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Women’s History Month: An Interview with Marlene Bartos


Yessian Music's EP/managing director on hoping to see more agencies and businesses with women at the helm

Women’s History Month: An Interview with Marlene Bartos

Tell us about a project where women were at the helm of the creative process?

One of the most exciting projects I was involved with here in the past few years was the Zales campaign at Badger Agency. The account was new for the agency which was founded by their CCO, the amazing Madonna Badger. Zales was looking to polish up a dated and somewhat tarnished image of men being the primary customer for women’s jewellery so the agency created a fresh campaign centred around the idea of women buying their own jewellery for themselves. It included a beautifully diverse cast of women, and it was fun and cheeky and had a fresh energy. In all the work the agency creates, Madonna has been open about her stated commitment to create great creative work that does not objectify women. Or anyone. When her head of production Celeste Holt-Waters asked us to participate in the project we were all in. “We" meaning my two senior producers at the time Evelyn Brown and Angelina Powers and myself. A powerful all woman team here.

What were the triumphs? What were your favourite parts of working on it? Collaboratively?

As a fairly common practice in our industry, we were asked to submit demos along with two other companies and we won that competition for this first big launch for a new campaign for a new client for the agency. It all felt very celebratory - the agency had recently had this big win, we won the competition for the music and the ads themselves celebrated women as individuals. The collaboration was easy and felt natural because we were all women who had strong points of view and weren’t afraid to express them. Everyone had a voice and felt free to express their creative opinions. We were all aligned creatively with Madonna’s vision and felt confident and comfortable working together. It was truly a creative and joyful process. A lot of smiling and “let’s do this” attitude. 

Were women brought to the table because it was a “female brand” or was there another reason?

The women were running the show on this project. The founder and CCO of the agency, the head of production, Celeste, and our team here at Yessian were already in place when the project started so we didn’t have to think about assigning female talent, it was baked in and that should be a much less rare occurrence. I mean, no one thinks it’s unusual when the agency founder /CCO, the head of production and the creative partners are all men. There should be a much more equal balance and less gender bias across the entire industry on all brands, at all agencies and production partners. I know were talking about women here because it’s Women’s month, but the industry has still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity in general - gender, age, ethnicity, colour, size, as well a full range of disabilities. 

What inspires you in the industry? Is there a woman that has inspired you in the industry?

The reason I brought up this specific example is because Madonna and Badger Agency’s continued commitment to end the portrayal of women as objects and to create work that shows them as intelligent, successful people which also includes a broader range of how we define beauty. We have worked on other brand campaigns with Badger agency, including Olay, Dick’s and most recently Clairol and it’s very refreshing to see campaigns redefining how women are portrayed in ads, especially for beauty products. 

What would you like to see more of in the industry, if anything?

I would like to see more agencies and businesses with women at the helm. In addition to Badger Agency, I’ve also worked with Terri & Sandy solution and also admire the work being done by Joan and Fancy. Prior to Yessian, my background was in agency production in senior level positions and the level of bias I encountered along the way was nothing short of astonishing and very detrimental. Thankfully, there were some great female and male mentors along the way. It’s now slowly changing for the better, although a bit too slowly. Personally, I am fortunate to to have found a home at Yessian, where the two owners here see my value as a work partner and a leader, and who have tremendous respect for who I am as a person and what I contribute to the company. More than anything, it’s important to understand that given the right environment and encouragement, everyone has something to contribute.

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Yessian Music, Tue, 21 Mar 2023 17:13:00 GMT