A couple of apparently unconnected things happened in the last few months, out there in media land, that have a hit a chord if you happen to be a seasoned creative of the ‘pale and male’ persuasion.
Firstly in June, at Cannes Lions, the wonderful ‘Project 84’ scooped a gazillion Lions for the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A haunting and yet beautiful depiction of suicide rates in the UK, showing 84 men perched on the side of a sky scraper in central London.
The idea, in case you missed it, helped raise the profile of the epidemic in male suicide, 84 men between under the age of 40 kill themselves every week.
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under forty. Not Cancer, not Diabetes, not car crashes.
I know a bit about the senseless waste, the inner trauma that nobody spots when its shrouded in a happy go lucky outer shell
My best friend, when I was thirty two and he was thirty four, with four sons and a wife, took his own life with some rope and a beam in his garden shed. I also know a little about the mess that’s left behind.
What leads these men to opt out? it varies. Clinical depression, broken marriages a general sense of hopelessness.
Maybe even losing a job.
On a completely different and far more ‘woke’ topic there was the news that Jo Wallace, A Creative Director at JWT London had declared war on the white middle aged heterosexual man. What she called the ‘Knightsbridge boys club’.
Enough of this MadMen culture! We need more diversity!
Watch out chaps!
Next thing we know, a bunch of them are being made um…well…let’s call it ‘redundant‘.
(I know a little about this predicament, as it’s ten years since I left Havas in what one might call ‘a hurry’.)
And now guess what, these same creatives (all older and white and heterosexual of course) have mounted a discrimination law suit against JWT.
Oh dear, poor old JWT can’t seem to get it right. One minute their CEO is being ousted for inappropriate behaviour and the next they’re being too zealous with the whole ‘woke’ strategy.
To be fair JWT refute the allegations of discrimination. They maintain that there had been a spate of redundancies and it made sense that if the majority of the department are pale and male, let alone stale, then there would be a bias towards them. Ok, I get that.
But you have to admit, the timing of Jo Wallace’s speech could have been a lot less Gerald Ratnery.
Positive discrimination is all well and good but can be done without a callous attitude to other people, people with children, homes and mortgages.
These are the same people who have spent a lifetime hawking their student book around town, carving out a career and working their buts off, with weekends and public holidays spent in the office not seeing their families just to do some nice work and keep their jobs.
If Jo Wallace should be anti anything she should be anti-notalent.
Now, granted, we have had a good run, us white middle aged heterosexual men. It cannot be denied.
I just wonder if this is the way to change things.
In a world where talent should be the defining factor in job retention, or indeed progression, being discriminated against because of colour, age or gender is unacceptable.
Shouldn’t that include the pale and male? Even if that’s only what it looks like.
When JWT start hiring again this might severely limit the number of rocks she can look under for talent.
I started googling and found this article in Campaign magazine from 2016 by Rooney Carruthers who asked the question ‘what next for the over 45 year old creative?’
He writes of an older creative who had recently been made ‘redundant’ and taken his own life.
Now, I don’t want to be over dramatic. Lots of these so called stale creatives will find work and not just in top twenty agencies.
But this is serious shit. It’s not a game you should be able to play just to meet diversity quotas, no matter how important diversity is.
And the truth is, the advertising industry has its own natural attrition. (Many of us get fed up with the level of idiot bellends and selling sugar to kids.)
True diversity can and should be fed from the bottom up, filtering people in to the industry through talent first.
Yet minorities of all descriptions very often don’t see adland as a realistic career choice.
That’s why schemes like the Creative Floor are so important, they do incredible work to encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise consider it, or otherwise struggle to find a way in, through their talent and diversity fund.
That’s where the answer lies and when they have gained the knowledge and honed their talents, and creative people from all walks of life see adland as an option the shape of agencies will be truly diverse and packed full of talent.
Happy International Men’s day everyone.