Ad guru quits over 'crap' comments

A creative director who was forced to quit his job after saying women in advertising were “crap” has insisted he is not sexist.

Neil French was questioned last week by Globe and Mail as to why women in advertising failed to reach the higher echelons of the industry.

“Women don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to. They’re crap,” said Mr French, now former creative guru for global ad agency WPP.

Adding that women fail to achieve the top roles in the industry because they “wimp out and go suckle something,” Mr French seems to have created his most memorable strap lines to date.

But later reflecting on his comments after leaving his senior post at WPP, Mr French was keen to bring what he hinted was much needed context to his view on female colleagues.

“What I said was: ‘If you can’t commit to this job, then you’re crap, you are a waste of time and space and energy, whether you are a man or a woman,” he told the Financial Times.

He added: “I have not a sexist bone [in] my body. I’m not sexist or racist or ageist. You shouldn’t get special dispensation because you are black or because you are old or young. It should be based on talent.”

Mr French cited emails he received claiming women employers had backed his assertion that it was unfair to treat women with children differently than other workers, because “it’s not fair to an employer.”

Moreover, he illustrated his point by pointing out he has not seen his eight-year-old son for three months because work demands ensured he was kept busy as WPP’s “creative godfather.”

However, such post facto explanations came too late for Nancy Vonk, co-chief creator at WPP, who admitted she was “still partially paralysed” by French’s comments in a confessional note posted on the internet.

Mr French, credited in the Daily Telegraph as being part of the colourful Old Guard of the advertising industry, admitted to using the word ‘crap’ in his rant, and then accused Miss Vonk of “getting her knickers in a twist.”

The former WPP executive did however concede he knew women could make it as advertising directors because he used to be married to one.

Yet, he said, females were unlikely to make the kind of sacrifices that men make during their business careers.


25th October 2005

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