Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018, Tracey Barber

"This shouldn’t turn into ‘women versus men’ – only by working together can we create more opportunities for women"

Tracey Barber
UK Group CMO Havas

Perspectives: Women in Advertising 2018

Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
I’m Tracey Barber, Group CMO at Havas UK. Having moved into our purpose-built Havas Village in London’s Kings Cross last year, we aligned our creative and media groups under one P&L – so it made total sense to bring our new business efforts together too. I now look after new business and marketing across our UK & European groups.
Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
I actually don’t think I could point to one job specifically. I think we need to be really clear what defines success, too. For me, it’s loving my job and doing it as well as I can, but also trying to make the impact I have on others as positive as possible. And in new business, that can be a pretty big ask! So what prepares you for that? For me, it’s those jobs where you are part of a team, where what you do really affects others – so working on a production line in Israel, teaching drama and putting on a major production (with children, but thankfully no animals) in New York, and spending time as a Marketing Manager for a UK bank.
What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
Is the glass ceiling broken? Cracked, perhaps – but on the whole, I don’t think there’s enough change to see yet. I’d like to say more diversity coming through the ranks and being given opportunities, and more opportunities for women (and men) to do things differently. We’re heading in the right direction, but there is still much progress to be made – on many fronts.
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?
Behavioural and attitudinal change takes time. And as empowering as these campaigns are, particularly to their target audiences (i.e. real people, not ad execs), we need to see more tangible action and changing behavior within the industry itself. We need greater recognition of the benefits that access to a broader talent pool – at all levels of the industry – will bring. And we need to focus on creating a work environment in which any individual can flourish, not one predisposed to promoting white men to the top.
How have the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements played out in the advertising sector? Are they making a significant impact?
It’s hard to ignore the fact that something is changing – not just in our industry, but in society in general. This is a good, if overdue, thing. But this shouldn’t turn into ‘women versus men’ – only by working together can we create more opportunities for women and change behaviours, as opposed to just soundbites (perhaps ‘everyone versus arseholes’ would be a better moniker!).
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?
From experience, the major issues aren’t necessarily at ground roots level. Women are coming into the industry, but – and this is where it’s a double-edged sword – the industry clearly isn’t working for many of them as they progress through their careers. Hence why the amount of men and women in the industry is broadly comparable in total, but heavily skewed toward men in senior positions. We need to identify the issues that stop women progressing in their careers (or force them out of the industry altogether), be it inflexibility around childcare or working hours, unconscious bias, conscious bias, or anything else. I’ve stated before that women want equal opportunities – but that doesn’t necessarily mean equal treatment. We need to work out what processes and behaviours lead to equal opportunity for women – because we clearly aren’t there yet.
Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Simple: my father. He wasn’t a mentor in the ‘official’ sense, but he always guided me to believe I could do anything, to be really clear what my beliefs and priorities in life were, and to take no shit from anyone!
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?
By showing you can balance work and family without compromising on either, and by doing everything I can to ensure the people I work with love coming into the agency every morning.

My advice would be to embrace it, love it and change it. And don’t compromise on what’s important to you.
Tracey Barber
UK Group CMO Havas