The feminine side of advertising


“I think women can add depth and relevance to creative work”

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katrien_defKatrien Bottez en Peter Ampe became joint Creative Directors at Duval Guillaume Brussels in 2005, and have worked together for more than 10 years now on both Belgian and international clients, winning many national and international awards including 3 Gold Lions at Cannes and one Grand CLIO last year.


AdWomen: Your work, as a member of the festival's jury, consists of judging hundreds of campaigns. In your opinion, is it possible to know by intuition if it was created by women?
Katrien: I believe it's a good thing that you cannot tell a campaign is made by a man or a woman. After all, that's of no importance at all. What is important, is the strength of an idea and the relevance of that idea for the brand. You could say women have more affinity with some kind of brands, but this goes for men as well. Man or woman, it's important you fully understand a brand before working on it.


AdWomen: The incorporation of women into creative teams is a slow process. What is our influence on the creative performance [if there is any]? Do we contribute something characteristic that men don't?

Katrien: Maybe women rely more on a gut feeling, while men tend to be more rational. You could say women have this special antenna to feel if an idea will really work for a brand. But I wouldn't want to generalize this.


AdWomen: In the last year edition of CLIO Awards there were only 4 products/services for women that got to be awarded. Why it's more common to find among winners ads of products for men?
Katrien: Maybe the campaigns were simply not strong enough or direct enough. I was in this year's Clio Jury and we gave a Gold Clio to a campaign for 'Mir' washing powder. It was a brilliant idea very well executed. Everyone agreed about this, also the men in the jury. So, if the work is really great, it will always stand out.


Print- Gold

Mir Black (Campaign)


TBWAPARIS, Boulogne-Billancourt


AdWomen: In the interview with Ruth Lee  she told us an anecdote about one product for women, whose campaign have been created my men, and that it didn't really work with its female target. Notwithstanding, it got to be awarded in Cannes, voted basically by men who found the creative idea very attractive and easy to understand. What if campaigns made for women would be judged by female jury…?
Katrien: I see what she means, but let us not forget that Cannes is meant to be an ode to creativity. If we want to talk about efficiency, then we enter the domain of the Effies. In a creative jury, however, it is impossible to know if a campaign has really worked. Nevertheless, as a creative you always feel if a campaign is right for a certain product. I can imagine that a male jury looks at some campaigns for female products and find some things extremely funny from their male point of view. Even if everyone knows not a single woman would be charmed by the idea. But sometimes things go fast in a jury: you look, you understand, you laugh out loud, you give an award. Maybe a more balanced jury would lead to slightly different results. It would be ideal to have a 50-50 balance, but I have the feeling we're not there yet.


AdWomen: There are some surveys that show that the majority of women do not really feel identified with brands. Do you thing that this could possibly change if there would be more women engaged in making campaigns for women?
Katrien: It's always good to have at least one woman in a brand team. A creative preferably, but this could also be a strategic planner or an account director. They can always come up with different insights and different views. For every product and more specifically for products that are linked to women. It's also a good thing to test ideas with people around you who you know belong to the target audience. They have to like the idea in the end.


AdWomen: Just to know, how many women are there on your team?
Katrien: On the creative department 20% are female, on the account handling department 80% are female.


AdWomen: What concerns women as a target-what are the key factors in the communication to women that connects with them the best?
Katrien: Your campaign has to show you understand women without using the typical cliché's. Women don't only like campaigns showing baby's, don't be mislead.


AdWomen: In the interview with Shalina Dam (Grey, India), made in March for the occasion of Adfest, she said that women in the advertising industry have to work much harder than men, to be treated as member of the club. How does it look like from your point of view?
Katrien: I agree with this. The top of the advertising world -and the business world for that matter- remains largely populated by men. It's a world of discussing and meeting. Women have to be twice as a good as men to get the same recognition I have the impression.


AdWomen: Could it be that women feel intimidated by the number of male names being in charge of the creative production? (creatives, producers, directors, photographers…). Can it be one of the reasons why women usually stay back from the creative departments and work as account executives of public relations officers? Could female role models change this status quo and encourage young people?
Katrien: It's not easy, that's for sure. But once you have gained recognition with your work and way of thinking, you get real appraisal on all levels. Women also have a different way to handle clients and the people in the office, I see this as an enrichment for an agency. A nice quote of Margaret Thatcher in this context.  If you want something said; you ask a man. I you want something done; you ask a woman.


AdWomen: Due to your experience, is there something like a female factor in creativity?
Katrien: I think women can add depth and relevance to creative work, but on the other hand you must not exaggerate the importance of this female factor. Once a campaign of mine was flagged by a woman rights organisation describing it as "woman unfriendly and visibly made by men."  🙂


AdWomen: To sum up, a brief test:

Your best campaign:

"A blind call" for the league of the blind. (winner of  a Golden Lion, a Golden Pencil and a Grand Clio last year.)

A nowadays campaign that you like the most:
Melody road

A friend from work:
Peter Ampe.

One creative female professional:
Veronique Sels

An advice for young creatives:
You don't only need talent, you also need perseverance and luck. But even more important, you need the right creative partner to work with. Make sure you find him/her as soon as possible and then everything is possible.


More interviews, here.



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