These days, when you meet a woman in a senior creative position, the temptation is to fire off a question about gender diversity straight away. But with Rosie Bardales, executive creative director and partner at BETC London, the subject quickly broadens into a conversation about parents in advertising. That’s because one of the agency’s most recent campaigns is all about babies.
Bardales is aware of the irony, since BETC Paris became part of French popular culture thanks to its beautiful bouncing Evian babies. “I know,” she laughs, with her characteristic ease. “Isn’t it great?”
The campaign for C&G Baby Club – a website offering advice to expectant and new parents – is based around “The Happy Song”, the first song scientifically designed to make babies happy. Written and sung by UK pop singer Imogen Heap, it’s based on crowd-sourced tips from parents about their babies’ favourite sounds, as well as advice from child psychologists.
Bardales says: “It’s been a long journey from having this idea that we thought could be really awesome to finding the people who really understood it and had the perfect expertise. The fact that Imogen is a young mother made her even more committed and emotionally involved in the project. The stars aligned.”
So what about young mothers who work in advertising? Is it true that the industry does too little to help them? “It’s great that there’s a lot of conversation around that now, and that people are taking it more seriously,” says Bardales. “But I also think we have a long way to go in making it easier for parents – not just mums. In New York, some industries do make allowances by providing day care, for example. So while it’s now an issue, we need to get to the next level where we actually do something about it.”
Bardales stands for cultural as well as gender diversity. Hailing from Texas, she’s worked at Mother in London and New York, Madre in Buenos Aires, BBH in London again, Wieden & Kennedy in Amsterdam and now back to London for BETC. While still recognizably American, her accent is a pleasant blend of influences. Did she plan to travel the world from the beginning?
“It wasn’t planned at all. I thought it was quite adventurous to pack up my car and drive to Los Angeles to start my first job. Later on, it took a bit of convincing to encourage me make that leap from New York to London that first time – and I’m really glad that I did because it changed how I saw the world.”
Now she encourages anyone in a creative profession to travel as widely and as well as they can. “Creativity – what we do every day – is enriched by the people you meet along the way and the different talents that have an influence on you. It makes you more open to new ideas, rather than being tempted to draw lines.”
Her international outlook means that she loves working on global campaigns. “The fact that you can get to an idea that lands everywhere is fascinating to me.”
London remains a cosmopolitan city – despite the Brexit, which the majority of its citizens were against – that punches well above its weight in international creative competitions. “It is absolutely one of the most creative markets. And I think it’s exactly because London draws a diverse group of international people. That diversity allows it to prosper when it comes to creativity.”
She also mentions a commitment to craft. “That’s one of the things that keeps drawing me back here. People are really focused on making something that’s of value, versus it just being ‘advertising’. We’re one of the markets pushing those boundaries.”
With her experience, Bardales could have taken her pick of agencies – so why move to BETC London? “I spent some time in Paris while I was working in London, and I heard quite a buzz around BETC. I discovered that not only were they ambitious and interesting, but they really cared about culture and the community. Knowing what BETC represented in Paris and being given the opportunity to help them start to build a network was something I couldn’t miss.”
Two and a half years later, she feels settled in London. “I explore it every day, and I think its diversity is why I feel at home here. Of course the Brexit is worrying, but what can you do? We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
BETC London now has around 35 staff “and growing”. So is it seen as “that French agency” by the London advertising crowd? “I think at first there was a sense of that, but over time we’ve been able to create our own personality.”
As well as working for some French clients – such as Air France, Disneyland Paris and Danone – it has also picked up cosmetic brand Rimmel London and Cow & Gate baby foods (hence the C&G Baby Club).
“You really establish your identity through the work,” Bardales says. “So if some people in the market still aren’t sure what we represent, they’re going to find out very soon.”
By Mark Tungate