Perspectives: Women in Advertising. Kate Morrison, Head of Integrated Production, BBH NY
Adforum: How would you describe the current overall culture at your agency? How would you describe the culture among your female colleagues and what are the differences?
Kate: I love BBH. And a huge part of loving BBH, is loving its culture. We do great work but we’re respectful of the humans who do it. We are nice to each other. We support each other. We celebrate each other. I think that’s true for both men and women. We have a history of female leadership at BBH, so whether it’s the sensibility that Cindy Gallup imbued the place with, the mantle Emma Cookson created or watching Sarah Watson our CSO walk into a room and run it, there’s no shortage of a feeling that being a woman isn’t going to be the thing to hold you back at BBH.
Adforum: What do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling” into Sr. Executive level positions? What are some of the challenges that still exist for women in reaching the upper echelon of management?
Kate: The biggest shift I’ve noticed in the industry is that we no longer seem to carry the sentiment that ‘there can only be one.’ When I started out, it very much felt to me that there was only ever one girl let into the boy’s club and that was sort of because she could roll with the boys. Being the girl was the exception, not the rule and other girls coming up were seen as f a threat. I think we’re shaking that. I now look at the management teams at companies and see women there and when we’re less than 50% represented, I wonder why. I don’t expect to only see one female face up there. And I don’t want to.
But, that’s not to say there aren’t challenges. I have been lucky that in my career I have worked for men who have looked out for me. I have had two women as bosses in my whole career and they were amazing women but I got where I am because men that I worked with looked out for me too. They pushed me, believed in me and sometimes made me fight to get what I wanted. But they also taught me, promoted me and supported me. I don’t think we can change where women are without involving the men.
Adforum: What do you consider the biggest personal achievement in your career that still fills you with the most pride?
Moving – pre-Facebook - to an apartment in Amsterdam I had never seen with one college degree, two suitcases and no job, no prospects of a job, no idea what I wanted to do as a job and finding a career I love.
Adforum: How do you find the best work-life balance to help you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
Kate: I run. I sleep. I read. I have a husband who supports me and can play solo-dad if need be. I also drink wine.
Adforum: Was there a job you had at one point, outside of advertising, that prepared you most for success later in life?
Kate: Selling things and cold-calling people. Selling is hard. Cold selling is miserable. But it’s great training to teach yourself to get over yourself. I cold-called people on ‘lists’ to invite them to parties when I was in high-school. When I moved to Amsterdam with no job and no prospects, I spent an illustrious couple of months handing out fliers for Boom Chicago and trying to get people to go see their comedy show. This sort of work teaches you that you have to go up to people, you have to ask for things, you have to try. Production is a world where it’s so much easier to have things not exist than to make them. I firmly believe that people who succeed in production are those who believe against all sensible odds that something will happen. Because they’re the ones who make it happen.
Adforum: Can you reflect on a mentor that helped guide you in your career and tell us what made them special?
Kate: I’ve been lucky enough to have a host of great mentors. At 180 in Amsterdam, Chris Barrand hired me with no experience to be her BA Assistant and taught me about hard work and attention to detail. While I was there, I moved into production and Peter Cline, Cedric Gairard and Tony Stearns taught me everything I still know about it. Ari Weiss has been a huge champion and challenger of mine. Sometimes in that order and sometimes in the reverse. And coming to work for John Patroulis every day is a great pleasure. He’s a brilliant creative and the smartest guy in the room. He’s taught me a lot about managing a team, playing the long game and believing in myself. Having great teachers is invaluable to success. I’ve been very lucky and I’m very thankful.
Adforum: How do you as a successful woman in your industry plan to inspire the next generation of women? In a few words, what advice do you have for women entering the advertising industry?
Kate: I’d love to do whatever I can. I think it’s important to be honest. Some days suck. Some are great. But you’ve got to try. You’ve got to put yourself out there. I have spent numerous hours before meetings saying ‘what would a man do? What would a man do?’ and to be honest, while I hope the next generation doesn’t do it, it’s often made me bolder. And made me just go for it. Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid. Fight for YOU because no one else will.
I think if I were to advise a group of young women on one thing, it would be to have less fear. I know it’s hackneyed but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Seriously. So, just get out there and go for it.