Crude Guru Was Good For Ad Industry.
NEIL French, creative head of the WPP Group, the world's
second largest communications company, was always known for
his ability to provoke.
So, it should have been no surprise to industry watchers
across the world when he resigned over a week ago in a cloud
of controversy. Mr French had allegedly described women creative
directors as "crap".
The WPP Group has refused to comment on the incident. Mr
French has argued that he was taken out of context and described
the whole incident as "Death by Blog".
The rest of the advertising industry has been in a quandary.
Trade publications like AdAge have been asking if there are
ways to address the "gender gap", and Marketing
Magazine online edition conducted a poll to see what marketing
communications professionals thought of the whole incident.
Boorish as most took his comments to be, there is so far
no evidence to suggest
that Mr French discriminated against women in advertising
and hindered their
For a man who apparently thinks women are "crap",
he married ? and divorced
? a highly successful and driven creative director (Ms Linda
and regional creative director of Leo Burnett SEA and former
CEO of Saatchi and
Being boorish was never an offence worth having to resign
Secondly, the advertising industry has not proven itself
to be "woman
unfriendly". Women have broken the "glass ceiling" in
As well as being married to Ms Locke for seven years, Mr
French also reported to
Shelly Lazarus, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, when he was Ogilvy's
head. Singapore's advertising industry has seen prominent
directors like Lim Sau Hong, CEO and executive creative director
Mr Frank Young, creative director at Crush Advertising says: "When
you look at
the way little girls play, you realise that women are much
communicating than men. Girls will sit around, gossip and
chat. Little boys are
more one tracked and there is a subtle hierarchical mindset
"Women tend to make better PR people and advertising
account handlers. They get
things done ? it's easier for a man to give in to a woman
than another man.
Women have been a positive influence in the industry."
Mr French is undoubtedly brilliant at his job. Whatever
the truth of the
incident, nothing should detract from the fact that the advertising
French was responsible for was provocative and, more importantly,
People did not pay Mr French to be politically correct;
they paid him to get
In a survey done by Marketing Magazine online edition, the
Singapore's marketing communications professionals felt Mr
French should have
resigned. Yet, in a survey two weeks ago on the state of
work, the majority also felt that standards in Singapore
Mr Kelvin Pereira of Crush Advertising felt that when Mr
French was active in
the Singapore advertising industry, there was a buzz not
quite felt today.
He added: "Let's not forget that some of the best creative
people (in Singapore)
came out of O&M when he was ECD. For the rest of us he
was an inspiration."
This is surely a sign that Mr French, whatever one thinks
of him, did play a
positive role in the industry.
Perhaps there is a lesson here. Singapore needs risk takers
who will shake up
industries and make them globally competitive. Mr French
did that for Singapore
So instead of castigating Mr French for being a boor, shouldn't
we be looking
for more people like him?
Tang Li - The
writer is a freelance writer.