Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018, Tara Greer

"Very few of the problems that are holding women back from the C-Suite have been solved, but at least they are being discussed, and that conversation is a huge step forward."

Tara Greer
Chief Experience Officer Green Stone

 

Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
I’m Tara Greer. My job title is Chief Experience Officer, and I’m aware that no one outside of the User Experience field knows what that is. Most of my friends and relatives think it’s a joke title, and I sometimes have to convince them that it’s what I get paid to do. I work for a Distributed Design Firm called Green Stone, and we specialize in digital product design and strategy that is designed to generate Modern Loyalty for our clients. In a nutshell, we create experiences that are so meaningful that they help brands form deep relationships with people, ones that are far deeper than what traditional advertising campaigns can achieve. We have a uniquely decentralized, remote-first model that allows our team to work flexibly across time zones and geographies, in a way that fits their lifestyle.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
I worked at the bar of a microbrewery as my summer job in college. I was terrible at waitressing, so they stuck me in the kitchen and I was much happier cooking. I think that’s more or less a metaphor for the rest of my career. I’d be the worst account person.
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
We’ve only just begun that process and haven’t had a chance to feel many of the effects yet. Very few of the problems that are holding women back from the C-Suite have been solved, but at least they are being discussed, and that conversation is a huge step forward. Many taboo and repressed topics that women have had to silently work around are coming out into the open at last. I have felt the strongly positive effects of having female bosses creating opportunities for me when perhaps male bosses would have overlooked them, I’ve been inspired and lifted up by some really wonderful women, and I hope I can pay that forward.
From Like A Girl to Fearless Girl, a raft of advertising campaigns have set out to empower women. How do you feel about these campaigns? Can they change attitudes within the industry?
A few beautiful hits and quite a few awkward misses, too! I’m really happy when advertising is co-opted for a more positive purpose than the hard sell and is used to move culture forward. When our clients and co-workers see so obviously how valuable it is to talk about women’s issues and connect with female audiences, that can only be a huge win. Some awkward bandwagon moves go with it though and a lot of utterly empty gestures that women see right through. It has to be authentic.
How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?
It’s had a huge impact, perhaps because we are adjacent to the film industry. It certainly feels like a turning point as far as what is understood to be acceptable behavior and what gets swept under the rug. It’s crazy that I, like many women, had a very hard time adding myself into #MeToo since I haven’t experienced the worst possible harassment, just the ordinary run-of-the-mill kind. It shows how numb and accepting everyone had become.

It’s hard to talk about this movement without also talking about @dietmadisonave and the extraordinary impact that one Instagram account has had. While I respect the courage and the ingenuity of creating an incredibly powerful platform to push harassers into the daylight, I do have mixed feelings about some of the techniques that have been used, trial by social media is a brutal bloodsport (heaven forbid any of those anonymously revealed details are wrongly reported), but it’s hard to argue that it’s a negative to reveal the identities of repeat offenders and strip them of the protections that have allowed them to move from place to place and systematically abuse people.

The fact our #TimesUp movement exists in this slightly terrifying anonymous form expresses how HR channels were failing our victims. This is not a first resort for women, it’s a last resort. I’ve seen this kind of cover up happen first hand, but I’m sure today it would be handled differently. Now that the secrets are out and chaos has rained down upon many, it’s time to design a more accountable way to achieve the same goals. How about a third-party sexual harassment reporting org for advertising? How about a universal sexual-harasser registry that will prevent abusers from serial job hopping and cover ups? I think there are a lot of interesting, sustainable options that can be sparked by this catalyst.
Initiatives such as Free The Bid are trying to create more opportunities for women in advertising. But what could be done at a more grass roots level to attract women in the first place?
This is a curly one because at this point, most ad schools are graduating students at a pretty even M / F split. I think we are attracting women interested enough to study advertising, but, the drop-off starts before the first job is landed so a lot of female graduates don’t even make it into the industry at all. Since qualified women seemingly aren’t even able to crack into that first position, it smells a lot like discrimination. We need much stronger mandates for gender balance, we could easily require that interns and entry level positions maintain a 50/50 split and that early promotions follow the same pattern. But I actually think it’s still retention and how women rise through the creative ranks at ad agencies that is more problematic and harder to fix.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
I always name-check Chloe Gottlieb because she consistently believed in me and pushed me into roles and situations that I was quite scared of, but I’m going to mix it up for this one and go with Fura Johannesdottir, ECD at SapientRazorfish in London who has been an inspiration to me for years – she is a fearless, Icelandic force of nature. She manages to be completely comfortable with herself, strong minded, opinionated and stubborn, but also caring, charismatic and an extraordinary mentor and friend to those below, alongside and above her. She tunes right into the needs and mindsets of the people around her and finds the right way to support and connect with them. She’s that rare woman who can be universally loved, have big opinions and play totally against gender expectations.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Not everyone has to like you, make sure you ask for that raise, and leave this place better than you found it.
Tara Greer
Chief Experience Officer Green Stone