A woman in advertising.

Different voices in a room expand your world view. I just read an interview that Rebecca Huval did with creative director and copywriter Janet Champ on The Toast and I’m feeling head-over-heels inspired by her. These are the 4 bits that hit me the hardest and the trail of my thoughts inspired by her words.

“Yes, we’re selling a product or thought or emotion, but what we’re really supposed to be selling is the truth.” – Janet Champ

Advertising gets a bad rap about “tricking” people into buying shitty products, so this statement resonates with me because I am convinced that great advertising just sells the truth. As a designer, I want to find great people selling great products and providing a real service and tell their truth, whatever it is, however big or small. I’d rather sell a small truth than a big lie any day. In fact, I love small truths. They are my absolute favourite design problems and projects because there is something completely delightful about putting a spotlight on a tiny, unassuming but gorgeous little kernel.

“The tide has to change. We have to come back to storytelling and dialogue, instead of 140-word blasts.”

I host philosophically-focused Salons at my studio: give me a cocktail and a good conversation topic and I can go for hours. If given the option between a trip to Hawaii and an invigorating, delightful conversation… I would choose the conversation. Humans are creatures built for intimacy, and there are really only a few ways to achieve human intimacy: physical contact and emotional contact, the latter of which is best achieved in close conversation. Telling stories, then listening, back-and-forth. This is the crux of most memorable human experiences. The culture around me is conversation-poor.

Any place where you’re allowed to discover your personal voice, that’s where you should work.” – Janet Champ

Every human person has a particular voice or particular take — based on their personality, life experiences, education, and cultural context — that they’re going to bring to their work. It’s the only gold we can ever bring to a project and it’s a shame that it seems to be squashed so easily and frequently. It’s also a shame that some voices don’t get asked to participate often enough, which brings me to this final quote of Ms. Champ’s:

“Why aren’t there more women creatives [in advertising]? … I firmly believe it’s not because we’re not talented or don’t work 16-hour days or can’t be audacious. I think it’s because like hires like. Anybody in a position of power of a certain gender or ethnicity, they tend to hire people who look like them. In advertising, there are a lot of white men in power.”

Like hires like. Looking at this from a purely gender-focused lens, I think Champ’s point here is only part of the story. I would also add: “Patterns feed patterns.” Men and women alike are both more likely to put the man in the room in the position of power. It’s the comfortable status quo that everyone in the room has experience navigating. No hurt feelings, no uncomfortable new responsibilities or difficult conversations, right? As an entrepreneurial woman in the creative industry (scratch that: as  a woman, period) I’m stuck on how to get above these subtle social sexisms. Usually the conversation is over and I’ve walked away before I’ve even realized it’s happened.

Thinking about how I can deal with these subtle sexisms, I’ve realized that one of the big things I need to let go of is the notion that everyone needs to like me. The pressure to be “proper” or “appropriate” regularly holds me back from acting in an unfettered, authentic way. Change is hard, but let me tell you after years of experience: tip-toeing is EXHAUSTING. Humans are programmed to resist uncomfortable change, and I’m coming to accept (and brace myself) for people in the room being uncomfortable with accepting a woman’s voice and presence as being as powerful/important/riveting as the man sitting next to her. I like to think of it as similar to when our grandmothers first started wearing pants and voting— it was the worst. Right? Or so many men and women of the day felt. But eventually folks got used to it. Women even started wearing shorts! Then short-shorts, and I’m not even sure what comes after “Daisy Dukes” but I can almost guarantee that people are going to think it’s indecent, dangerous and inappropriate… at first.

Of course, pants (even short-shorts) are a little easier to see than every day subtle sexisms. Maybe some smart lady will invent a “sexism dye” that starts leaking a hot pink colour into the air wherever subtle sexism is lurking. The Catch-22 is getting that lady inventor her start-up funding before people are aware of the subtle sexisms that her dye will reveal… tricky.

Quotes taken from this article interview

Also… this Janet Champ’s work is amazing. Check it out here and be inspired.