WPP Breaks Silence on Neil French Uproar

25 October 2005

WPP Group has distanced itself from the furore surrounding creative consultant Neil French's comments about "crap" in the context of women creative executives.

French (61), a specialist in attention-seeking outrageous utterances, has resigned his role as creative consultant-at-large for London-headquartered WPP following the hornets' nest stirred up by his speech at an industry dinner in Toronto earlier this month [WAMN: 24-Oct-05].

Says a WPP statement: "These were personal remarks made by Neil French, who has since resigned his part-time position with the Group. If these alleged comments are accurate, they are totally inconsistent with WPP's policies and long-standing approaches to equality and fairness."

Says Nancy Vonk, a co-chief creative officer at WPP's Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto who attended the event: "Nothing prepared us. Even knowing him to be a boy's boy. I never felt that he had such extreme views."

Vonk, however, says there is an upside to the saga, namely that it will focus male minds on an "obvious problem" within the industry, namely the dearth of senior women.

And, adds Judy John, chief creative director at the Toronto office of the Leo Burnett agency, French's calculated controversy might address the "widely held view in this business [that] most men look at women as breeders".

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff