Thought Leadership

‘Creativity is still the most radical solution’

Members of the Gerety Awards Jury join Nicola Kemp to consider how to create a space where award winning work can thrive.

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


You need only look as far as the shelves of popular high street shops to see how gender stereotypes and tone-policing is being forced on to young girls from an early age. T-shirts for girls that read ‘be kind’ or ‘be grateful’, while the boys section focuses on action, with slogans that say ‘big ideas’ or  ‘be a king’. An early example of the ways in which boys are encouraged to achieve anything, while girls are still being held back. 

Gender stereotypes are extremely damaging and carried with us throughout life. In a world where the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report has revealed that at the current rate of progress we will have to wait 132 years until we reach true gender parity, fighting against damaging stereotypes and speeding up this pace has never been so important. 

The Gerety Awards is one of the organisations championing the power of the female lens. Named after Frances Gerety, the copywriter who coined the famous phrase ‘a  diamond is forever’, the awards are unique because they judge all advertising, not just advertising made for women, through the female lens. 

In a panel session moderated by Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief, members of the Gerety Awards jury; Jo Wallace, Global Executive Creative Director at MediaMonks, Ayesha Walawalkar, Chief Strategy Officer at MullenLowe, Imali Hettiarachchi, Global Brand Strategy at the LEGO Group and  Fura Johannesdottir, Global Chief Creative Officer at Huge, came together to discuss the importance of the female lens, consider how to create a more inclusive workplace for women and reflect on the judging experience.

While women are largely absent both on and off screen in advertising, the female lense isn’t just important from a creative standpoint, with women holding around 80% of the purchase power it is also a business imperative. 

Better together

In order to achieve a more inclusive workspace which leads to more diversity of thought, the metaphorical table needs to be opened up and more seats need to be added. Reflecting upon the judging experience Johannesdottir remarked that the female-only judging Zoom room had a drastically different dialogue than what she was used to. “Many of us liked the work then someone might come in with a different eye opening perspective” she shared, “The female only room was more open to open dialogue. It felt like a safe space. The elevated conversation changed everything and made me reflect on my own team. I want those perspectives there too.” 

The importance of having a great team to do great work was echoed by Wallace, who added that “as a leader it’s not about me, it’s about the team. To enable them to do their best work, culture is important.” She added that without a strong team you become an ‘island’ disconnected from others, out of touch with culture and expressed her fear that the industry is facing a confidence crisis, afraid to say no to demands of clients which leads to boring work. “I’m only as good as my team and only as brave as my client,” she added. 

Lego has opportunities to be creative all the time. Fostering creativity and curiosity creates a culture of kindness. A culture of fear and negativity drains creative fuel.

Imali Hettiarachchi, Global Brand Strategy at the LEGO Group

Space to create

Creating culture continues to be a challenge as the industry attempts to strike the right balance of the combination of remote and office working. Walawalkar candidly shared her struggle in finding what works best for the team. “There’s joy in being back in the room but time to be creative in our PJs too. Our job is people driven but culture is crucial. We need to try things and not let fear close us down.”

“Some work lacks energy” added Johannesdottir, while pointing to the fact that getting together in the room physically to be creative sparks joy and fun that a lot of work has been missing.  She added: “Connect physically, jam. You work faster. Fun is reflected in the work.”

Creating a culture of fun, rather than of fear is something that Hettiarachchi recognises in her own workplace. She explained: “Lego has opportunities to be creative all the time. Fostering creativity and curiosity creates a culture of kindness. A culture of fear and negativity drains creative fuel.”

Creativity no matter where we apply it is still the most radical solution.

Jo Wallace, Global Executive Creative Director at MediaMonks

Radical creativity

When reflecting on the award winning entries, the judges agreed that creativity above all remains the key ingredient to creating the best work. With brands competing for the attention of audiences, something radical that challenges the status quo is the only way to draw people in. “People want to see action, cultural relevance” says Wallace, “tech is an enabler but creativity is the differentiator. Creativity no matter where we apply it is still the most radical solution.”

Where the industry has witnessed a distinctive shift toward purpose driven communications, the panel shared in their longing for more fun, humorous ads. As we work toward a world where sustainability becomes a given in business, purposeful brands should not need to lead with purpose driven credentials in coms and instead strive to entertain and make people laugh which is ultimately more engaging. Yet, as the world continues to work toward this point, purposeful ads are still needed to inform ethical purchase decisions and the panel agreed that the most  impactful purpose driven ads were the ones that dared to say something audacious and bold.

Building a better future

The panel agreed that the advertising industry is a better place for women now than it was in decades ago,  as open conversation sparked by women's movements have made people less afraid to speak out. However there is still a way to go.and Johannesdottir stresses that it is now more than just men and women and we need to think about intersectionalities. Being open and sharing experiences is the only way to ensure things improve. There is also a much larger focus on representation on screen as Hettiarachchi urged the industry to think about what’s behind the lens and escape the echo chamber.

While there remains many challenges for women in the industry, the jury left the audience with the parting advice to say no more. No to meetings, to quantifying creativity, to processes that make work formulaic and yes to remembering to play and have fun to let creativity run wild. As in the fight to eliminate stereotypes, accelerate the pace to gender parity and create a more inclusive workplace for all, creativity is what will help find solutions. 

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