It All Starts At Grassroots: Ying-Poi De Lacy, Massïf

by Dasha Ovsyannikova

To mark International Women’s Day, AdForum is gathering opinions from women working in advertising and marketing communications. We asked women from a range of job roles both agency- and client-side, for their view of the state of the industry.


Johannesburg, South Africa
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How would you describe the overall culture at your agency / company?

Massif Media is a stimulating production company to work for. I started working with the same team since 2014 as a creative researcher, working hard to build my way up and earn my place as a film director. The team took me under their wing and showed me the ropes of an industry that can be brutal and overwhelming at times. And since then, I have always felt like part of a team. 

One of the reasons I count myself lucky to be part of the Massif family is the culture within the company. We have a team that is so dedicated and passionate about creating good work and having fun while doing so. There is a culture of respect for each of the director’s individual talent, and we’re all invested in building a good name for Massif through creating good work.


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

What I have noticed is the increasing amount of female crew members, and this excites me incredibly. It gives me hope for the future of women in film. Even though one still encounters sexism and inequality on set, many of these women don’t let it hold them back. They aren’t afraid to dive headfirst into this male-dominated space to pursue the careers they want to build for themselves.

There are a lot more women in leadership roles on the agency side of the advertising industry who are empowering another generation of female creatives. Last year, I worked with two separate all-female teams from the client to the agency creatives and producers. These determined and incredible women brought another energy to the project. It feels incredibly inspiring and motivating.


Do you think that women still face challenges and if so, what are they?

Women in the film industry still face huge challenges. Even though there have been shifts and changes, there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and diversity in the film and advertising industry. This means I have to relentlessly nurture my self-belief in my ability and knowledge as a film director, especially when I often get mistaken for an intern or assistant. The culture on set is still a male-dominated space where you sometimes find yourself stepping into the “boys club” and are treated as such, especially by an older crew. But in saying this, it does feel like there is a younger generation of men on set who are inclusive and encouraging; they just get on with it because there is a job to be done and they do so with respect.


How should we tackle an issue such equal opportunity?

It all starts at grassroots. We need to encourage, build and grow the young women who are either studying in film school or starting out in the industry. These young women should have the opportunity to grow and garner that experience. I genuinely think that through this process, we will have more talented and experienced women moving up the ranks in the industry who can, in turn, build the next generation of aspiring female filmmakers and creatives.


How did you find your way into marketing communications and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

I was fresh out of film school and in search of a job that would bring me closer to my goal of becoming a film director. I was introduced to Dean Blumberg, who immediately took me under his wing and asked me to join the research team at Massif. I participated in the director’s briefing sessions with agencies, their pitches, on set and in the post-production process, learning as much as I could. This helped me dispel some of my preconceived ideas about the industry. Being exposed to these processes was crucial as it gave me the knowledge and confidence to direct my first commercial, which is one of my proudest achievements. It was such a joy to create, and it made Adforum’s Top 5 Directors.


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?

My mother inspires me every day and has been for the longest time. Since I was a young girl, my mother has always been so encouraging and supportive of everything I do and want to do. Even something as simple as a pottery class, she will support it; she sent me a message wishing me luck for my first class.

She grew up in China and moved to South Africa as a teenager. She had to attend an English speaking school not understanding a single word of it, and yet she matriculated. She has built an incredible life in South Africa with my father, built a career in advertising, which is still going strong, raised a family at a young age and is an incredible mother. I don’t know how she did it. She raised us in a way that my brother and I have always had equal opportunity. Leading through example, my mother is strong, independent, encouraging, passionate and kind, and that is how I would like to define myself as a woman.