Bec Brideson is, quite frankly, one of the most ambitious people we’ve ever met.
When she started out in the industry 25 years ago, she wrote herself a marketing plan for her career. Years later, she’s been the Creative Lead for top tier agencies; worked internationally; launched her own agency and created a global network of agencies that market exclusively to women.
When we spoke to her, she was preparing a keynote presentation and was in discussions with publishing houses on releasing her first book.
Oh, and did we mention she’s a parent of two?
We just had to figure out what drives this impressive woman and why, in 2016, marketing to women is still referred to as ‘niche’.
Marketing to women is commonly referred to as ‘niche’. Can you elaborate on why that is such a misconception?
[Laughs] “Yes, it still is! It’s not a niche and here’s why. Women control 28 trillion of the 35 trillion global consumer economy. In 2020, women’s total aggregated rate of pay will overtake men’s. Women are responsible for nine out of ten major purchasing decisions.
“It would be much accurate to state that marketing to men is actually the minority.”
Let’s talk about brands appetites to market to women. If the numbers demonstrate women are primarily making economic decisions – why aren’t marketers making a stronger push towards marketing to this audience? Are bigger brands less likely to be risk adverse and therefore less likely to create campaigns that target women ‘specifically’?
“Larger brands actually are less likely to innovate on that level because when you’re making millions, if not trillions of dollars every year; segmenting your audience doesn’t seem like an immediate requirement.
“There have been lots of brands that have survived through traditional marketing but there is a shift not dissimilar to the shift to social and mobile. The shift in power is now in the hands of women. They’ll vote with their wallets if a brand isn’t delivering or talks down to them, which so many brands unfortunately do.
“What I educate clients on is if you communicate with women they way they want to be communicated with – it can be transformative to a business. To overlook the main decision maker makes very, very little commercial sense.
“Brands need to think of women in terms of their sheer economic power. If you ignore the female demographic you are fundamentally underestimating their role in the economy.
“Keeping customers is cheaper than acquiring them. Women’s financial power can destroy a brand. I would advise brands that the risk they take is greater if they ignore women or lump them in the same segments as men.”
What can agencies do to counteract the way women are dictated to in advertising? What tactics could change this?
“Agencies need to review the way they operate and that’s as much as looking at the way they segment markets, planning processes, media buying and the work force.
“Any man is more than capable of understanding what women’s needs are if they’re interested enough and if it’s a priority for their client.
“The numbers are not saying ‘fire half the male workforce’. Women and men communicate differently, they have different needs. Men are more likely to view the world in competitive terms. Women are more likely to value community and connection.”
You mentioned in your white paper that advertising started to thrive post war and campaigns to date, have a ‘combat mentality’. Can you elaborate on this?
“Agencies were founded on a post war 1950’s mentality – literally. After the war, women left work and went back the home when 80% of them didn’t want to. That was a critical point in the evolution of women in the workforce.
“The tool kit that agencies have been using for the last 70 years desperately needs to evolve and represent modern female values.”
You said in your early 20’s you had a ‘marketing plan for your career’. What inspired this?
“My mum was a nurse who became a psychologist and dad who was a teacher that became a state politician. So, pretty early on I saw people transform their careers.
“I was in my early 20’s, sitting in a briefing session in an agency, listening to the Account Director talking about the goals for a major brand. I thought ‘I need to do this for my own career’.
“I was (and still am) a big believer in a five year plan so needed a really clear road map.”
How did you structure this and translate that into real life situations? Can you give us some examples?
“When I was younger, I didn’t get taken seriously. I’m 5’3 and I got quite a few comments around being ‘pretty’, which were pretty undermining to say the least.
“I looked at the people in Account Service and in leadership positions and what they wore to work and how they spoke to people. I started wearing tailored suits. Heels to meetings. Talking with authority in my ideas. It’s a small thing but people stopped confusing me with a junior creative person and started being able to hear my ideas. [Ironically when I started to develop my own team, I started to dress down so people could feel like I was approachable and not just a ‘suit’.]
“I also knew awards were currency in agency world. I made sure the right people noticed my work. Awards buy you kudos when you’re a junior and have more to prove.
“I looked at what books were on the bookshelves of my colleagues, Account Service and bosses desks. I read and read and read and read so I could talk with authenticity on the issues that were important for the brands and the business. I won a lot of respect that way because they could see I was passionate and I could talk in their language about what the brand needed. I wasn’t just some ‘flaky’ creative.
“A crucial thing I did was tying my success to that of the agency. I’d never go home without asking others ‘what can I do to help’? I’d work weekends, long nights – whatever it took for the agency to succeed.”
Working all night and through weekends will ring true to many of our readers. It doesn’t sound like a brilliant work life balance though…
“[Laughs] Not really. But it paid off. There was never a question of whether I’d keep my job or get a pay rise.”
How’d Bec get to the top?
1991 Intern, JWT
“The day I finished Uni was the day I walked into my first unpaid job, but I didn’t care. I wanted the experience. I worked six months for free at two different agencies while I worked weekends at my retail job. I used all the money I was paid on the weekend to park my car and buy lunch on St Kilda Road. Finally I got a paying job because I’d earned my six months experience.”
1991 Art Director Mattingly and Partners
“I teamed up with a Copywriter and spent weeks creating folios we could send to agencies. We found a CD who had a reputation for giving juniors a break in the industry. It took 12 months but finally he called and said ‘there’s a job for you but it’s in Sydney.’ I moved to Sydney the following week.”
1992 Art Director, Mojo Advertising
1994 Senior Art Director, DDB
“I got to work in a team with the Creative Director and basically learned how to be a great CD under his guidance. It was almost like a paid apprenticeship!”
1998 Creative Director, Cummins&Partners
“I went back to the person who believed in me as a Junior and who believed in me again as an accomplished Art Director. I always kept the lines of communication open.”
2004 Founder Venus Comms (own agency)
“I was working seven days a week like the owner of the agency. I thought: I could do this, I could run my own agency. I also saw an opportunity being missed in the way women were considered in the way agencies communicated with them. It was an obvious move.”
2007 First baby born
2010 Second baby born
2014 Founded Global Marketing Women Network, Venus Comms
2016 BecBrideson.com Consultant on The Female Economy
Images by Breeana Dunbar Photography.