#IWD2019 - A conversation with Jenny Glover
March 08, 2019
Jenny Glover is our Executive Creative Director at Juniper Park\TBWA and is most definitely a boss lady. Originally educated as a lawyer, Jenny pivoted to advertising in the early stages of her career and has not looked back. As a writer, Jenny has worked in both South Africa and Canada and has been recognized globally for her work with creative awards, and judging opportunities at international festivals. While in South Africa, Jenny also co-founded a program called Open Chair and it has grown to become the primary South African industry gender equity initiative.
As an ECD, Jenny embodies the Disruption ethos that is unique to TBWA. Her commitment to creative excellence and desire to mentor and develop younger creatives is one that has allowed her to transition seamlessly to the Great White North.
We spoke to Jenny about what her experience has been like as a female creative in the Advertising industry. Jenny has the unique experience of driving business growth on two different continents and exuded great wisdom and leadership in her answers to our questions.
Below is a transcript of that conversation.
Q: From speaking to you about your career, we know that you tried a couple of things before working at an agency but once you chose the lane of advertising you stuck to it. Obviously, you've been doing it for a long time and very successfully. What do you think has made you stay the course?
Jenny: Yes, I mean, I've had some luck. I have had some difficult times but once I figured out that this was the career for me, I stayed the course and I’ve loved it ever since. I think that's why people do well and why people stay in careers and it's because they love what they do and even though sometimes it's really hard and it's very challenging I still love what I do.
Q: When you started out were there any women in leadership roles that you could look up to.
Jenny: Actually, when I started at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris there were a lot of really strong women which was very unusual for an agency in the 90s, but there were also lots of really, really strong creative women at the time who subsequently had kind of moved on. Then, by the time I became more senior there was basically no one. So initially yes.
Q: At times when it seemed as though there weren’t many other female leaders by your side, what did you choose to do to combat the imbalance?
Jenny: I think some people view the being a woman as a kind of a disability or disadvantage. Perhaps they walk into a room thinking you know I'm a woman… (passive) whereas I've always walked into a room and being like I'm a woman (more assertive). And I think flicking it on its head like that is it is perhaps the most powerful thing that you can do.
Q: What's the best career advice you've ever been given by a man or woman?
Jenny: I think the best advice that I was ever given was actually by a woman and she was my first C.D. I was actually once told that I was too weird for advertising by someone and this particular female C.D. of mine encouraged me to be more, myself, i.e. weird. I think it's a complete stroke of genius because I have built my entire career on being more like myself and I'm doing things in a very specific way that is very true to who I am as a person. And it is like it's been the secret to my success and it's shaped my work and my career.
Q: Would you give a similar piece of advice to other women in the industry?
Jenny: I definitely think that that's an important piece of advice. I think it was particularly pertinent to me because I felt like I was trying so hard to be a normal person and fit in. In the process I was being really boring and what was a really boring creative person instead of, you know, unleashing my strangeness on the world.
Q: Do you think that as an industry we're still producing too much work that objectifies women?
Jenny: I'm not sure that we're doing that at the moment. I really think that there's such a heightened consciousness. I mean, I certainly haven't noticed a lot of work like that, maybe different markets are different, but I think there's a real heightened consciousness about work and especially I think social media has made it really kind of tough on brands. Because if you put something out that is insensitive in any way social media will take you down. So yeah, we've got that watchdog for our for our work and it has helped.
Q: So, is it safe to say that you think the industry has gotten better enough in these respects over the years?
Jenny: Yes. I think certainly. I think the work that we're putting forth is much more kind of sensitive and I think that’s true especially in Canada.
I think Canada's probably a bit ahead of the game because it's just a very socially conscious country. And I'm sure that there are other countries that culturally are still catching up because, you know, advertising is a reflection of society. So, as societies become more modern and progress the advertising will reflect that. But certainly from a Canadian perspective, I think the work that we project is pretty spot on.
I think we've got to take it to the next level now. But what I'd like to see is some more honest stuff and brave stuff, less kind of apologetic stuff. And that's I think that's the next kind of life cycle.
Q: That's really interesting. I think what I'm hearing is that people are trying to make work that's forward thinking but it can be a little forced. Is that fair?
Jenny: Yeah, I think it's almost like a little bit of old-fashioned feminism like “hey, here's a product for you, lady.” And I think women have moved on, quite frankly. And I think that's why you always need women in the room because that's where brands go wrong; when they don't have actual people (women) in the room to provide feedback and say “actually, you know, we don't need our own pen because we can just use a normal pen” etc. (in reference to the Bic Lady Pen example).
Q: That's a great example of how female empowerment has become a centerpiece of several brands.
Jenny: I think we still have a job to do in how we cast and how we make all those small little decisions in advertising to show better diversity, to show people as they really are, you know? Not to pick a 35-year old ex-supermodel as the mother of an 18-year old. What we show in advertising is incredibly important and incredibly powerful. So, we're setting the norms and we're saying this is what a family looks like. You know, this is what a teenage girl looks like. You know, we, to a large degree define those things and I think we need to be really careful. We think it's just casting but we're actually sending out really important messages and we've got to be cognizant of that with every decision that we make.
Q: Specifically thinking about the young women that are entering the industry. How do you think they're different than you and your female counterparts from when you were starting out in advertising?
Jenny: I mean what I can say, and this something that I felt in South Africa and it's the reason we started Open Chair, is that the big problem in the industry was that that there were great women in the industry but too few of them. And I think that one thing that's kind of happened in recent times is that there are now starting to be a few more women in senior positions.
So, at least as a younger person coming in you can now look up and see someone that's thriving. I think that you cannot underestimate how important that is. Because I remember a time when I was a Senior Copyrighter and I looked up and there was nothing at the top (in terms of women in creative leadership positions) and it didn't put me off but it just made me wonder what happens to all of the women? And it made me wonder other things too, like can I have a child? But all I needed was to see one person that I knew that was doing it and I was like, okay I can do that too. And that's why I think it's so important to have women in those positions. The right women.
Q: That's amazing. Because I know you do have two daughters, would you encourage them to get into this industry?
Jenny: I wouldn't discourage them. I want them to do something that they enjoy. And that is kind of linked to their talents. I have been really happy in advertising. I love my job and the one thing I hope that I'm teaching them as I go off on another business trip or come home late, is that a) you can earn your own money and be independent and b) that actually you can love your job because it's an important and substantial part of like your life and you spend a lot of hours working so you better do something that you love. And I hope that that's something that I'm teaching them.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about Open Chair? I don't know that we have something like that here (Canada) but it sounds like it's an amazing program. I don't think a lot of people know about it.
Jenny: Yeah. So, it was a very simple kind of premise and like I said it came from the idea that we just didn't think that there were enough female senior people to go around. So, the chances were that if you were working in advertising you weren't working for or with a senior female creative. And so what we did is we picked a group of great senior women in the industry and we did a sort of speed dating thing where you get to speak to like 12 great senior women for five minutes and you get to ask questions and we exchanged numbers if they wanted to. And it was really just so you could rub off a little bit (on the younger women) or you could receive the rub off of some senior women in the industry. Yeah. So it was a really, really simple thing that we kind of patched together on our own. It wasn't like a big corporate sponsor deal but I think it was just about us making a plan.