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¨We’ve just entered the scene. We are pioneers¨ – an interview with Uschi Henkes, Executive Creative Director and founder of Zapping/M&CSaatchi, Cannes Lions 2009 jury member

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Jun
26,
2009
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¨Our presence in important meetings and projects is still not usual. What we find there is a very masculine world, built many hundreds of years ago, that needs time to change. No panic, patience, we try harder and this is, maybe, that characteristic difference you’re asking for.¨

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AdWomen speaks with Uschi Henkes – Executive Creative Director and founder of Zapping/M&CSaatchi, Cannes Lions 2009 jury member in the PRESS category.

Uschi Henkes received her degree in Communication and Design in Darmstadt. She started her professional training in the agency “Young&Rubicam”  in Frankfurt , Munich and Madrid. Later, she joined the agency  “Contrapunto” in which she worked for five years and during that time “Contrapunto” was elected the “Agency of the year” by Advertising Age. She then continued in Lowe , Grupo Barro/Testa  and Zapping/M&CSaatchi , all of them in Spain.

Uschi has won the most recognized and difficult awards in creativity: five Lions at Cannes and many other awards at the One Show, New York Festival, Ad&D, Clio, Epica, Eurobest, Fiap, Laus, CdeC and El Sol/San Sebastián .

She has been a jury member at the Cannes Festival as well at El Sol/ San Sebastián , Eurobest, CdeC , Laus or the New York Festival and she was voted by the magazine Control’s readers as the most prominent Creative Director of Spain in 2005.

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Cannes Lions is maybe the most important advertising festival and it receives the best ad pieces, doesn’t it frighten you?

Oh! Yes, definitely! I feel as if I was going to the Olympic Games. The good thing at least is that this is my second time. I was a Jury Member in Cannes 5 years ago and it was a beautiful and terrible week at the same time.

What is, in your opinion, the role that women play in nowadays’ advertisements?

I think that we play an awful role, like almost everywhere else. But my incorrigible optimism makes me think that this happens because we are just     beginning our career. We’ve just entered the scene. We are pioneers. Just wait a couple of years and you will see. Times are changing and anything is possible.

There are some surveys that show that the majority of women do not really feel identified with brands. Why does it happen? Do you think that this could possibly change if there were more women engaged in making campaigns for women?

‘Madame Bovary’ was written by Gustave Flaubert. Henry James wrote ‘The Portrait of a Lady’. Marguerite Yourcenar wrote ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’ and Virginia Woolf wrote ‘Orlando’. ‘The Hours’, a portrait of 3 women, was written by Michael Cunningham…  So I think the problem is due to a different matter.

Do you think that there are enough target insights done when it comes to women-oriented products?

Let me tell you a story: one of the Creative Directors in Y&R Frankfurt worked for Sanitary Towels. In order to test them, he went around the whole week with  one of them  stuck in  his underpants….I think   this was funny but it was also too much…

And what about the products for kids when you don’t have any kids  – as happens with nearly all of my creative groups? Or cars when you don’t drive -like my creative director who works for Mercedes? Bank accounts when you don’t know anything about numbers (like me) or sausage products when you are a vegetarian?…

But you are right, it is always better to have a better briefing.

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?

I believe that creativity knows no gender. Man and woman start under the same conditions. You can also find different kinds of working characters on both sides.

The difference starts with reality. Our presence in important meetings and projects is still not usual. What we find there is a very masculine world, built many hundreds of years ago, that needs time to change. No panic, patience, we try harder and this is, maybe, that characteristic difference you’re asking for.

In advertising agencies, do women perform freely? Aren’t they influenced too much by men surrounding them?

Of course we are dominated by our masculine world. Maybe the agency side of things is not that bad (…specially when there are no Argentinian guys around…ha,ha) but the world of our clients- the industry- is one of the deepest male chauvinist worlds.

Still, we are lucky, jut imagine working in Italy in ‘Berlusconiworld’…

Did you ever need to fight with your colleagues over what could possibly work (or not) with a female target?

We fight every day but not specifically for that reason.

It is said that advertising is too tough for women who want to have a healthy family life. Is this sacrifice needed to get a good job as creative?

I think that we all need a ‘housewife’. This is the easiest solution to all our problems. Otherwise, you’d have to work very hard, you’d need a lovely partner, you’d have to be able to use the word NO, and you’d need to organize everything… Otherwise you’d probably start sacrificing yourself.

Just to know, how many women are there in your team?

Normally the distribution we have in Zapping is 2/1, men/woman in the creative department, in account department the opposite. (When looking for someone to work as a creative in the agency, I don’t care whether the person is female or male.  I look at their book and good ideas have no gender.)

In the interview with Ruth Lee she told us an anecdote about one product for women, whose campaign had been created by men, and that 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…?

There are many campaigns (specially in festivals) that work with clichés. But you have to know that when you change the jury you get a completely different   winner list. However, I would never like to have a wholly male or female jury    That would be awful: imagine, they’d only let us vote for products like lipsticks, pampers and handbags…

Which is, in your opinion, this year’s best campaign made by women?

¿Can you really see when a campaign is made by women? I can’t. So the only one I know is the recent ”campaign” of and for Sarah Palin. (You see, women are not perfect either).

And the one of a product or service for women?

Still Dove (even though they start to be less brave and everything looks awful…).

Due to your experience, is there something like a female factor in creativity?

I can only repeat that in my opinion creativity knows no gender. But at work, I think we are more flexible and can do more things at the same time.

To sum up, a brief test:

Your best campaign: Always the last one.

A friend from work: Manolo Moreno.

One creative female professional: Patricia Lujan, Monica Moro, Ana Hidalgo, Marta Rico, Olaya Escriba,…Â

An advice for young creatives: We are living in a pioneer time. Perfect for you.

A farewell: Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Thank you very much for your time and dedication.

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The last campaign of Uschi:

Flea Collar SCALIBOR

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