Diana Papuc, Group Creative Director at Leo Burnett is the Romanian Juror at Eurobest 2016, while the Art Director Miruna Macri was the first Romanian representative in the “See it, Be it” program in Cannes, earlier this year. They are both part of #LadiesFirst, the lobby platform created to support, promote and encourage Romanian talent at international scale. More about Ladies First, the idea behind it, its results and goals and how Facebook gender options was an inspiration, in an interview with the initiator of the concept, Teo Migdalovici.
AdHugger: Ladies First – how did the idea appear and why?
The idea of the magazine is the practical answer for several questions that bothered me over the years spent as a festival hunter: How do we fight the western tabloid clichés about Romanian women? How do we lobby for talented, professionally accomplished, entrepreneurial women working in the creative industries globally? How can we bring together some of the most effervescent minds and souls of our industry, in the name of diversity, involving both the men and women behind them, in a far greater movement, the one of promoting Romanian talent beyond our borders? How do we demonstrate to potential top level employers and international head hunters that Romania might be the best territory to find highly educated, result-oriented, yet fresh talent?
Was it yet another platform to promote Romania, but also to help you in your daily projects as the Lions ambassador?
Indeed. You see, I am a dreamer, but a dreamer with a vocation for the practical aspects as well. Beyond these topics related to improving Romania’s reputation abroad, I had my very specific goals as the Lions Festivals’ ambassador. I was considering for some time now a collection of well-curated biographies for potential jurors, so when the Jury Director would ask me for the candidates’ recommendations, I could have instant access to impeccable, ready-to-publish biographies and photographs.
Not to mention the dedicated program for women in Cannes.
Then there was, of course, the “See it, Be It” program – the competences accelerator launched by the Cannes Lions organisation in 2013. I truly wanted to see a Romanian woman being part of it. I have unsuccessfully recommended smart, gifted people in the first two years. They were good, but the competition was tough.
I realised that just by endorsing talented creative females for the “See it, Be it” platform won’t be enough. Something bigger, more efficient, had to be done, in order to see someone from Romania part of that special gang. So the questions followed: What about influential men that could recommend those women? What about an entire platform to bring some light not on just individual biographies, but on a country-sized movement?
Those were the challenges. I wondered whether I can answer all these questions, plus the one related to the gender gap, with just one statement. And that is how #LadiesFirst came to life.
What were the reactions?
When the gender gap wave hit the shores of the local creative industry, the reactions varied. I remember one Creative Director asking me if he needs to wear a skirt to qualify for the jury and another posted on Facebook a picture of a female dog in front of his computer, with a copy along the lines of: “In our agency, we take the diversity topic very seriously”. Funny, right? So I was wondering if I could have men naturally involved in the conversation, transforming them from gossipers or nay-sayers in the very ambassadors for female creativity. This is how the recommendations structure came along. Ladies First was not yet another glossy magazine with beautiful pictures, it was the top of the top in the creative industry, on the male side, to support, encourage and wholeheartedly recommend female talents. The magazine became a social experiment, where men were invited to be part of the gender gap topic in a positive key, in the name of diversity.
The production of magazine stands out, although it is a white-on-white cover. What was the intention behind these typographical choices?
In this world, there is no one single way to reach a goal. The roads from a problem to the solution are many. Choosing one way over another says a lot about what you are standing for. In this case, I wanted to express that even if one goes on very delicate, almost invisible path, one can nevertheless reach amazing results. Working with women in creativity is very often the same. Maybe they are not making the biggest noise; maybe some of them are soft in appearance, but oh boy what kind of amazing results they can put on the table! This is why the title of the magazine can only be seen if the object is kept in perspective, looked at attentively and long enough. Otherwise, the cover is just a small golden logo in an ocean of white. It was a metaphor for women’s style in creativity. It is not the men’s way, it’s a different path, but the outcome is outstanding. Eventually, #LadiesFirst became a plea for diversity, beyond gender. Opting between men and women is like choosing an extrovert over an introvert. Creativity is all about fresh perspectives on reality, so we should embrace all those capable of generating valuable perspectives, regardless of their typologies. How should we expect different outcomes, if we listen to one and the same voice? As of March 2016, Facebook has 71 options in the gender box area, plus a custom option. Why is that? Because they implicitly encourage diversity in all shapes and sizes, while giving the ability to identify yourself as however you want. I think they have a very nice example of gender democracy and that inspired me while shaping up the magazine.
You spoke about making a difference. The magazine has been public for 3 months now. What are the notable changes?
Firstly, Miruna Macri was selected for “See it, Be it” 2016 – truly a dream come true. Then, Diana Papuc ended up in the Eurobest Jury. Those are two tangible examples that Ladies First served its goal – to endorse, help and promote Romanian creative women internationally. And the movement is just beginning. After the launch in Cannes, another followed in Bucharest, during the Embassies Festival opening gala, at the end of August. To endorse the talented people presented in the magazine, we exhibited at the venue some design statements via Lana Dumitru, Irina Pogonaru and Dizainar, to the international diplomatic community. It was a blast. The result made me consider the launch of the magazine, along with a photography exhibition, in the Romanian Embassies and Cultural Institutes abroad, in those countries where Romania’s reputation was damaged or threatened by constant negative comments in the press.
The project has the potential for an international career, that’s for sure. I couldn’t be happier about it, because Ladies First is yet another pioneer challenge that materialized far better than I expected.