NEIL FRENCH MAKES NEWS BY NOT TALKING IN SINGAPORE

WPP Pulls the Plug on Scheduled AdAsia Panel Appearance

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SINGAPORE (AdAge.com) -- Controversial creative Neil French was the most talked-about speaker on the first day of Asian regional advertising conference AdAsia -- even though his appearance was abruptly canceled at WPP Group’s insistence.

Neil French's remarks on 'Creativity: Global and Asian Perspectives' were cancelled at the last minute by WPP.
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1,000 delegates
More than 1,000 delegates are attending the Nov. 21-23 AdAsia conference in Singapore, and many were eager to hear Mr. French, who created a worldwide furor at a talk in Canada when he called women creatives “crap” and said they don’t work hard enough to be successful because of the time they spend raising children.

In the AdAsia program, Mr. French was scheduled to speak for an hour after lunch on Monday about “Creativity: Global and Asian Perspectives” along with Tham Khai Meng, co-chairman of WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, Asia Pacific. Instead, he disappeared from the updated printout of the program distributed at the conference, and the other speaker went on alone.

Apologetic e-mail
Mr. French’s non-appearance was the lead story in a local trade publication’s AdAsia show daily, which quoted an e-mail from a WPP executive to AdAsia organizers apologizing “that you are in this situation, but I do not think we can change our position on Neil.”

The day before the conference started, a major Singapore daily ran a long interview with Mr. French inspired by his Canadian comments under the headline “Pardon my French.” In the story, he said his remarks about raising children being incompatible with the long hours needed to become a top creative applied to fathers, too. To prove his point, Mr. French said he hadn’t seen his own 8-year-old son, his only child, for months.

Cultural filter
In Asia, where Mr. French has spent much of his career based in Singapore, not everyone understands what the fuss is about. At a private dinner on Monday night, one Australian creative said Mr. French is simply “cheeky” and had a good record on encouraging and promoting women.

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