Jane Evans speech at Zee Melt India.
INVISIBLE TO INVALUABLE.
I was really excited about coming here today to tell you all about the book I have co-written with Carol Russell. Invisible to Invaluable. That comes out early next year. It’s a practical call to action for midlife women by a white feminist and a black womanist. I was going to give a funny and inspirational speech to tell you all about it, I even had a sing along planned to spur us all on.
TO REBUILD THE ECONOMY
AND TO DO THAT WE HAVE TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT THE MOST POWERFUL CONSUMER GROUP ON THE PLANET.
Midlife women buy 47% of everything. 2 and a half times more than anyone else. I was going to tell you all how to make a shit ton of money out of us.
And I was going to warn you about all the mistakes you are about to make when you try to reach us.
A 2019 study by Bauer Media Australia on midlife women concluded:
“Brands have ignored these women for so long they no longer give a shit about you or what you have to say.”
I was about to let you all into some of the secrets on how to reach us and talk to us and invite you to be a part of a movement that will get us all out of this sorry mess.
But then Mark Read, the chairman of WPP fucked it all up for you.
“We have a very broad range of skills and if you look at our people – the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30 – they don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily.”
WE TAKE THAT AS A DECLARATION OF WAR
I know he claims his statement was taken ‘out of context.
But this can’t be taken out of context:
7% of WPP staff are over 50 and they haven’t got the guts to break that down by gender or diversity.
It’s not just WPP, that’s the industry average and it isn’t just the men at the top who are to blame.
The death pattern of women’s careers in advertising looks like being let go in the inevitable round of redundancies somewhere between 45 and 48 followed by years of applying for jobs we have no chance of getting.
I will share with you one extract from the book. But you’re not going to like it.
“Male ‘allies’ and younger women have silently watched this happen over and over again
then 88% of female creatives have the gall to complain they don’t have female role models.
And younger HR execs just turn a blind eye to our job applications as if career women never existed or they themselves will never age.”
Ageism is the only ism that will affect us all. If we’re lucky.
For God’s sake think of yourselves. Do you really want to live for 100 years but only work for 20 of them? And all those women struggling to raise kids and build a career - don’t bother, why are you knocking yourselves out? By the time they get to high school, you’ll be on the dole.
Do not kid yourself that you’re anything special. There have always been young women in advertising.
70 years ago there was nothing unusual about creative departments filled with young women.
Then TV came along, advertising got sexy, the mad men arrived and ‘Poof! We disappeared.’
We’re not here at our age now because they can’t manipulate us (and let’s be honest, because we remind the boys at the top of their first wives).
As Dorothy L Sayers used to say:
"Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."
NEVER MAKE AN ENEMY OF A PATIENT WOMAN
Warren Brown used to say “The creative with the most reference wins”
Today you’d say ‘the one with the greatest data set’.
I’ve worked in advertising since 1982 and I’ve seen it all.
I’m also 58 years old. That gives me a brain that works differently to yours. You are great at taking on new information and can retrieve information much quicker than I can.
Which is why cross-generational work is the way of the future.
But I have something you don’t have: Dendrites. New branches in my brain that allow me to make connections that you couldn’t even imagine.
I can think much much wider than you.
I can see further forward than you. And back.
And I can see patterns when all you see is chaos.
Now I’m not one of those old ad farts who harks back to the eighties.
I go a lot further back than that!
ADVERTISING MEET YOUR NEMESIS
You know Nemesis is the Greek Goddess of justice right? She doled out fortune both good and bad in proportion to what was deserved.
She was the good guy.
She and her mate Themis, the daughter of Gaya (you know, mother earth) were the ultimate creative women - they built society.
Then the patriarchy came along and Zeus the God of war raped Nemesis and all the major Goddesses were ‘disappeared’.
Successful creative women have been fucked over for 10,000 years.
But don’t worry, we’ve got the baddies on the run.
“It's not Me Too. It's not just sexual harassment. It's an anti-patriarchy movement.
Time's up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real.”
And before you all start moaning, being anti patriarchy is not being anti men. It’s being against a system designed by men to profit men that has evolved to a system that profits only a few white men and the women who either profit from them or act like them at the expense of everyone else.
I know, I‘ve seen it over and over again.
I’VE BEEN YOUR AGE. YOU’VE NEVER BEEN MINE
Great line huh? It’s my grandmother’s. A woman who lived through both world wars and the Spanish Flu we could learn a lot from her right now. But we don’t know what my Grandmother did in WW2 by the time she was released from the official secrets act she’d lost her memory. I like to think the woman I inherited the gift of spotting four-leaf clovers from who taught me to do the Telegraph Cryptic crossword is the mysterious Mrs E Evans listed on the roll at Bletchley Park.
You know one of the 8,000 women who were there at the very forefront of computing. Which is pretty fucking incredible when they were only the second generation of british women with the right to an education.
Disappeared. Sworn to secrecy. Poof. Gone!
My grandmother is also one of the reasons I got into advertising. She sent me in to fight.
I was brought up with her rants that the women who ran the world during the war were forced back in the kitchen by Lever Brothers (now Unilever) to fight the new enemy - germs!
Women who ran the world. Sent back to the kitchen. Poof! Gone.
I know you think highly-experienced multi-awarded midlife female creatives don’t exist. We do and when the industry needs to reach women 45-70 the last thing we want is kids telling us who we are and what to think.
LET US TELL OUR OWN FUCKING STORIES
Let me start with one of mine.
I was the first woman in a creative department three times in my career between 1982 and 1992. I was headhunted to Sydney from London in 1987 and worked with some of the most brilliant female creatives. In 1995 there were something like 60 women working as art directors or copywriters in Australia.
Yet in 2015 there were no senior women. Why?
Was it because in 1995 we dominated the Australian Award shows? Even with 100% male juries?
Like all the successful creative women of history before us
Poof! We disappeared.
In 2015 Leo Burnett Sydney claimed there was no such thing as senior female creatives. And it wasn’t just an antipodean problem. We all know about the 3%
They now say women are going to be the ones who are worst off post-COVID and we’re seeing scary reports like 90% of New Zealand’s redundancies were women.
Seems we’re being consigned back to the kitchen - the germs are winning.
Women are once again about to disappear.
NOT. ON. OUR. WATCH
Now, I know you all think us ‘guys’ from the 80s only want to do TV ads. I haven’t made a TV ad since 1996. I found something far more fun.
Fucking with the big guys.
In 1997 I worked with Principals a strategy company to create a new premium brand for a big beer company. We gave them a quirky hand made beer with parchment labels. The marketing department rejected it. But the chief brewer Chuck Hahn saw it took it to the CEO who gave him two years a tiny budget and a tiny brewery to make it work.
We made it work. We didn’t just create a brand. We created a whole new category.
In 1999 my own agency launched James Squire. It’s now the biggest craft beer brand in Australia.
And it was really simple.
We did two things.
WE ONLY SPOKE TO THE EARLY ADOPTERS
And we gave them a great story to tell.
We had no ad budget so we designed the labels to tell the incredible story of the convict who arrived on the first fleet, became Australia‘s first brewer and died richer than Bill Gates.
WE DID THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING THE BIG GUYS DID
This was the era of the big beer ad.
And extra large promotional t shirts for bar staff.
We designed women’s T shirts with our logo on it - within months we were in almost every pub in Sydney because the female staff really wanted those T shirts.
But in 2015 the industry that claimed it wanted female disruptors was way too scared of a woman with wrinkles and absolutely no fear of calling out the discrimination I faced.
I applied for something like 150 jobs and got five interviews.
I became invisible.
Time to start fucking with the big boys again.
And I did it exactly the same way we disrupted the big beer companies. Under the radar with the Uninvisibility Project.
In just a few months we had a following of over 5,000 people.
Not much of a threat huh?
Now, while others are buying views and targeting a mass audience we’ve told stories of amazing women. We didn’t spend a fortune on ads. The truth is we’ve created the whole thing on bullshit and housing benefits. We built our audience with blogs and we knew exactly who we were speaking to. The midlife female leaders of business, government and fellow activists.
People who are followed by over 150 million people.
As soon as we got some traction:
WE TOOK IT OFFLINE
When we launched James Squire beer, Chuck Hahn, would walk into a pub with a carton on his shoulder, sit at the bar and tell his story.
Me and my business partner Jacquie sat at the Ivy, had lots of cups of tea (Jacquie had gin) and told ours.
I think I must have spoken to at least a thousand women in the last year and a half. From women facing eviction to Duchesses at St James’s Palace.
WE RECRUITED AN ARMY.
WE HAVE WHOLE BATTALIONS IN YOUR AGENCIES
AND IN YOUR CLIENT’S COMPANIES
When lockdown came the world opened up to us even more. Women whose diaries had been filled to the brim had time to chat.
None of the women we have spoken to like the idea that 50% of women of our generation are going to retire in poverty. We fought hard for things like paid maternity leave and sexual harassment legislation yet we didn’t have them ourselves. We now have ⅓ the pension savings of men. And 48% of us have no savings at all.
We’re supposed to work till 70 but no one will employ us past 50. No one.
⅓ of us face long term unemployment with half our lives left to live.
In Australia it is at crisis point. Women over 50 are living in their cars. 34% of single midlife women are living in poverty RIGHT NOW as are 50% of ALL women over 70.
We’ve been talking to women all over the world so we know in India you are worried about what you are going to do with the 30 or 40 years you are going to live after being forced to retire at 58 or 60.
We’re not just talking to women at the top. We’ve been talking to all the women in this industry.
BUT WE’RE NOT HERE TO FIGHT
Seriously, we’ve tried that it doesn’t work.
WE’RE NOT GOING TO FLEE
We simply can’t afford to. Where are we going to go?
WE’RE GOING TO DO WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO DO ALL ALONG.
I know this is getting boring, but you know women created medicine.
Till they burnt us at the stake. Poof gone!
When men took over the profession. Women were seen as too unstable due to fluctuating hormones for medical experiments.
In 2000 UCLA discovered the stress testing that provided the fight or flight theory had only been tested on men and male mice. So they conducted identical experiments with women and female mice.
They got a whole new reaction to danger.
Tend and befriend.
It’s perhaps best described by this 2018 tweet:
“I played Dungeons and Dragons with my daughters.
They were supposed to fight the wolves surrounding a town.
Instead, they fed the wolves and turned them into their friendly wolf army.
Girls, man. They’ll take over the world.”
James Breakwell @XplodingUnicorn
So, Mark Read, head, of WPP, you’re not a wolf, but we need an army of silver foxes. Here’s an open invitation, come and have a cup of tea with Jacquie and me and we’ll show you how you can work with the greatest creative women of our generation and make a shit ton of money.
This offer is open to any agency head who’s serious about rebuilding the economy.
Because your clients can’t do it without the women who know how to sell to the women who dominate consumer spending.