We Still Have a Way to Go: Ashley Cooksley, The Social Element

by Dasha Ovsyannikova
On behalf of AdForum, we hope you are staying safe during this unprecedented time and its challenges.
Although our world is dominated by virus, we have made a decision to publish interviews we conducted earlier this month. These interviews are virus-unrelated, so we hope they provide some inspiration, relief and rejuvenation! We are in this together and because of this, we are upholding our commitment to our clients, to publish news and insights. 
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Above all, be safe. 


How would you describe the overall culture at your agency / company?

As a woman-owned and women-led agency, we have an inclusive culture that allows for flexibility in working. This means we are able to find the best talent, and offer a work/life balance that’s often not seen at other agencies. For example, parents who need to be able to have a flexible schedule for childcare. Culture has been a key priority for the agency since we started 18 years ago.


In your opinion, what do you see as the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the glass ceiling?

With more women in advertising, we’re seeing the effects of having their voice heard during the creative process. 

I’m extremely impressed by the level of inclusivity in advertising right now. We’re seeing more people in ads that look like the rest of the population. Gender stereotypes are being challenged, for example, men doing the laundry, and women in positions of power. We’re seeing ads that have same sex couples, such as the Campbell soup ad that showed two married men with their child. We’re seeing brands that continue to portray gender stereotypes and social norms losing revenue, such as Victoria’s Secret. While we’re seeing brands such as Third Love, who use real women in their ads see their revenue soar. I’m excited about the topics we’re now seeing in advertising that were once thought of as taboo such as normalizing menstruation, but we still have a way to go. Last year, THINX had an ad rejected because it showed a tampon string.


Do you think that women still face challenges in our industry, and if so, what are they?

The advertising and marketing industry is still predominantly a male-led industry, which is why we’re proud to be an agency that was founded and is led by Tamara Littleton, with the entire Executive team made up of women.


How should we tackle an issue such equal opportunity? 

There is a huge movement to highlight diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and also how that’s portrayed in marketing. Continuing to focus on ensuring that advertising and marketing appeals to the right audiences means that the people making the ads must include different voices – gender, sexuality, backgrounds, and physical cabilities must be considered.


How did you find your way into the marketing communications industry and what professional achievement are you most proud of?

I’ve been working in the online industry since 1996, and have been working specifically in marketing and advertising for the past 20 years. I’ve been fortunate to work for amazing, forward-thinking companies where I’ve been able to have varied roles. I’m proud of the position that I’m in now, and the work I’m specifically doing to drive our North American strategy forward. There is so much opportunity, and we’re seeing tremendous growth. On a smaller scale, nothing beats being a speaker at SXSW. Perhaps my favorite moment of career!


Who inspires you the most, either inside the industry or outside? Why?

I’m surrounded by incredibly talented and smart women including the rest of our Executive team (Tamara Littleton, Wendy Christie, Treena Hales, and Emma Harris), and also the women I work with every day including our Marketing Director, Chloe Mathieu Phillips, and our Services Director, Sherry Wilcox. We’ve fostered a culture of honesty with respect, which allows us to be vulnerable with each other. Only when you are able to feel the trust of others, can you allow yourself to think differently and create new solutions, services, and approaches. We have done well to create this environment, and it will continue to push us forward as a business.