Advertising Week

'Champion Female Stories' Says Director Kim Gehrig at Diversity Session

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Vanessa Kingori
Vanessa Kingori Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

Women and minorities in the creative industries need to "be more visible," champion female stories and think about barriers to less privileged people applying for jobs in order to promote diversity.

Those were some of the conclusions of a panel at Advertising Week Europe in London entitled "Create Diversity: don't talk the talk, walk the walk", hosted by 72andSunny. Panelists included Kim Gehrig, director of award-winning commercials including "This Girl Can" for Sport England and "Man in the Moon" for John Lewis, as well as Vanessa Kingori, the U.K. publisher of GQ magazine.

Ms. Gehrig said: "I have a role to play which I didn't initially acknowledge -- to champion female stories and bring a female 'gaze' to stories and concepts." She remembered working on "This Girl Can" and being concerned about choosing a music track that would appeal to men as well as women. "My music supervisor said, 'who cares about the men?' and that was eye-opening."

Kim Gehrig
Kim Gehrig Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

Ms. Gehrig also cited various barriers to women breaking through in directing, including one production company not taking on a woman "because they already had a woman on their roster."

GQ's Ms. Kingori said the key to promoting diversity is to "build workplaces that reflect as many people as possible" and added that she felt the tipping point in media had been reached this year: "As we diversify platforms and audiences, we need a different workforce. This isn't a nice liberal idea, it's a business necessity." She said that she felt part of of her role as a high-profile black woman in media is to "be more visible" and be a role model for younger women thinking of joining the industry.

Alice Pfeiffer, editor of French fashion magazine Antidote, said the fashion industry has to do much more than just feature different ethnicities in pictures. "You have to think about questions such as, would you appoint a plus size editor? Or would you pay travel expenses for a [job] interview for someone who doesn't live in Paris and has to pay 18 euros for the journey?" She added that creative leaders should "be aware of your own privilege" and realize that local activisim is important. "Sitting at your computer clicking on causes is not enough."

The lone man on the panel was Luis Vicente, sports marketing specialist and former chief marketing officer at Valencia Football Club, a professional soccer team in Spain. He said sports, as an activity many consumers are emotionally attached to, has a vital role to play in promoting diversity. He cited a strategic partnership between Valencia FC and UNWomen that featured players publicly endorsing diversity issues. However, Mr. Vicente also said that sports need to move on from the "current generation of leaders," who "are afraid of change, and of understanding the roles of women and minorities."

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