Creativity is Supposed to be Genderless. So Why Does it Matter Who Puts Ideas Forward?

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Creativity is Supposed to be Genderless. So Why Does it Matter Who Puts Ideas Forward?

Genderless creativity

To celebrate Women’s Day, we advocate for genderless creativity in the Philippines’ PR and advertising industry.

 

TL;DR

  • Despite reduced objectification of women, biases persist, affecting promotions and project assignments.
  • Systemic biases like gender-based assumptions and micro-aggressions hinder the creative process in the PR industry.
  • Effective marketing demands diverse perspectives. Let’s advocate for inclusivity that creates a level playing field for all talents, regardless of gender identity.
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    Gender representation in the Philippine advertising industry has shifted significantly over the last decades. Overt objectification of women is no longer as prevalent, and we have seen ads boldly defying stereotypes (although sometimes overdone), reflecting more inclusive and progressive narratives. 

    But the scenes behind gender-empowering commercials and brand messaging seem to paint a different picture. 

    A liquor brand campaign deal that fell through because the client thought that “[the] all-women team might be a better fit to handle our make-up brand” was enough reminder of the persistent biases in the advertising and PR industry.  

    And this is just one facet of the issue: systemic biases encompass gender identities and come in different forms. A male AE leading a campaign for personal hygiene was suddenly removed from the project despite his vital role in shaping the campaign; a gay man’s idea was called “too gay;” a single mom was denied a promotion to a full-time copywriting position was held off because the agency wanted her to focus on motherhood. 

    Little things compounded 

    Here’s the problem. It’s the subtle gestures, the seemingly “harmless” side comments that quietly permeate the workplace and become embedded within the very structures of the industry.  

    These are not isolated incidents; they represent systemic challenges that often go unnoticed, unreported, or swept under the rug. We’re fairly certain the other parties didn’t perceive the real-life examples above as misogynistic or gender-biased, or at least not as something they feel culpable for.  

    Micro-aggressions may appear innocuous on the surface, but their cumulative effect is profound. They chip away at morale and hinder people’s ability to contribute their talents and thrive in the industry.  

    Even the most common form of advising a female AE to “wear a skirt and look pretty” for a pitch meeting or choosing someone for a client-facing role based on assumptions about their gender or appearance rather than their qualifications underscores the need for the industry, which prides itself on being the creative force behind culture-defying and ceiling-shattering initiatives, to take a critical look at itself. 

    We need diverse, not many, creative voices 

    Obviously, the problem extends beyond the walls of the PR industry. Clients and brands across diverse sectors come to the table with unique expectations and preconceptions, often shaped by societal norms and traditional corporate cultures. While briefs may not explicitly state a preference for “male- or female-only account executives and media planners,” subtle implications eventually infiltrate the discourse.  

    These nuanced cues manifest in the selection of team members, the allocation of resources, and the overall direction of campaigns. We believe these are not always intentional, but they reinforce gender stereotypes and inequalities. 

    Building an effective marketing strategy and brand messaging requires the contributions of many creative voices, each offering distinct insights and perspectives. Many minds are better than one, and by “many” we mean diverse voices that enrich the conversation with a variety of experiences and viewpoints. This leads to more well-rounded and impactful campaigns — and definitely steers brands clear of the pitfalls of gender-insensitive messaging and being the subject of a public backlash. Remember Subway Philippines’ blunder last year? 

    Whether an idea originates from a man, a woman, or any other gender identity, its value remains unchanged. Any team with the right expertise and creative flair can pull off an incredible brand campaign, regardless of where they see themselves in the gender spectrum. After all, creativity is – and should be – genderless. Brands and creative agencies are partners of innovation and progressive thinking, so fostering open dialogues, challenging implicit biases, and advocating for diversity and inclusivity together is crucial.  

    On Women’s Day, we call for allyship 

    As we celebrate Women’s Day, we rally for not just women’s empowerment and recognition but also gender equality and the liberation of creative voices from the confining constraints of societal boxes. 

    When we remove biases in campaign briefs, pitch meetings, and campaign executions, we create and respect everyone’s space in the industry, thereby leveling the playing field for all talents to thrive. 

    It is not enough to have seats at the creative table – it’s time for those who were shunned to be heard. The next time we hear someone speak in a mixed room, let’s recognize the value their voice brings to the conversation, not the gender attached to it. For to inspire creativity is to #InspireInclusion. 

     


    ABOUT THE AUTHORS 

    Nicole Briones is the Managing Director of Vero in the Philippines. Gella Gesultura is Vero’s Associate Creative Director for the Philippines and ASEAN.

     

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