By Poppy Cumming-Spain
Collecting gender dots
All year Marc has told us to collect dots. We’ve all heard, ‘you gotta collect those dots to connect them dots’, a few times by now. And it’s true. There’s only so much that can come from inside your head, it’ll dry up eventually if you’re not quenching its thirst. Marc’s go-to suggestion is often art, which is no bad thing. Art is inspiring, of course. But I realised fairly early on in the year that my approach was slightly different and less deliberate. I’ve been to some great exhibitions this year which I’ve enjoyed, but they’re not where I’ve collected my best dots. Those have been unexpected. They’ve come from places I didn’t know they would, or could. So, I try to treat everyone and everything as a dot. You never know when you might see or hear something useful.
To be honest, I think it’s made me a better person. I spend more time living in the real world. I gaze upwards and look closer, lean in and listen harder. I’ve starting connecting dots in my life, not just my work. And really, there’s nothing more motivating than feeling like you understand the world and yourself a little better. It makes important decisions easier to take with certainty. Decisions like what kind of work you want to create and what kind of person you want to be.
I was already on the personal side of this journey before I started the school. I think I mentioned in a previous SCAB that I have my north star for life locked down. Being at SCA has both challenged and solidified that for me. What I didn’t understand is how this was going to affect my work. Lots of people in the room had a very clear idea of the kind of work they wanted to produce and even what they’d turn down as soon as they got to SCA. I didn’t. So that’s something I’ve been figuring out the past nine months, helped along by some of the briefs we’ve been set. When I started at the school I’d stepped away from a client-facing career. One where the client was always right (as far as they knew anyway). And I think I held onto that mentality for a while. Challenging clients is hard work and can cost business. I wasn’t trained to do that. I was trained to keep them happy.
SCA has made me see things a little differently. Because keeping clients happy is no good if you’re producing bad work. While clients might be paying us, consumers are paying them, so we need to keep the latter happy first and foremost. And I think we keep them happy by producing stuff they actually want. Or better yet, stuff that they need. Stuff that means something to them and shows that we understand them.
So, where am I going with this? Well, this is a fairly long-winded way of me saying that I recently connected some dots when it came to the work I want to make. The Megapops team have been working on a campaign for Tena lady and had an idea of the kind of work the client would want. It was not the same as the kind of work they’d want for Tena men. At the same time, I’ve been (very slowly) reading ‘The Descent of Man’ by Grayson Perry. Anyone who knows me, or who’s read my SCABs, will know that I resent gender differences being highlighted. I have no interest in having my gender being added on to any title I might one day have. But I’d never thought about that in terms of my work. Perry challenges gender norms concerning physicality and mentality in his book. Norms which I’ve tacitly subscribed to, most likely because society has brought me up on them. And where did those come from? The people I know, perhaps. But I tell you what, unnecessarily gendered advertising certainly hasn’t helped. I’m fed up with ads which make out that we’re different species. We’re not. And advertising should reflect that. Of course, there are some gender-specific products and services that need to focus on gender. But there are also a lot which don’t. Why not tackle an issue, like incontinence, which is experienced by both genders as a whole? Why would you presume or even insist that men and women react differently? Totally bonkers, in my opinion.
So, I think there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to stamping out gender stereotypes in advertising. And I’m adamant that we need to stop acting like we’re different species’. Because that’s what’s messing with so many people’s mental health nowadays. That’s why we have men unable to cope with their emotions and women judging themselves and each other wholly based on appearance. The world is mad. And we needed to make it a little saner. So, when I’m out in Adland producing work I’ll be trying to smash down gender stereotypes. I hope the clients are ready.
Anyway, I’m off to collect some more unexpected dots (and a pencil at D&AD)…