Will the Female Creatives Please Stand Up?

8th Mar 2019

The media industry in Ireland is brimming with female talent, but we have a long way to go before we achieve the gender balance in creative departments.

By Cara Doyle, Head of Content Partnerships at Packed.House

According to the recent IAPI census, there is a 70/30 male to female ratio in creative departments in Ireland, and in the UK only 12% of Creative Directors are female. Charley Stoney CEO of IAPI believes that the Irish creative and media industry needs to make an environment that enables creative women to thrive. “There are very few female Creative Directors in Ireland, and yet the same number of males and females enter the industry, so what happens? A more dynamic and flexible work environment is essential to retaining female creative talent.”

In the first of our Packed.House interview series, Cara Doyle, Head of Content Partnerships at Packed.House caught up with Stine Bjerre Herdel, Head of Creative at Børsen, which is the most significant financial news media entity in Denmark.

Below, she tells us what it’s like to lead a creative department and also gives advice to other women who are considering a career in creative media.

What does your role entail? What is a typical day for you?

I feel somewhat like a swiss knife most of the time, but that’s ok. I am Head of Creative at Børsen, Denmark’s biggest financial news media. Here I have built up a small agency called Børsen Creative where we do all sorts of content-based partnerships, as well as traditional native advertising. My role entails business development, branding, and marketing of Børsen Creative, but I also have a lot to do with the common production, being sort of the editor-in-chief, and even participate in developing pitches and onboarding new clients. I’m also the everyday people manager of my team making sure they are okay, making sure they develop the right skills and that they know where we are going. And occasionally I still write an article too—just because I probably will never stop writing.

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women. In your experience as a successful woman, what is its significance?

I guess I feel ambiguous about International Women’s Day because as long as it is there, it is a reminder that we are consistently a bit behind. Or looked at as a bit behind. But then at the same time, it is so important to have that day to remind us that we are NOT behind. We can do whatever we want as women. And if we don’t want to do it, that’s OK. International Women’s Day to me is not about “superwomen”. I think one of the biggest issues for women these days is that we are so freaking stressed! I am 43 and I think half the women I know have had to take a leave from work for a shorter or longer period because of stress. And I believe that it might be because many of us feel that it’s not ever okay to take the easy way and/or to just think about yourself. We have this idea that we have to be so special. Either a very special mum, especially beautiful, a totally special friend or a special talent. And if we could be ALL of that, THEN we would be happy. And when it’s not that way, our worlds fall apart. I don’t see that happening to men in the same scale.

So, I love International Women’s Day, because there are so many cool women and that needs to be said— but when it’s said, I would also love to celebrate all other women too. Because if we don’t want to slowly kill our sex with stress and stress-related diseases, we need to talk more about that it’s actually also really okay not to be amazing all the time! Maybe you are reading this while you are in the sofa chilling, eating a gorgeous cake you just baked, not giving a damn about the word “career” or being “significant”. You are just happy. Awesome! You are probably going to live longer than me.

What is your biggest influence and/or icon?

You know, I could say Wonder Woman or my mum or something, but I am not sure it is just one person. I think I work kind of like a sponge that sucks up bits and pieces from people that impress or inspire me. Or provoke me into thinking “I am definitely NOT going to be like him/her”. But I regularly get a professional crush on someone, and I love to network.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

There are a lot of barriers in my field! But they are more about ethics and professional paradigms than about being a woman, I think. But last year I stumbled across some research that showed that women are willing to take more risks when they take a job. Not risks in the understanding of “I don’t know if I can do this” but more like “Hey I’m not quite sure what this is and where it will take me – but I’m up for it”. I think that’s what we here in Scandinavia refer to as the “Pippi-spirit”. And I definitely have the Pippispirit—I love trying stuff I haven’t done before. Which I think is a crucial spirit when working with native advertising. But putting a “Pippi” in charge of a business unit in a traditional financial paper can— admittedly—be a little bit uphill sometimes. I have had to do a lot of convincing, which is a little bit hard because I am really not a patient person!

Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in the creative industry?

Patience. Pippi-spirit. And a Teflon cover. By Teflon cover I mean don’t take things too personally. Because sometimes you feel like you are right in a Bermuda Triangle of expectations and pressure from sales, customers and editorial, and you just can’t seem to make any of them really happy! And in the end, you and all your good intentions just tend to disappear. So, my best advice is to do your best to keep repeating the message about what creative content is about—making great solutions where creativity and strong stories move people and attitudes. And when it doesn’t always end up that way, don’t beat yourself up about it. We are still shaping creative advertising as a profession, so we need to be pioneers. And pioneers don’t always get things right the first time, but they are the important reason that we move ahead.

What are the key trends you foresee in the branded content/creative space?

For me it’s about convincing advertisers that it is the really good stories that make a difference and not just product-blabla, this is a battle we are STILL fighting, which really, really beats me! So, from my chair, I think we are heading into a phase of much more proving our point. And this was also something I noticed at The Native Advertising DAYS there were several presentations of research that can help us qualify the discussions with actual proof.

In Denmark I am aiming towards creating a thought leadership position on this field because I cannot discuss anymore with people who “think” it would be better to do it this way, or they “feel” or “insist” that the effect would be better if we removed the “AD” declaration or mentioned their product name about four million times in the article.
So, in April, I am hosting a big conference in Copenhagen on behalf of Børsen where I will present the result of two large studies we have made this winter together with Wilke and Neurons. We have studied people’s brains now and interviewed over 1000 people! And this will teach us so much new cool stuff and provide us with real facts about how the audience feel about native advertising. How do they interact with it, what creates a feeling of value, how should we declare it.

What’s been the most successful campaign you have worked on and what in your opinion made it so successful?

It is hard to pick just one. And the success to me is not always a success to the advertiser. To me, the greatest success is when we manage to create stories that really matches the interest of Børsen’s readers. When I feel that we use our journalistic skills and combine them with strategy. But maybe the campaign we were part of doing for Siemens is a good example. I cannot take all the credit for it because it was driven mainly from DNX in Norway, but we have been four countries contributing with content created to match four different countries all carrying the same strategic message from Siemens. And the stories are really popular amongst the readers.

What do you think are some of the obstacles companies face when trying to execute on a content strategy?

The main obstacle is that many companies still think traditional marketing is the way we have done it for the last 20 years. And branded content seems to take too many resources in companies and the results still seem too fluffy. But in a complex world with so much stuff and so many messages that are all kind of the same, your brand has become one of the most important value drivers again. And branded content is just such a crucial and natural part of creating emotions and strong branding. I don’t know what the solution is exactly, if marketing and communication would work more together in the companies out there I think we would see marketing moving from a little less product orientated marketing into some more strategic, like using native advertising for carrying the central strategic message and then combine it with more tactical messages in other formats.

What other major publishers do you think do a good job creating native content?

In a Nordic perspective, DNX is definitely one of my favorite ones, the content agency of Dagens Næringsliv, a financial paper of Norway. The reason is that they have made some great campaigns but also because they think of their role more like a “news publisher’s content agency” than just a unit that produces branded content. And since I’m really interested in the business model within the news media industry and not just native advertising, I think they are moving the right way. And I’m trying to do the same for us at Børsen Creative now.

How do you think native advertising will develop over the period of the next five years?

I have absolutely no idea because there are game changers every freaking year! Which makes it so frustrating to work with—and so cool.