/RIFT/ verb. To Remain Exactly the Same

When Stephen Rodriguez, a former Apple Genius and all around go-getter with a knack for all things tech established RIFT, he wanted to create "a better mouse-trap." A full-service digital marketing agency that would utilize technology to not only build amazing work for it's clients, anticipating their needs and exceeding expectations, but also pull in and retain outstanding creative talent. In this way, Rodriquez has been wildly successful. Business is generated entirely by word of mouth. RIFT has never cold-called, never pitched to a potential client and the ability to work remotely, connected by a multitude of digital interfaces, not to mention a fat paycheck, has drawn in and kept some of the brightest and most talented creative minds in the industry, producing a stunning array of websites, integrated & intuitive software, photography and videography that not only looks pretty, but evokes a thrill unmatched by many of it's competing agencies.

So, what's the problem?

Let's start with this: When Rodriquez was asked by one of my fellow Circus Freaks (oh, I should mention here that he was our most recent #CircusForum speaker) why he named his agency "RIFT" his response was something to the effect of:

I wanted to create something new, something that broke apart the traditional ways of working and challenged the status quo ... to retain brilliant creatives and make the best work.

Okay sure, that's a pretty good reason, especially considering that the definition of rift is "a crack, split, or break in something." But challenging the status quo? I don't buy it.

Before the Q & A portion of the forum, Rodriguez showed us a 3-minute video that he was "incredibly proud of" and was meant to show the best of RIFT's videography and serve as a sample of the kind of work they do. It was 3 minutes of fast cars driven by white dudes, fit, white guys mountain biking to their slick sports cars, and women dressed in skin tight lace dresses laying down on couches in bars coyly waving at the camera as they prepped for a photo shoot. Basically a straight 17-year-old boy's wet dream. And that was what he is most proud of. That was what he chose to show a room of young creatives, many of which are women and POC, to exemplify the work RIFT does.

Naturally, I was frustrated. Naturally, I wondered if he even saw this as an issue. Naturally, I had to say something.

So after his presentation, when the floor was opened for questions, I shot my shaking hand in the air. My mind swirled with words, trying to quickly fit them together correctly before taking the mic. How can I address this issue and be heard? How can I respectfully call him out for this injustice in a way that doesn't illicit eye rolls and "here she goes again" sighs? So worried about his response and the reaction of my peers I almost didn't even say anything. I almost sputtered a "how do you manage creative freedom and client's needs?" nonsense question into the mic. I almost let it go. Almost.

Luckily, I was sitting next to, in front of, and behind some of the most supportive creative forces that are about to take this industry by storm. Luckily, I realized the moment I took the mic that if there was anyone in the audience that was going to be annoyed by my opinion, that's their problem, not mine. Luckily I said something to the effect of:

With all due respect, that video that you showed us was three minutes of white dudes driving cars and women blatantly being objectified. Don't get me wrong, it was beautifully shot, but I'm just wondering, as a person of authority at your agency, why didn't you put a woman behind the wheel? Danica Patrick could have been in there and she wasn't.

Shouldn't you use your position to increase diversity? Change the perception of the market? Women like sweet sports cars and mountain biking too. 

Or something. I probably rambled a lot more and half apologized and then took it back. I don't know, I kind of blacked out. But I've been told it was great.

His response was very diplomatic. He acknowledged that he actually hadn't thought about it until I asked the question and that it will be a huge take away for him. I sure hope he was sincere. Because honestly, it's not that these CEOs and CDs and presidents of agencies don't want to be purveyors of social change, do the right thing, increase diversity and empower women, it's that they don't realize they aren't doing it. They don't realize that by not taking a stand, they aren't just continuing on a well-worn path of inequality, they are telling the rest of the world that it's okay and encouraging them to follow that same path.

That's where people like me come in. It's our job to open their eyes and not just ask politely, but demand that they make a change. No one likes to be called out, no one likes to be put on the spot and told that what they're doing is offensive especially when that was never their intention. But how is our industry supposed to grow if we all just let it go? Sweep it under the rug? Be the "cool girl who gets it?"

And to all my CD's out there reading this, (okay so probably just my Dad, hi Dad!) it's your job to take some social responsibility. Produce work that challenges perceptions and attacks stereotypes. Don't just hire a few women and token black people and call it a day. Put them in your ads. Hire them too, duh, but definitely create work that shows women and POC empowered, educated, and strong.

Please share this if you deem it important, and check out The 3% Conference to learn more about how you can support women and diversity in advertising. Thank you.

Peace, Love & Speaking Up

#CircusForum: Ecole Weinstein

Subhead: Girl Power, Bitches. Ecole Weinstein, CD at Havas Chicago, kept it 100 today as she revealed to us freaks 5 nuggets of wisdom she learned as a professional in the ad biz. But it was more than that. Whether she knew it or not (and I like to think she did), her entire forum was about women in advertising. Even when it wasn't.

Yes, of course, everything a woman in advertising does is a direct reflection of women in advertising. Shit, everything a woman in the world does is a direct reflection of women everywhere. Not that every woman is out to make a statement. The opposite actually. It is because in our global, yes global, society, woman are looked at through a very particular filter. We are seen as weaker, more emotional, less logical, and held to ridiculous standards for beauty. Therefor, in order to even be considered an equal, a woman must be stronger, colder, smarter, and more attractive than her male counter part. See also, Megyn Kelly is the Worst.

Weinstein is a woman in advertising. So everything she does is a direct reflection of women in advertising. True, this may be inevitable and unintentional, but I very much doubt that. Why? Thank you for asking.

Because this bitch is fierce, that's why. Because she is unapologetic and creatively charged. Because every single nugget she shared was linked to her personal experience in the industry and as such, it was insightful, creative, witty and yeah, feminist AF. Don't believe me? I have proof:

1. Fuck Fear: It's easy to get caught up in the intimidation game, but you have to let it go. You're up against hella dudes. Many of whom have been in the industry a lot longer than you. But guess what? You don't want to be "good for a girl," you want to be good. If you come into that presentation or team meeting all shy and meek and looking for validation because you think your shit sucks, they'll think your shit sucks too. Ya gotta lay it all out there. Be bold. No matter how great the idea, ya still gotta sell it.

2. Be You: Know your [female] voice. Develop your [female] voice. Do not lose your [female] voice. Meet all kinds of people. Learn how to think from different perspectives. Be a collaboration of all the best qualities of everyone you cross paths with. A mosaic personality. Just make sure you don't shy away from what makes your female perspective unique.

3. Hey Ladies: Okay, so this one is pretty obvious but - As advertisers, we are purveyors of cultural and social stereotypes. If you don't like something, change it. Write your characters differently, ignore the gender norms, break the molds of conservative and timid thought. We have the power to change the social perspective. Use it. Also, Cindy Gallop. Also, 3% Conference.

4. $: Be proactive. Be thoughtful. Be smart. Know your worth. If you want more money (and you deserve it), ask for it. You can't wait for your boss to evaluate your performance and decide they'll finally reward all your hard work with more money. It just won't happen. Do I really need to say more about equal pay for equal work? I thought not.

5. Passion is Everything: Be relentless. Be relevant. Push the envelope. Write in ways they never saw coming. Experience life. Guide the sheeple. Shake things up. Stay hungry. Make time for the people and things that inspire you. Keep fighting the good fight, ladies. Remind yourself why your female voice matters.

Weinstein ended with one more nugget that I wouldn't dare leave out. I think it applies to us freaks right now, but all the old pros out in the industry too. Maybe you're feeling burnt out, defeated. Maybe that side project you've been working on just doesn't have the legs you thought it did. Maybe your cousin just performed her first open heart surgery and you're thinking "what the hell am I doing with my life?" Well, remember this:

You're lucky. You get to wake up every day and be creative. You get to think of weird, funny, emotional ideas. You get to influence the social perspective. You get to transform the norm. Do not take this for granted. This is a great power. Use it for good.

Peace, love and EcoleSelfie

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#CircusForum: Katy Hornaday

I have found the Leslie Knope of Advertising. If you don't know what that means, allow me to explain. She is exhaustingly passionate about her career but has not given up family for it. She finds fun in the problems and is always exploring new ways of telling the same story. She is spunky and wildly articulate. Her intelligence is not shadowed by her charm and vice-versa. She is outspoken and ambitious with a radiating energy that is  ridiculously endearing. She is effortlessly warm and endlessly cool. She is the VP Creative Director at Barkley and her name is Katy Hornaday. In case you can't tell, I was pretty impressed with our #CircusForum today. Not only was Hornaday authentic and engaging, with a killer book, but she spoke about real industry issues that I know we are all thinking about. From "How can I make something cool with just a billboard?" (hint: get developers down to their skivvies.) to being a mom and a CD. "The truth is," Hornaday smiles, "Being a creative makes me a better mom (thinking up the most awesome craft projects that no other parents are thinking of), and being a mom makes me a better creative (more empathetic, better at time management)."

At the circus, we are schooled every day in looking at the same problem differently and exercising our creative muscles. What we don't talk about, is how to have a family, and still make a name for ourselves. How can we, as passionate people who will undoubtedly be working around the clock because we will never be satisfied, still find time for dating, let alone a marriage and a kid?

Keeping the work life balance, well, balanced, takes planning and focus, but when you have the right people in your life, it's not hard. Hornaday says she and her husband have weekly date-nights (adorable), and as far as her daughter goes, it's like this: "I always put my family first. Sometimes that means going to the big meeting so I can show my daughter what it means to be a strong woman (badass CD), and sometimes that means not going because her gymnastics meet is more important (badass mom)."

What did I tell you? The Leslie Knope of Advertising.

And now, something that Katy was more than happy to do, #selfie: IMG_0001

#CircusForum: Dave Canning

There has yet to be a #CircusForum - Yes, I have updated my hashtag. It seems that our friendly competitor, while a much younger program, has usurped our right to that tag. Luckily they are not hard to come by. As I was saying,

- There has yet to be a #CircusForum that has left me anything but inspired. Last Friday was no exception. Dave Canning, Executive Creative Director at 180 Amsterdam, is (drum roll please) a #CreativeCircus grad! Proving once again that there is indeed hope for us freaks after all. Doing work, and hilarious work I might add, for big time clients like ESPN, Southern Comfort, and The Climate Name Change, Canning displayed his own skewed world perspective in a brand-right and unpretentious way.

Like every #CircusForum, we were flooded with a plethora of quasi pep-talk advice. Everything from "Be authentically you" and "don't follow the money," to "only use a case study video if it is absolutely necessary." (Between you and me, I don't even know what the fuck a case study video is so... we're good in that department.) Let's not forget the ever essential "work harder than everyone else and be nice." Like yeah, we get it. Don't be a dick. noted.

I was noshing wheat thins and hummus, texting my boo about hotel reservations and halfway paying attention - not that what Canning was saying wasn't completely valid info, but... I had heard it all before - then I heard this: "I look for great print ads in student books." Wait... WHAT? Everybody shut up.

I thought print was dead. Truthfully. Who reads anymore? It's all GIFs and Clips and hilarious, non-sequitur  TV spots. But here's this #AdHero, ECD at one of the top agencies in the world, telling me (yes, he was talking directly to me) that he looks for print in student books and do you know why? Because a great print ad will translate into any other medium your little heart could possibly desire. YAS. #YASCanning.

A great print ad is the conceptual umbrella under which all your other media executions live. If your ad doesn't translate to web, TV, radio, outdoor, interactive, well then... it's not a great ad. #sorrynotsorry.

Thank you, Dave Canning, for restoring my faith in print work and giving validation to literally everything I've been working on this quarter. Coming soon to a Panel near you!

And now, #selfie:

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