The advertising industry has made strides in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, however there is still work to be done. Eve Remillard-Larose, CEO of TBWA\Group Canada, expounds on the ways we can move forward; putting aside personal biases to better understand each other, learn and adjust.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?
I’ve recently taken the role of CEO for TBWA\Group Canada. I lead DDB Canada, Juniper Park\TBWA, and BOLT Production. My introduction to the advertising world was serendipitous – I participated in case study competitions through university; in my last competition one of the judges was a VP at FCB. She mentioned I should apply for an Account Coordinator internship, which I did, and it was the start of an amazing creative journey.
I stayed at FCB for 3 years and then joined Sid Lee as an Account Manager. I stayed at Sid Lee for more than 15 years. At the time, Sid Lee’s management was fearlessly pursuing their craziest dreams. It was exciting and I got in the habit of saying YES to everything – which means my job really changed from one year to the next. From working on national accounts, to being part of the team that serviced our first global client – adidas original – to managing my own digital projects, to jumping on the new business wagon when 2008 hit and then moving cities to open our Toronto office, I’ve had the opportunity to learn, experiment, fail, and win. Through this journey I had an amazing sponsor, Vito Piazza, who trusted me and played a big role in how I got to where I am today. I have also been surrounded by amazing colleagues who challenged my thinking every day and had my back no matter what. Today it is my turn to uplift the next generation and be a supportive sponsor to the amazing young talent around me.
What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?
Our industry is still mostly lead by men, and whether we like it or not, most hiring managers still rely heavily on finding people like them when promoting and/or hiring. I’ve entered the world of Omnicom because of Justin Thomas-Copeland who is on a mission of building the most diverse team possible because he strongly believes that diversity – of gender, age, ethnicity, skillset, mindset – will generate the best creative solutions. This is a belief that I share. I also believe that as women become mothers, the industry’s perception is different than when men become fathers. I’ve experienced this first-hand many times.
When I became a mother, my employees and colleagues became vocally worried about my travel schedule. It came from a good place, but I had to field many comments/questions about how I could travel this much, they could never do this, etc. Although my men colleagues travelled just as much if not more than I, they never had such questions or comments. I also notice that when I tell people I have 3 kids, their reaction is different than when my colleagues say that they have 3 or even 4 kids. I get the “how do you do it?” “omg it must be so hard” whereas they get the, “oh wow how amazing”. Thankfully I have a very supportive partner, so are my male colleagues. I think it is important to remember that parenthood shouldn’t implicitly be treated differently based on gender. Some fathers might be single parents and require more support from the business; some mothers of 3 might not need any additional support. Have 1:1 conversation with your employees, understand their situations and support them the best you can.
How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?
Over the last couple of years, I realized that this work would never be done. We must constantly monitor and adjust. First and foremost, I think it is important that equity be a key performance indicator of our business on which we are evaluated. Secondly, I decided to focus on activities that will outlast me – so think more in terms of programs than one-offs. These take longer to implement, but I believe that in the long term they will be more impactful. I’ve also began being more comfortable using my own voice to call on people when I witness improper behavior – where a few years ago I might have laughed at a joke although I didn’t find it funny, today I will call it out as inappropriate.
Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?
What a great question. Here are some women who have made a lasting impression on me and after whom I am modelling some of my behaviors.
1. Andrea Diquez, Global CEO Gut – I’ve had the privilege to work briefly with Andrea at DDB, and she made a lasting impression. Andrea is passionate about our craft; she will go over and beyond every time to get the best creative. At the same time she is very human and has put many programs and rituals in place to connect with her team and create an inclusive environment for everyone to thrive.
2. Laura Stein, CCO Bruce Mau – I’ve worked with Laura at Sid Lee. She is a quiet force to be reckoned with. She is extremely talented at her craft and has a way of getting the best out of her team every day. She is an amazing coach for creatives, as well as business leaders and strategists.