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London, Oct. 23: As the creative head of the world’s biggest advertising group, Neil French can usually be relied on to come up with a catchy slogan.
But on Friday, with his career as worldwide creative director of the advertising agency WPP abruptly terminated, it seemed clear that “women are crap” was not one of his most successful.
French, a leading figure in British advertising’s golden age in the 1970s, provoked a fierce row over work place sexism after delivering a diatribe against women colleagues at a conference in Toronto.
According to Globe & Mail, when asked to explain the dearth of women in advertising, the cigar-chomping French said: “Women don’t make it to the top because they don’t deserve to. They’re crap.”
He added that women inevitably “wimp out and go suckle something”. During the discussion, French, 61, had a waitress wearing a French maid’s uniform serve him drinks. His comments provoked several people to walk out and one of his senior female colleagues later to write an angry rejoinder on the Net that was sent around the advertising world.
Nancy Vonk, co-chief creative officer at WPP’s Ogilvy agency in Toronto, said she was “still partially paralysed” by his remarks, which were made two weeks ago.
What worried her most, she said, was that “he was voicing the inner thoughts of legions of men in senior ranks of our business”. She added: “I almost managed to blank out the idiocy of the French maid for a while... but by the time Neil let into the women ' the slacker-breeders who he made clear really don’t belong in this man’s game ' my jaded jaw hit the floor.”
French, a former pornographer and bullfighter, is nicknamed “The Godfather”.
He admitted using the word “crap” but claimed he had been trying to argue that women could not work the hours required by the industry if they had families to look after.