Characterizes Resignation and Post-Speech Ordeal as 'Death by Blog'

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NEW YORK ( -- Creative legend Neil French resigned from WPP Group this week, following comments he made at a public address in Toronto that women with families aren’t as equipped as men to succeed in the advertising business.
Neil French said he resigned his position as WPP's creative chief because of the controversy generated by his speech in Canada.
Original Story:
Neil French Exits Weeks After Making Sexist Jibes

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Today, Mr. French, spoke from Miami with Advertising Age reporter Matthew Creamer about the controversy.

What’s your status at WPP?
I’ve resigned, that’s the bottom line. I spoke to [WPP Group Chief Executive] Martin [Sorrell] earlier today and he said “We don’t want to accept it.” I said, “This just makes it easier for you. You’re getting all the flack and you don’t deserve it, you’re the least to blame. So if you’re getting flack, just say he’s gone, he’s out of here, I’ve got things to do.”

When will you leave WPP outright?
I don’t know. As far as I know, I’m on six-month notice because I have to give six months notice. I’m assuming they will accept that and, in April, I’ll be free to do something else if I feel like it.

When did you resign?
At the beginning of the week. Martin was spinning around like a top and, I’m sorry for the little chap, so I said I’d take it off him.

Have you heard of any WPP clients complaining?
He didn’t tell me so, but it’s quite possible. He gets earaches about my performances all over the world, poor devil. It’s just not fair. I’m not a corporate man. It’s not me.

What do you make of how the Toronto remarks have been interpreted?
It’s death by blog, isn’t it? You had to be there. I laugh a lot on stage and I say outrageous things, but people come to be entertained. They paid [$125] to sit there. If they wanted Martin Luther King, they went to the wrong gig. I’m well-known for being as outrageous as I can to make the point that I want to make. Advertising is hyperbole and I exercise hyperbole as much as I can, but I laugh when I’m doing it. You can’t storyboard a smile, as somebody said.

Has the reaction been fair?
The point is the vast percentage of the people who were there said "What was all that about?" Of course, it’s one woman getting her knickers in a twist and writing a long diatribe on a Web site and then all the other people with nothing to do joining in. Some were on my side, some were not on my side. But I don’t care. Don’t be on my side. I’m a big boy. I don’t care about this stuff.

Do you think anything was taken out of context?
Of course. All the reporting was out of context. I did not say female creatives are crap. What I did say is that when somebody asked why are there so few creative directors I said it was because they can’t put in the hours. Somebody has to look [after] the kids. You can’t always get what you want. You can’t have it all. If you don’t have a family, then it’s different. I know two female creative directors who are at the top of the tree but they either spent a long time before they had a [family] or decided not to have one because they’d rather have a career. I was married to one, for God’s sake, I know this.

So you didn’t use the word “crap,” then, in reference to women?
Oh, of course, I did, yes. But I didn’t say all female creative directors are crap. If you can’t commit yourself to any job then, by definition, you’re crap at it. If you can’t commit 100% to your job, don’t pretend you can. Nobody deserves a job unless they can commit to it.

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