After meeting in London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Prague, Istanbul, Madrid, Paris, Vienna and finally, after three years of Teams meetings, Lisbon, the EMEA Creative Council (ECC) members recently had their eleventh seminar in Milan where Alicia McBride, Senior Art Director, Havas Middle East, and Lex Down, Creative Director, Havas London, were special guests. Hear more about their experience with the council, as well as with the entire group, in Dare!.
Can you tell us more about the role of the ECC?
Alicia McBride: The role of the EMEA Creative Council is to foster exceptional talent and elevate the quality of groundbreaking work produced by this entire region. It is a melting pot of the best minds from the European, Middle Eastern and African Havas family that collaborates to put this region at the forefront of creativity not just for the network but for the entire industry.
Lex Down: To build relationships between different regions and work together to maintain and encourage creative standards that are as high as possible.
You recently participated in your first ECC meeting, was it what you expected it was going to be?
A.M: It was far more than what I expected it to be. My perception of these meetings was always that they were serious discussions about growing the network in the region. It turned out to be an exhilarating gathering of incredible people from every country coming together to share their works and visions they had for both their individual markets, as well as others. It was a truly enriching experience where I got to share my thoughts with people I wouldn’t get to interact with otherwise and learn so much about the industry in other countries and cultures.
L.D: I had a limited understanding of the ECC before attending, so I attended expectation free. This aside, my key take-outs were that I was surrounded by a group of genuinely kind and interesting people the value of which, in an industry where ‘agencies are just buildings full of people’, cannot be underestimated. I saw that passion and pride in what people do will always drive engagement from an audience. I felt like a member of the Havas family and that that was bigger than just the role I have within my department.
I was also very aware of being invited as a female creative versus being invited as someone with over 18 years of experience, with success across a wide range of clients and a breadth of work that’s been both effective and award-winning – and whilst it’s true I was invited to represent ‘female’ creatives, it’s a label that should always be secondary to others that are earned.
What are the biggest challenges facing female creatives? How can they be tackled?
A.M: The biggest challenge that female creatives face is representation. There is no shortage of talent. As a matter of fact, there are just as many women as men at junior and mid-level positions across the industry. However, when it comes to the management, female representation starts to slip.
If more women were in positions of power, more women would see a future in the industry and be willing to work towards it.
L.D: Perhaps we should start by reframing this question. Considering the biggest challenges facing female creatives, as the biggest challenges that face our industry full-stop. Shifting the onus from a female issue to an everybody issue. How do we all move forward here and bring everyone who wants to be a part of this with us? Maybe it needs to be in the same way we move forward in the big wide world, by pulling apart an industry created by men, for men, that often still rewards and perpetuates experience over giving the job to someone who has never been given a chance. By acknowledging that a meritocracy only works in a world that has always handed out power proportionally and given equal chances to the underrepresented (stopping to think about why they have earnt that underrepresented title in the first place) – to quote Reni-Eddo Lodge “We don’t live in a meritocracy, and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise in willful ignorance.” Best idea wins, sure, but what about all the best ideas that haven’t been invited into the room, best ideas that aren’t as articulately described because they didn’t have the same privileged upbringing. Best ideas that aren’t even considered that because they’re being seen and evaluated through a lens that’s different to their creator.
Maybe we start listening to quieter voices, the unsure and the silent, because being the loudest most confident person in the room doesn’t always equate to having better judgement.
As leaders let’s celebrate breadth and consistency in work (this doesn’t mean the reliable or safe stuff). Big, sexy award-winning work always makes creatives hot property, earning pay increases and back-slapping. I don’t want to devalue the importance of this work or the awards it can garner, but let’s also reward the teams who put aside their egos and continually bring creative solutions to real world business problems, the teams who value keeping the lights on, as highly as silverware and who believe in making things better for others and not just themselves.
There’s a career break for CV’s but no equivalent for creative portfolios on which we are judged. Looking at a body of work rather than one killer idea, allows us to accommodate for the missed opportunities that have been missed, or simply not been given.
Let’s re-think the energy beats talent adage, because I think often when we say energy, we actually mean hard work, and by hard work we probably mean time. Man-hours on the job (gendered language intentional). What if we replaced the word ‘energy’ with ‘care’? And created a structure that respects and supports anyone who cannot devote those hours but still cares just as much. Craft has always been time-consuming – and the creative process is beautiful, necessary, but also hugely inefficient… so let’s build teams so we can share and delegate, accommodating a hard work-ethic that doesn’t fit the mould.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in the creative space?
A.M: My only advice to them would be to remember that their work is getting noticed. So keep at it. It doesn’t matter how senior or junior you are. Great work will cut through and be celebrated no matter what.
L.D: It’s as simple as being yourself. If you know who you are and what makes you unique and have the courage to stick to that, then the industry and work will be richer, more interesting, more thought-provoking and ultimately more creative for it.