Advertising creative department leadership is somewhere around 2% black. Only three percent of advertising creative directors are female. And dammit, I’m a copywriter not a mathematician, but here goes:
Black + Female + Creative Director = Unicorn
Most people don’t think I exist.
I like to play a game when I’m in Los Angeles shooting. I guess how many people in the hotel lobby are creatives. I’m goooood, y’all. I can usually even pick out the account guy. How do I know?
Because eavesdropping comes easy for people that others overlook.
Unicorns are invisible.
Number of people who would pick the table of black girls as an ECD, having dinner with a GCD, a producer and an editor? Zero.
But I’m here in my enchanted forest, prancing in the peonies and drinking champagne.
I’m not lonely. I was raised in Multicultural agencies. Multicultural agencies don’t have a shortage of female Creative Directors. I was hired by a female ECD, who was the successor of another female ECD. I can pop off names of at least 10 female CDs from that same source.
Which explains a lot about how multicultural creative is seen by the industry at large, but that is a whole ‘nother unicorn chat.
Overall, my forest ain’t bad. There’s a lot of Fortune 500 brands in here. There’s an outpost of the Viceroy here. I’m doing the unicorn job that I love. Life is pretty good.
But sometimes I wonder if I’m confined.
I’ll admit that the thought of poking my horn out into the industry can be a little daunting.
What if people come after me with the venom of a billion Agency Spy commenters? What if I piss somebody off? What if people think I’m bitter? Or just not good enough?
Maybe I should announce myself sometime in the future? Not today when I am just me and my statistics are good but not unassailable.
And then I went to a Unicorn Convention. The 3% Conference.
Make no mistake, it was an ad thing. We were talking shop. I came home full of non-gender related good advice for building a better department.
But the conference also covered the challenges of being a unicorn, directly and indirectly.
I saw pregnant creative directors and realized that I wasn’t the only one happily leading conference calls the day I gave birth. Unless I am the only one who did that, in which case I will say that my son was two weeks late and I was bored.
During a break I used my phone to hire a nanny and a cleaning service. It’s stupid to feel guilty about it when it frees me to really listen to my son without my eyes drifting to that streak on the wall that I can only hope is chocolate pudding.
I learned that this is how CD moms can make this life work.
And possibly the best thing I learned?
Feeling horrible that nobody will let me crack the dick joke that would make me the toast of Cannes only keeps me from reaching Cannes.
It felt amazing to be completely surrounded by people that understand where I’m coming from.
That’s why creative departments remain the way they do.
You want creatives to have things in common. You want them to laugh at each other’s jokes. You want them to want to go out for a beer with one another. You are pretty sure that you don’t want to deviate too far from what is considered to be a winning formula. Despite the uncertainty and insecurity and competition, you want people to feel like they are part of a clan.
No pun intended.
There is no vast conspiracy to keep girls and black folks out of creative departments. It’s just a bunch of dudes being comfortable with the familiar.
My favorite quote in the world is this: “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” I love it because it is always true.
So here I am, venturing out of my unicorn forest.
Mostly because somewhere, there’s a little black girl reading everything advertising that she can put her browser on.
As I learned at the 3% conference, she can’t be what she can’t see.
Sigers created and sold her first ad to Lawson’s Cleaners when she was in fifth grade. After graduating from Northwestern University, she became the youngest creative director appointed at Burrell Communications in Chicago, helmed the agency’s Coca-Cola business and went on to create and manage work for Truth.com, General Mills, Verizon, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, Allstate and McDonald’s — winning the agency’s first general market youth assignment. In 2006, she was tapped to join Sanders\Wingo for her multicultural expertise and to recruit, train and build the Austin creative department. Under her leadership, the AT&T account has expanded exponentially. Account wins include Chevrolet, MINI and Burger King. She also directs creatives in the El Paso office on general market work for El Paso Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, GECU and the District Attorney’s Office. She has published several pieces of short fiction in The Chicago Reader and the Evansville Review. You can find her penning her award winning blog, Library Of Maternal Nagging, in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her son and an ancient Bullmastiff named Lola.
Sigers is Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Director for Sangers/Wingo