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Ad Agencies Have No Idea How to Talk to Women

If you are a woman, chances are you’re not also a creative director at an advertising agency. Good for you! It is one of the most useless corporate jobs ever created.

If you are a woman, chances are you’re not also a creative director at an advertising agency. Good for you! It is one of the most useless corporate jobs ever created.

Women make up just three percent of the world’s advertising creative directors. Three fucking percent. And while creative directors are about as useful as taint hair (very few of them, at least at the bigger agencies, actually create ads), they do hold power by “directing” what advertising gets presented to clients, what work gets produced, and how women are portrayed in those ads.


It should be obvious to anyone who has sat through a commercial break in 2014 that the glass ceiling of the ad world, erected in the Mad Men era, is still in place. I know this from firsthand experience. While freelancing as a copywriter I once overheard two heavy-hitter creative directors say—during late-night pitch sessions that featured zero women—that they didn’t like female creatives because they didn’t think they had the fortitude to hack it. That is bullshit. The two most driven art directors I ever worked with—and I worked with scores—were both women.

But today’s advertising directed at women, or fearturing them, can’t be as bad as it was back in the day-drinking 1960s, right?

Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt

Yogurt commercials are a special advertising hell for the women of today. Here’s a recent one targeting the, dun-dun-dun, dieting female. She already feels like shit, but we can make her feel even shittier—by having a man with a fucking bullhorn yell names of junk food in her face.

The marketing gonads at Dannon who approved this thing have since realized what a woman-hating heap of crap it is and scrubbed all evidence of it from YouTube. Luckily, you can still find it at

Clark Bites

This is one ad from a series of ads that ran in the US starring beautiful women wearing minimal clothing speaking foreign languages. This Russian woman with her tits blasting out of her mini-dress says, “You guys have no idea what I’m saying, but you’re still watching me, probably because I’m so unbelievably hot. Cup, cup, cup, cup, cup! I just said the same thing five times in a row, and you’re still glued. Clark Bites—are you Clark enough?”


Here’s the website (“a land of bearskin rugs, barbed wire, and rocket fuel”), where you can get all the translations, and take a “man test” to see if you’re Clark enough.

Man enough. For fucking bite-size pieces of candy.

(Note: The ad agency here is Hill Holiday, and the creative team is all male.)

T-FAL irons

Scenario: Two women communicate via “steam signals” from across a yard/alleyway while ironing clothes. One wears pearls and a low-cut top. The other is reporting on a “steamy” date she had the previous night, when she went out with a rich guy who “whipped out his member… ship” and let her hop on his "private… jet."

If you’re gonna do dick double entendres, male copywriter guy, they should be funny, original, subtle, and smart enough that an eight-year-old couldn’t have thought of them. These do not meet any of those criteria.

Still, bitches be ironing, amirite?

(Note: Again, the creative team responsible for this spot, from Toronto ad agency Faren, is all men.)

True Car is an automotive pricing and information website. Judging from this ad, which first aired last summer, they do not believe women are capable of buying a car IRL. The social media backlash on this one was immediate and angry. Their CEO, Scott Painter, responded with a sorry/not sorry non-apology, stating that the internal creative director on the ad was a woman.

This Goodyear commercial from 1964 is considered one of the most sexist ads of all time.


You’ve come come a long way, baby?

5. Jamaica Tourism

Via Coloribus

Now let’s take a quick look at a couple of recent print ads. This is one execution from a new campaign launched last month, via the New City office of DraftFCB. The hard-to-read (art directors are assholes) headline reads: “If You Knew Your Wedding Was Going to Be Here, You’d Say Yes to the First Guy Who Asked.”

What an unbelievably crass, stupid ad. “You’d say yes,” because you’re that stupid and shallow, honey. Even Doyle Dane Bernbach’s brilliant, beautiful mid-1960s Jamaican tourism print ads weren’t this sexist (though they were sexy as fuck, scroll down).

Dcash hair dye

Via Ads of The World

This Thai print ad won a Lion—the most prestigious ad award—at last summer’s Cannes Advertising Festival. The judging panels at Cannes are made up of the “top” creative directors in the world. Headline: “Your wife: one of the grey hair planters. Dye!"

Yes, “dye” as in “die.” As in dead wife. And yes, the wife is carrying a bunch of gray hairs, which she is planting in her husband’s head. This is what is known as a “see-say” ad, something any ad student knows always makes for a bad ad.

Maybe it plays better in Thailand.

I didn’t bother writing about any Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s ads, because they and their ad agencies just plain don’t give a shit what you think about the fact that they’ve reduced women to pieces of meat. Par-putt golf clap for them.

Just as in the tech world, the top level of the ad industry is still a boys’ club. That isn’t going to change probably ever.

Follow Mark "Copyranter" Duffy on Twitter.