NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "Good ideas have no genitals." That was one of several salient points, this one from Tiffany Kosel, Crispin Porter & Bogusky's VP-creative director, relayed by Ad Age's 2009 Women to Watch honorees who convened at the New York Hilton today for an hour-long roundtable discussion on their keys to success.
A record crowd of more than 950 attendees showed up to hear the diverse panel share their insights, up from last year's total of about 800. Many executives cited a gender-neutral approach to achieving their career triumphs, in addition to the halo effect of diversity in the White House and the rest of Washington in recent months.
"Advertising in general has had a problem with diversity," said Vida Cornelious, a former creative director for DDB, Chicago, who recently took on a similar role at GlobalHue to focus on multicultural marketing. "But the cultural nuances and the ethnic perspective of where we're headed as a country made me want to be a part of what's next. ... Instead of just focusing on the general market I want to be part of the whole market."
An emphasis on partnership also resonated among honorees from brands such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble's CoverGirl, whose VP-global cosmetics said the makeup franchise has been able to thrive in a recession thanks to lock-step work with its agency, marketing and design partners -- and with celebrity spokeswomen such as Queen Latifah and Drew Barrymore. "This is a brand that's relevant for now," she said.
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Partnership was also a cited as a big driver for McDonald's biggest launch in 35 years, McCafe, a coffee concept rolled out an estimated $100 million campaign in May. Danya Proud, the restaurant chain's senior manager-communications, co-led a team of PR executives who introduced McCafe to a national audience for the first time, after soft launches in many regional markets.
"This was an entirely new business for us, and it changed how we looked at our approach and what we typically do," she said. Rather than looking "at the different nuances of those markets before launching in 14,000 restaurants in May," the company went ahead with a full rollout.
But for real actionable advice to share with, Crispin's Ms. Kosel turned to Twitter. "I was getting messages from guys like, 'Women aren't funny,' 'We have babies so we can't prioritize,' 'Women aren't driven in the workplace,'" she said, comparing the ad industry until recently to an episode of "Mad Men," a show incidentally written mostly by females. "The field is wide open now for women creatives, but there's a fine line to walk. You have to walk this tightrope while still being seen as feminine and aggressive. Women don't need to be like men, we just need to be confident and strong. Ultimately, all it comes down to is the ideas."