Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

What women in advertising don’t want

Published in May-Jun 2009
Here is a list of things they do not want to hear said from their male counterparts

“Advertising is a cosy little boys’ club, where men create the standards by which ads (and other men) are judged and then go round handing out awards and accolades to each other. They just don’t value the kind of ads that women write and that women like.”

Those were my girlfriend’s last words before she threw me out of her house at 4:00 a.m. (For those who don’t know her, she is a junior creative manager at one of the senior ad agencies, and yes, she is now available!)

The argument started when I quoted the golden words of my guru Neil French:

“Women don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to, they’re crap.”

French, commonly referred to as ‘The Godfather’, was the worldwide creative director at WPP, the world’s second-largest advertising group before he met the same fate as mine – he was thrown out of JWT for good.

Although most of you will disagree with French’s comments, they are based on at least a partial truth: women don’t make it to the top in advertising.

But it’s not just an ad industry problem; it’s a societal problem. 

Those women in our society who make all the sacrifices that men do still do not reach the top, because they get fed up with the dickheads, the heartbreaking choices, the insane juggling that makes you get up and vomit every morning from the stress... until, finally they say to hell with it.

The day after my argument, I got hold of a few adwomen (or they got hold of me) and we put together this shortlist of things they do not want to hear said from their male counterparts (but usually do).

You may find this list tacked above the photocopier in your office in the next few days.

1.) Don’t you dare remind me that I am a woman and I can’t do this or that. I can do it better than you, faster than you and longer than you. Period.

2.) Don’t you dare think I am just a pretty face with no brains, who is hired to make your pathetically designed ads look good in front of the client.

I can make smart observations and give smarter suggestions.  

3.) When we are working on a female oriented brand, don’t tell me you know what women need when I make a suggestion. Seventy-five percent of all purchasing decisions are made by women (like me). And if I am buying these brands, I know how to sell them.

4.) Don’t you dare call me a b***h when I am just doing my job, managing a project or an employee.

5.) Don’t you dare assume that because I am in charge at work that I push my husband or boyfriend around at home. Although you may require someone to watch over your every move to ensure your bit gets done on time, that does not mean that my significant other needs the same sort of clammy handed handholding.

6.) When I change my mind after you make a suggestion don’t assume that I am a woman uncertain of her own thoughts. There is no need to ask me “If I’m sure” at every meeting after that. Everyone can see you trying to undercut me and it makes you look like s**t.

7.) If my last campaign was successful, it doesn’t mean that I was lucky or I had an easy client. It was hard work and I deserve a promotion.

8.) If I am going out for lunch with the boss, it doesn’t mean I am sleeping with him. When you go out with him for dinner, I don’t think you are gay.

9.) If I am on the phone, I am not gossiping. I am trying to close a deal or deal with a brief. Do I ask you how you find the time to send me all those stupid text messages?

10.) Don’t push me to get things approved just because I am a woman. If you are not confident of your work and can’t convince the client, it’s not my problem. Improve your work!


Those women in our society who make all the sacrifices that men do still do not reach the top, because they get fed up with the heartbreaking choices, the insane juggling that makes you get up and vomit every morning from the stress... until, finally they say to hell with it.


11.) Don’t you dare comment on how many men are present at a meeting (or how many women are not) and then guffaw about the real work getting done when the women are not around. The boss knows who works better and he is a guy.

12.) Don’t you dare assume I am a junior manager when you meet me at a conference. Yes, women are CDs, CEOs, VPs. It has happened. We are everywhere.

13.) Don’t you dare take me for a pro just because I have no problems working nights. I stay late for work and for work alone just like you, but unlike you I don’t waste my time looking for a sleeping partner.

14.) Don’t you dare make derogatory comments about other women and expect me to laugh. If I made a joke about small d***s, you wouldn’t laugh either. I know, because I tried it once and you looked like you might puke in your cube.

15.) Don’t count me out for jobs like surveys and fieldwork. I may not always like the outdoors for the same reasons that you don’t, but I can do the research too.

16.) Don’t make fun of models or ‘play’ with their photographs on Photoshop. Regardless of the touch ups you do to their faces and other body parts, they are better looking than you could ever be.

17.) Just because I like to smoke and party doesn’t mean I will indulge in greater sins like you do. We know our limits. Stay inside yours.

18.) My colleagues don’t think I am a witch. On the other hand, your junior manager was telling me the other day what an a**hole you are.

19.) Don’t you dare try to touch me up. Your attempts are pathetic and yes, I will tell HR.

20.) Don’t you dare ask me why I don’t wear tight fitting clothes like that new young intern in the media department does. Do I tell you to stop wearing the same faded black T-shirt to work every day? I don’t, because how you look how has zero impact on my job or how we work as a team.

21.) If I am late, don’t assume I am out shopping. It could be a traffic jam just like it happens in your case every other day. Right?

22.) Don’t you dare stare at my assets. Do I stare at your zipper when you are trying to make a point? Of course not. It’s just not that interesting.

23.) If I am taking time to make up my mind, it doesn’t mean I am slow. It means I am thoughtful and deliberate.

24.) Don’t expect me to quit my job for you (for the greater good, huh) just because there is a recession and cost cutting going on. If you are not good enough and the company can do without you, I can’t save you. Darling.

Gentlemen, as many a lady would like you to know, this isn’t the era of admen anymore.

Women have come alive and are making a few cracks in the glass ceiling.

But don’t worry; they are unlikely to break it anytime soon. Or could that just be my own assumption? ;)

Aneek Saleh Mohammad is Publisher and Chief Executive, Revelation Inc. aneek@rev.com.pk