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International: Controversial WPP creative chief Neil French exits weeks after making sexist jibes

21-October-2005
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International: Controversial WPP creative chief Neil French exits weeks after making sexist jibes

Weeks after a public address in which he called female creative directors “crap”, WPP Group’s Worldwide Creative Director, Neil French, is leaving the holding company, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Rant against women

It was not clear whether he had been forced to resign or had left on his own. This follows a speech he gave in Toronto earlier this month in which he had ranted against women in the profession. According to online accounts of the speech, he said that women were more concerned with their role as childbearers than working long hours on behalf of clients.

The cigar-chomping French is known to be an incendiary figure, given to controversial statements. He became Worldwide Creative Director at WPP in 2002 after five years as Worldwide Creative Director at the company’s Ogilvy & Mather network. He’s also had a number of more unusual jobs, such as bullfighter and manager of the heavy-metal band, Judas Priest.

No comment

French and a WPP spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment.

French’s remarks came at a $125-a-plate dinner earlier this month. He was reported to have said, “Women don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to. They’re crap.”

The words sparked a frenzy of online discussion, primarily split as to whether French was being his typically cantankerous and controversial self or whether it represented a more widely held viewpoint.

‘Go suckle something’

Nancy Vonk, Co-creative Director at Ogilvy’s Toronto office, whose comments appeared on various blogs, wrote, “It’s too easy to discount Neil’s views as those of a man from an era and geographies that reinforced that the role of women should be reserved for pleasing the men, marrying them, bearing and caring for their offspring. What struck me so hard as he described a group that will inevitably wimp out and ‘go suckle something’ after their short stint in advertising, was that in his honest opinion he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in the senior ranks of our business.”

Source: AdAge.com

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