Unspoken Rules of the Creative Game: Insights to Shape the Next Generation from Top Advertising Creative Women

Document Type




Publication Date



Advertising Educational Foundation

Source Publication

Advertising & Society Review

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1353/asr.2011.0009


This study addresses gender issues in advertising creative departments and defines some of the unspoken rules in the creative game. Based on the interviews of twenty top creative women from the United States and Canada, the study focuses on the work creative women do, how they do it, and the environment in which they work. Content analysis of in-depth interviews led to the emergence of four thematic categories: the business, about personality, the work, and being female. Ultimately, knowing the unspoken rules will help prepare future generations of advertising creatives for the challenges that lie ahead. For women, knowledge of these rules is of paramount importance, as the highly masculine creative environment influences all aspects of a creative's career trajectory from hiring to promotion.

Developing and sustaining a successful career in advertising creative is at the very least a challenge. A complex set of issues, including gender imbalance within creative departments, plays a role in shaping future generations of advertising creatives. Adapting to the rapidly changing advertising world, while navigating the gender-bound environment of creative departments, is difficult for most junior creatives. It is particularly demanding for women.

The objective of this study is to share what we have learned after interviewing twenty top creative women from across the United States and Canada. In short, our goal is to learn from women at the top—to find out why there are so few women at the top—thereby helping prepare junior creatives, particularly women, as they learn to adapt to this demanding environment. With so few women at the top within advertising creative departments, tapping into the experiences of those who have made it has the potential to shed new light on the complex issues that prevent many women from rising to the top. Along the way we hope to contribute to improving the environment within creative departments for everyone.


Advertising & Society Review, Vol.12, No. 1 (2011), DOI.