Pepsi's Jakeman, Others Go After Saatchi's Roberts Over Gender Comments

Kevin Roberts Says Gender Debate Is Over but Top Pepsi Exec Disagrees

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Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi
Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi Credit: Duncan Cole/Saatchi & Saatchi

Kevin Roberts, chairman of Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, says adland's gender diversity debate is over. But several marketing and ad agency executives beg to differ, including high-level leaders at PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase and DDB.

In a series of tweets today, PepsiCo Global Beverage Group President Brad Jakeman took Mr. Roberts to task for telling Business Insider that the "fucking debate is all over" when asked about the gender diversity in the ad industry. Mr. Roberts -- who also carries the title of "head coach" for Publicis Groupe -- told the publication that he doesn't spend "any time" on gender issues at his agencies, adding that the issue is "way worse" in industries such as financial services, where there are "problems left, right, and center." Read the entire interview here.

On Twitter, Mr. Jakeman shot back that he was proud not to be a Saatchi client. He also said Mr. Robert's views are "hardly a #lovemark" and "more like [an] "#ignorantmark." That is a reference to a business book Mr. Roberts authored called "Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands."

Mr. Roberts told Business Insider that about 65% of Saatchi's staff are female. He said that one gender-related challenge is elevating female creatives into top roles. But he suggested the issue was that millennials were not as interested in climbing the managerial ladder as older generations.

"We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers ... 10 years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business, and I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: 'I don't want to manage a piece of business and people, I want to keep doing the work',"

Publicis Chairman CEO Maurice Levy in a statement issued Saturday morning said: "The opinion expressed by Kevin is neither shared nor supported by myself or the Groupe. It is his own, expressed in his unique and provocative way and does not reflect the Groupe opinion or policy."

Representatives from Saatchi & Saatchi did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Roberts could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday and had not responded to Mr. Jakeman on Twitter.

Other marketing executives weighing in include Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall.

DDB Worldwide North America CEO Wendy Clark had this to say:

JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau made a comparison to Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Advertising Women of New York President-CEO Lynn Branigan issued the following statement:

It is alarming that such a seasoned, top industry leader would suggest that gender equality is a reality, particularly in light of so many facts that prove otherwise. It's particularly disappointing that he made some of his comments personal to Cindy Gallop, who has been a champion of women in our industry, and who represents nearly half of all people who work in marketing, communications and ad tech. Such comments just reinforce the need for organizations like AWNY to support and propel women at every stage of their careers. The volume on women's issues needs to get louder, and the conversations need go deeper. I am more convinced than ever that the work of our organization, as well as the 30% Club, the 3% Conference, the Girls' Lounge, NY WICI and Makers, is essential. Together we can amplify the importance of achieving gender parity in business and for society.

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