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The Gerety Awards are unique because they redefine the standard to which advertising is held. Named after Frances Gerety, the copywriter who coined the slogan “A diamond is forever”, the awards mark the first time that juries have been brought together to select the best in advertising – all advertising, not just advertising made for women – through the female lens.
In an industry that is still failing to retain female talent and that so often relies on lazy stereotypes to speak to women, the female lens is at risk of being smashed.
To consider how we can learn from the best in class work and stay relevant and creative in an always-on world, Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief spoke with Gerety Jury members Jessica Tamsedge, UK CEO at Dentsu Creative and Becky Ball, Creative Strategy Director at Edelman about the power of seeing through a different lens.
Judging the Gerety Awards is a unique experience that provides the jury with the space and time to absorb best-in-class work and learn from other prominent women in the industry. Where the All In Census revealed disappointing figures such as the fact that 29% of women think their gender hinders their career the question remains; are we doing enough to support women?
When the male lens is the default you get default ideas, we need to diversify and pass the mic to get to more insightful and creative workBecky Ball, Creative Strategy Director at Edelman
For Tamsedge the answer to this question lies within the work. Reflecting on the submissions, Tamsedge explained judging the work through the female lens means being able to see ‘different shaped solutions’. These are solutions which are not just for women, but expansive solutions and broader conversations for brands.
In essence, a creative process that includes women does not just mean solving ‘women’s problems’ but finding creative solutions for all brand problems. While a lot of the work submitted in the Gerety Awards is best-in-class, it remains unavoidable that some brands still have representation issues and rely on lazy, problematic stereotypes to talk to women such as ‘domestic tropes and superhero mums’. “At one end unhelpful stories are still being told,” says Tamsedge, yet she has hope that ‘we are moving in the right direction and having some uncomfortable conversations.’
For Ball, participating in the judging of an awards focused on the female lens unveiled a real diversity of work showing the ways categories can be pushed forward. “What happens when we get it right?” asks Ball. “When women are involved, so many things happen at work and in the agency environment,” she added.
Ball explained: “Emotional intelligence is often the hallmark of working with female creators, an ability to put ourselves in the audience's shoes and create more emotionally resonant work.” This in turn can lead to creative ‘ah-ha’ moments and connect with women who hold a large portion of the purchasing power.
Connecting the dots between the creative, the brand and the audience, by thinking emotionally leads to impressive results. Ball believes this reinforces the growing need to close the gap in C-suite representation. “When the male lens is the default you get default ideas, we need to diversify and pass the mic to get to more insightful and creative work,” she adds.
It’s about credibility and walking the walkJessica Tamsedge, UK CEO at Dentsu Creative
Be it readjusting to hybrid work or grappling with the cost of living crisis, the world is in a state of transition. Such flux presents the opportunity to shake things up and do things differently. Despite the ‘purpose fatigue’ in some parts of the industry the Gerety Awards shortlist provides an insight into how the advertising industry can contribute meaningfully and authentically to reshaping society for the better.
“There’s been lots of conversation, but it’s about credibility and walking the walk,” says Tamsedge. In an era where consumers are more informed than ever, brands cannot rest on empty promises and are being held to account.
Tamsedge shares her own experiences learning about sustainability and urges brands to take part in the full educational journey, unlearning bad habits and restructuring before shouting about vanity projects which are only the tip of the iceberg. She explains: “Good examples of purposeful work are when an agency is telling the story of what a business has done, fundamentally changing business models.”
Similarly, Ball is encouraged by the increased interest in regulation be it AI regulation or greenwashing claims. A shift that means brands are truly held to account on the claims they make in marketing. Such regulation makes the future of purpose-driven marketing exciting as it gives credibility to campaigns.
Beyond purpose, Ball is also passionate about action and impact. She explains that such action doesn’t always have to be purposeful, it can also be ‘fun’ or ‘silly’. Campaigns from the likes of Twix and Burger King show how playful work can feel culturally relevant. She believes there is an opportunity to blend humour with purpose. As she explains: “There’s a real opportunity to blend the two. We don't always want to see ‘we are there to support you’ we want playfulness and creativity - we have been asking for more humour for years, is now the time?”
Amidst the growing popularity of ChatGPT, one of the industry's most click-bait headlines has been around the possibility of AI stealing the role of creatives. While the robot takeover might not be as imminent as the press has you believe, the potential of AI is not to be ignored.
For Tamsedge the disruptive narrative around AI has caused quite a splash but from a business perspective, she believes there is an opportunity to scale its abilities in a much more meaningful way. From leveraging tech for creative responses, scaling video content or improving storage there are many applications of AI that are yet to be discovered. While tech has been embedded in the industry for a long time there are still ways that AI can be used to free up resources and time to allow people to be more creative. Rather than dismissing AI as a gimmick, Tamsedge believes in: “embracing technology to liberate our best creative selves.”
There are lots of conversations about retaining women that start from a fix the women [point of view] but more needs to be done to fix the system.Becky Ball, Creative Strategy Director, Edelman
According to the All In Census 33% of the industry are currently affected by stress or anxiety. A situation which means finding ways to free up time can only be a good thing. For the Gerety Awards jury, the judging process allows the time to soak in the work and absorb creativity. The panel agreed it is essential that everyone finds the time to nurture creative input to contribute to creative output.
Poor work-life balance remains one of the main reasons people look to leave their companies but Tamsedge is quick to remind audiences that the concept of balance is not human nature as often things ebb and flow. The pandemic proved that a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work and instead, Tamsedge encourages an intersectional approach, allowing people space to be flexible. “Everyone has different needs, different home setups, unfortunately, it’s complicated. We have to do some work so look to experts in different areas to advise,” she explained.
Both the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have seen women on the sharp end of the negative impact. In an industry in which people are the most valuable resource, not enough is being done to soften this blow and retain women. “There are pockets of innovation,” says Ball, pointing to companies that have introduced menopause policies, she continued: “but things have moved on. There are lots of conversations about retaining women that start from a fix the women [point of view] but more needs to be done to fix the system.”
“Often particular groups are responsible for solving the problems they are disproportionately affected by'' added Kemp, stressing the importance of working as a collective to push forward the industry. She warned the industry to be careful not to undo any positive change in flexible working ushered in by the pandemic. There is a responsibility to do more as a system, the onus cannot be placed on individuals to champion themselves or force change.
In the work and in the workplace the importance of shifting the lens has never been more apparent. As summer inspiration season approaches and the back-to-school reset looms, The Gerety Awards act as a poignant reminder of the importance of listening and learning from one another. Making the space for uncomfortable conversations, passing the mic and taking the time to stop and think is the key to creating conditions in which creativity can thrive.
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