The 3% Conference Makes the Business Case for More Donna Drapers

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It’s fairly mind blowing. Eighty-percent of all household purchases are determined by women, while only three-percent of our nation’s advertising creative directors are women. (And let’s be honest, women probably practice veto power over the other twenty-percent of purchase decisions anyway.)

But, in a study where female consumers were asked if brands understood them, ninety-percent said no.

So there it is. As advertisers, we’re tasked with marketing to women for much more than the stereotypical lady brands. You know, the spots featuring freshness-challenged women running through flower fields, dancing with mops, or sniffing scent illusions.

In fact, much of our challenge lies in coming to terms with bigger misperceptions.

Believe it or not, women currently out-use men in all social media channels except for LinkedIn. Statistically, they’re also bigger gamers and they watch more television. Women demonstrate more technology usage and more social influence.

Kat Gordon, founder of the 3% Conference said, “It’s not about equal rights, it’s about serving our clients better.” And women are notoriously bad in focus groups. They’ll tell half-lies because they self edit. However, when they’re on the other side of the agency table, they bring unfiltered intuition to the mix.

Let’s rethink how we market to women.

The key is to have people on your team that are not all like you. That’s how you find the uncharted truths. Fear not, marketing with women in mind does not have to alienate men. When positioning a brand – make it human, think collectively, don't sanitize, show diversity, and practice storytelling.

There are inherent differences between how men and women think, and divergent perspective is a good thing.

It shows up in childhood play. Boys enjoy reigning over their toys, and when they destroy things, it’s merely an act of fun and power. Girls empathetically imagine themselves as the toys and become part of the make-believe worlds. So, if a boy comes along and takes out the meticulously arranged princess castle, the girl is devastated. And the boy has no idea why.

So, what is it that’s making it so difficult for women to advance to ACD, CD, or beyond?

Times are changing. This is by no means a pity party for creative industry women. It’s about supporting talent. At all levels, advertising industry women are negotiating for the same salaries as their male counterparts. The biggest difference is that women are unlikely to ask for raises. It’s largely a matter of teaching women to be assertive and confident.

As a creative builds career momentum, this often coincides with family growth. The industry demands full commitment for advancement, and those with young families require more schedule predictability and flexibility. Many struggle with the challenge of work/life balance.

Mentoring enables advancement.

After Gordon’s keynote, the audience enjoyed mentorship from a truly stellar regional panel consisting of Dave Schiff, Partner/Chief Creative Officer of Made Movement; Charlotte Isoline, Executive Creative Director of Karsh Hagan; Jonathan Shoenberg, Executive Creative Director/Partner of TDA Boulder, Rachael Donaldson, Client Services Director of Made Movement; and Dani Coplen, Vice President/Creative of The Integer Group. Our excellent host Serena Wolf, Founder of Wolf Creative Company, moderated the panel.

"Women have to help other women. The greatest mentors I've had have been a combination of nurturing and badass." – Rachael Donaldson

"It's not about if you're male or female, it's just about who's good." – Dave Schiff. He also hilariously thanked his many mentors that may or may not have been state-appointed. And, he’s convinced that rock star ladies will inevitably phase him out.

Jonathan Shoenberg told us how he rose through the ranks, which involved a former employer liking his “country-ness.” Apparently, he had a great deal of farm experience on his resume back in the day.

Charlotte Isoline advised us to not be the genius in the room, but to maximize the collective genius.

Dani Coplen encouraged women to avoid invisibility. Say what you want to say.

Some of the advice from the panel that really resonated with me was the emphasis on mentoring. It’s crucial for career advancement. And in my mentoring experience, I’ve learned a great deal from those I’ve mentored. Always take time to help the driven ones; it’ll come back to you. The event was a full house, men and women. Everyone left inspired and excited about how they were going to move this knowledge forward. So, let’s empower some future Donna Drapers and keep this moving forward, shall we?

Jennifer Hohn is an advertising enthusiast, idea-driven creative, relentless pursuer of insight and an Associate Creative Director at Vladimir Jones.


Jennifer, thanks for this fabulous recap. The Boulder audience was so engaged and thoughtful and smart -- I loved presenting there. For anyone who was there (or not) who wants to keep the movement going, please join the 3% Conference Facebook community and consider attending our "mothership" conference Oct 16-17 in SF.

It was a huge moment for me to be on the panel--to realize that I was now a mentor (the years sneak up on you). A responsibility I take to heart after having been given so much by great mentors over the past 16 years of my career so far. Some of them were (and are) more formally my mentors while others I just sponged up greatness from moments here and there. Some were women and some were men but they all taught me things that I use everyday to hone my tradecraft.

Dave Schiff is incorrect. It IS about whether you are male or female because a well rounded and strategic team does best when there are different strengths within the group. It's just like a sports team.

As a female in the creative industry I wholeheartedly agree with this and love seeing articles like this, but can we start being more honest with each other? I cannot take the vast majority of women in today's society seriously. Most of my encounters with females disappoint and embarrass me. While yes, we need more women running things and in creative roles, lets keep the complaining to a minimum until we are able to pull our own weight (and not rely on just how cute we are to get us there).

Thanks for the event Kat! And thanks to the panel with Serena. I'll admit, this was a tough subject to cover. I strongly believe upward movement through the creative ranks must be earned. My hope is that the good ones earn opportunities. Male or female.

Felix followed up with some really interesting points on this subject. Selling great and effective work is always the end goal. And knowing that we're advertising to women more often than not helps us approach creative briefs with new perspectives.

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