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Spotlight on Women Creatives: Mandie van der Merwe, Creative Director, Cummins&Partners

Trends and Insight 164 Add to collection

As part of a daily series Campaign Brief and LBB shine the spotlight on the top female executive creative directors and creative directors in Australia...

Spotlight on Women Creatives: Mandie van der Merwe, Creative Director, Cummins&Partners
Mandie van der Merwe is Creative Director at Cummins&Partners, Sydney.

Mandie has plied her trade across three continents over the last 10 years. Together with creative partner Avish Gordhan, she has been recognised at Cannes, The One Show, Spikes Asia, AWARD, ADMA, Loerie Awards, Eagle Awards and various other local and international shows. 

Her focus on effective creativity has also yielded awards at the Global Effies, the Australian Effies and South Africa's APEX Awards for effectiveness.
Mandie-experience.jpgBefore joining Cummins & Partners, Mandie and Avish worked at Whybin/TBWA Sydney, The Jupiter Drawing Room, DraftFCB Cape Town, TBWA/Hunt Lascaris, Fortune Promoseven Bahrain and Black River FC.

The Rise of the Vagina
By Mandie van der Merwe

David Ogilvy once said that what really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of the advertising, not its form. I'd like to think that the same philosophy applies to the people in our industry. We thrive - as marketers, strategists, creatives, whatever -  because of the content of our abilities, not the body it comes in. Unfortunately, through personal experiences and reading our industry blogs, I have a growing suspicion that being a woman is becoming so much more valuable to businesses and organisations that we are somewhat at ease with ignoring the content of the woman herself.

My friend (I'll call her Sara for the sake of her privacy) is a creative director at an agency in New York. Sara was recently contacted on LinkedIn by a young, female, Australian art director who was looking for a job. Sara contacted me to find out if I knew this art director and she forwarded me her email. When I read it ... let's just say knickers were in knots. The email only mentioned one lonesome reason for making contact - this young art director wanted to reach out to "power-women" in the NY industry - a breed of advertising personnel she believed was missing in Australia.

I was upset by the email; I found it belittling. My friend is exceptional at her job. Her portfolio is outstanding. Her thinking, her leadership, her organisational skill are all excellent. She works at one of the biggest and best agencies in New York. And yet, none of these things were mentioned. This young, impressionable art director didn't think that the content of the person or the agency was worth noting as a reason for making contact. The only thing mentioned was that they were both women. Think about that carefully. The only thing this person considered important enough to mention in her first email (to a person she obviously wants to woo and who has the power to hire her), was that she was a woman and she was looking for other women. That's outrageous.

Open any industry blog today and there'll be some sort of article about gender equality and equal opportunity. There are discussions on every award panel about representation. You hear the murmurings in agencies about "too many men in the meeting".  It's all true. In Australia, there are more male ECDs, CDs, MDs, CEOs (and all other senior abbreviations imaginable) than female. That there is a shortage of senior women in our industry is undeniable and there is an immense amount of pressure on our industry to fix it. Quickly. For whatever reason, we believe that we don't have time for a gradual transition into gender equality. And perhaps that's part of the problem; there is a theory that it takes as long to reverse discrimination as it took to perpetrate it. If that's the case, it will take decades before we experience true gender equality in our industry. Of course we can hurry that process along (as we are all trying to do). But we must be vigilant. There is a thin line between equal opportunity for women and gender nepotism.

There are smart and deserving women who are finally getting their chance in our industry. It's about time! There are excellent women who deserve the accolades they've received - accolades that perhaps a decade or two ago would have been given to a less-deserving man. But we must make sure that we don't develop a 'girl-power mentality' - the rise of the vagina is not here because we have a vagina, it's here because we have value. We should be careful not to undermine and devalue the awe-inspiring achievements and the work that women in advertising have done and are doing. There may not be enough women yet. But there will be as long as we focus more on the content of people. Let's not create a girl's club. I think we are better than that (and besides, look what's happening to the advertising boys club).
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Cummins&Partners Sydney, Mon, 09 Apr 2018 00:04:26 GMT