What Women Need To Know About Success In Advertising

AdForum.com recently interviewed IPNY Founding Partner and Creative Director Jill McClabb as part of the Women in Advertising series


“If you’re in a position to hire a woman, hire her. That said, she better be as good as the man that’s competing for the same job. The point of the movement is that we are as good as the men, just give us a chance, not a break.”

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?

I’m a partner in an agency with four other partners. One of the best parts about my role is that I actually do the work and help clients, including some nonprofits, that I feel passionate about. It is refreshing after spending years at global agencies as a Group Creative Director, where my role was managing the creative process and most of my time was spent in meetings as opposed to creating.

Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?

I can’t think of a specific job, but I think my love of dogs and horses has helped make the most of work life. For one thing, you have to have a life. Working all the time doesn’t give you time for creative inspiration. Walking your dog generates more ideas than staring at four walls in the office. Also, animals teach you to live in the moment, not in the past, allowing time to contemplate what might be.

What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?

The biggest change is opportunity. When I started in the business, there were many types of accounts you’d never be put on as a woman, like beer or automobiles.

From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?

Anything that helps empower women is a good thing. I think the “Fearless Girl” campaign was a brilliant idea and was an incredible success for the client. That said, the “Like A Girl” campaign did more to make people see differently in a groundbreaking way, like the first Dove campaign or the Nike women campaign that broke in the 90’s. Little girls have been hearing the “Like A Girl” phrase for a long time and felt deflated. Hopefully these campaigns will make some of them feel differently.

How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?

Of course. The advertising business has been just as abusive to women as Hollywood. I knew many women who were put in horrible situations with no recourse. If they accused their accusers, they would never get a job again. Sleeping with your creative director was one sure fire method to get the plum assignments. In the end the blame should sit with the creative director, not the young woman, who is just starting out and easily influenced by their mentor.

Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?

Practice what you preach! If you’re in a position to hire a woman, hire her. That said, she better be as good as the man that’s competing for the same job. The point of the movement is that we are as good as the men, just give us a chance, not a break.

Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?

I’m very lucky in that my mentor is also my business partner, Bruce Lee. I worked for Bruce at three different agencies: Ammirati & Puris, Wunderman and Ogilvy. Every assignment, no matter the size, he always approached with the highest creative standards. He also treated everyone fairly and gave everyone opportunities. The true test of a creative director is not just the awards they have won, but the number of people who will come back to work for them again.

How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?

The best inspiration is doing. My advice for women entering the business is to stay on top of technology and always be learning. It’s important for creative people to understand new stuff as it debuts, learn to use it, figure out how to sell it, etc. Understanding how our world is changing on a human level due to advances in technology is critical for someone in communications. Look at the amazing response to the NRA recently, or the outrage over Facebook’s abuse of people’s information.