or sexy, she never dressed well, she carried the same hairdo all her life, she used to have a very strong political point of view that not everyone shared, she didn’t smile often and I personally found her not very friendly nor charismatic. But when she sang, you forgot about everything else. That would be a good message / portrayal of women: do what you know to do best and fuck them all.) 

Slip: These two dancers almost become one. They are equals but not the same. She can do things that he probably can’t and viceversa. That’s how I dream of being portrayed as a woman and hopefully a lot of men want the same: to live together in harmony, respected by our strengths and helped on our weaknesses, being equally treated but not seen as the same. Because we’re not, which makes us both just wonderful.

    Sharon Edmondston, creative director, M&C Saatchi, Sydney

There’s one word that immediately sprung to mind when I saw this ad for Berlei, Do It For Yourself … unguarded. It makes me feel uncomfortable because I really don’t feel like I belong in the room. I feel like a voyeur and I love it. It’s the unexpected, hidden sides of people that break clichés, challenge stereotypes and feel raw and brave, and when you overlay the fact that Serena Williams has been at the mercy of body shaming trolls for a great deal of career this isn’t just an ad for a bra anymore, it’s a master-class in body positivity.

Sharon, we miss the hilarious sexist beer ads that used to pour out of Australia so we sense scripts are changing – but to what extent and how?

Australia may be famous for its long and colourful history of sexist beer ads, but those days are well and truly over and it’s not just because of the cultural shift in gender equality. Australian beer culture has fundamentally changed over the last decade. It’s no longer the place where ‘a hard earned thirst’ reigns supreme. We are living in the era of craft beers, micro-breweries and beer snobbery. This has birthed a new normal in beer advertising  – not that we see that much of it these days.

But when we do, we’re not seeing a sweaty blue collar worker – we’re seeing a more gentile hipster type or white collar male (off-duty). There’s no need to target women anymore as the antithesis of the average blokes ‘down-to-earth’ beer, when you can have even more fun digging into hipsters or even attempting to become more hipster than hipsters themselves.

Beer companies have also begun to read the room when it comes to who’s really drinking their product, and they’ve realized that it’s no longer exclusively a man’s domain. Australian women are known to enjoy the odd frosty ale, so why alienate them?

With all that competition on tap, they need to keep any loyalists on-side that they can get. But there’s one problem with this. Over years of famous sexist Aussie ads (that we’ve laughed at and admired), we’ve been conditioned to see men drinking beer in beer ads. So when a woman appears there’s something a bit weird about it. You know she belongs there, but she just seems so tokenistic and out of place. Of course she’s not out of place at all, but until we see a campaign hero a woman in a believable and relatable way, it’s going to look like box ticking rather than a true attempt to break a cultural stereotype.

Interestingly, an online betting site in Australia recently used a woman as a spokesperson for the first time in the category and it was impossible to ignore. So with that kind of trend bucking creeping in, I have a feeling that when the big beer companies decide to get back in the ring with a ‘big ad’ we might just see a big idea as well – and I wouldn’t mind betting that we might see a break in tradition too. 

    Denise Orman, COO, BBDO Argentina

“Live as if tomorrow doesn´t exist”, my mantra on life. Freely and doing what you love, pushing your own limits and with the feet strongly on the earth, like the extreme and powerful dance in this Sia video, Chandelier, which is really inspiring and visually exquisite.

    Laura Visco, creative director, Amsterdam

This Girl Can (for Sport England) without a doubt.
I loved it because it celebrates all women who are doing their thing, no matter how they look or how well they do it.
It invites women to stop the body scrutiny and get moving.
It democratises sports often left to the ones who ‘do it right’, and that’s the most significant barrier for not even trying it. 
It convinced 3 million British women to start exercising and loving their bodies. That looks like a lot of female empowerment to me.

    Bridget Taylor, executive creative director, Contagion, Auckland

Let’s address the elephant in the room – women don’t leave to have children, they don’t come back because the environment doesn’t allow for their new responsibilities. Our industry needs to become more flexible to get this incredible talent back into industry. Becoming a mother has made me a much better creative. I am more empathetic, understanding and even more invested in the success of my clients’ business. 
I have two children under five and was back to work after four months (I say this for context not to make me sound like a superwoman. I’m not). I start a bit later and leave a bit earlier, and everything still gets done. Our attitudes need to change to realise parents are our biggest asset. They are the shoppers we seek to lure in, so we need their insights and understanding.
How do we do this? Start by thinking back to all the amazing women you’ve worked with and give them a call. Be mindful that their book won’t have changed for a few years, but they are still just as talented. Remind them that platforms change daily, but ideas are at the heart of each and there’s always people who know the latest tech buzz, there aren’t loads of brilliant creatives. Give them time, nurture them and just watch what you get back.
Finally. Let’s celebrate and embrace our differences. Times will only continue to change. Best we do too.

    Anita Ríos, Director General Creative, J. Walter Thompson, Buenos Aires

Being an ad girl I went for a spot from a few years back, before all brands were worried about empowering women. 
A Nike classic – Sharapova’s I feel pretty. Such a cool way to portray the strength that lives underneath appearances. 

    Steph Ellis, creative, NOW

This spot for Nike, What Are Girls Made Of, really hits home how important it is for women everywhere to be told we can do anything we believe in, even from a young age. Every young girl should be taught this, and this spot delivers such an important message in a way that makes me glow inside with pride.

What are girls made of? Anything they damn want to be.



Lucia, Before and After
Director: Anu Valia

Kendrik Lamar, Humble
Director: Dave Meyers

Sia, Chandelier 
Director: Daniel Askill

Sport England, This Girl Can
Director: Kim Gehrig

Nike India, Da Da Ding
Director: Francois Rousselet

Director: Neels Castillon

Videography: Jmocak
Concept/Choreography: Phillip Chbeeb & Renee Kester

Berlei, Serena Williams
Director: Paola Morabito 
Agency: Emotive