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Agency Iceberg

Adland Adversity

In a fresh podcast series launched by B&T and Seventh Street Media (SSM), Founder and Principal of Hyland Media Virginia Hyland spoke candidly about her experience on the way to the top. Amongst insights shared with SSM Chief Executive Luke Girgis on business strategy and her own career mistakes, what stood out was Hyland’s perspectives on the “double-edged sword” of being a female leader within Australia’s Adland. Whilst Hyland is now the leader of a thriving full-service agency, it was hardly smooth-sailing to get there, in an industry where just 20% of full-time CEOs are women. If only ⅕ of our senior decision-makers actually know what it’s like to be a woman in the 21st century, is it really a surprise that #LadyDoritos and #DoritoGate is just one of many tragic (yet simultaneously hilarious) branding decisions?

Negotiation woes

A major example of the persistent gender discrimination at the top of the industry is Hyland’s loss of a $15 million pitch because of the fact she was a woman. Despite weeks of effort and energy expended, her and her team were “dismissed because of gender” as the client’s Head of Marketing “didn’t believe a female could negotiate as well as a bloke”. Cue MAJOR eye-roll. It’s 2018, but apparently in some circles a woman’s brain is still only capable of choosing between butter and margarine.

Spending power

The flip side of the coin is the spending power women possess. There’s no denying there are differences between genders, and we’re not saying women don’t have weaknesses. We’re saying we’re varied and distinct just as men are, and there are many capable female leaders who can do the job just as well as a guy, if given the opportunity. We shouldn’t be dismissed as a gender or painted with one broad stroke. Rather, we should focus on the advantages we each possess and capitalise on them. Hyland herself points to the edge women have in areas such as fashion, beauty and FMCG where the target audience for many brands is favoured towards females. Even so, diversity and different perspectives are equally as useful in this case, with predictions of continued growth in the male beauty sector over the next decade.

Unfair dismissal

Despite these key insights, what this podcast highlights is that gender is still a major decision-making factor within Australian Adland. What’s more, the problem is universal, with gendered thinking and stereotypes thrust upon each of us the day we’re born. But with the world’s largest brands (Amazon, Google, Apple) profiting enormously off ignoring such biases and tapping into a universal insight, why do some brands still choose to dismiss or undervalue half the population?

The crux

Aside from biologically-related products, the real losers are the brands that base their audience off assumptions and refuse to meet the realities of female spending power and the modern woman. Agencies must do better in embracing diversity across the board to make significant changes in an industry where only 16% of Australian advertising board members are female. In the meantime, as put by Hyland, we “get on with it…it’s water off a duck’s back”.


Read the full B&T article here.