Taylor Schaffer was eating lunch Wednesday at her new job with the Indianapolis advertising agency Young & Laramore when a co-worker informed her that the industry blog Adrants had written about her for what the blogger identified as “salaciously selfish, purely prurient, Neanderthal-ish reasons.”
In a since-deleted post entitled “Why We Want to Work at Young & Laramore!” Steve Hall published the headshots of Schaffer and two other new hires alongside the explanation that he “just might need an agency tour” to meet the “trio of beauty,” if you catch his drift.
In his eagerness, Hall misspelled Schaffer’s name, as well as that of her colleague Sarah Holcombe.
Hall initially dismissed criticisms on Twitter as being overly sensitive, and told Schaffer that though the post made made her feel “squirmy,” he had only meant it in “the most gentlemanly way possible.”
Hall ultimately deleted the post, saying that he took it down after Schaffer told him via direct message that she found the post embarrassing. Naturally, the whole thing wound up on the feminist blog Jezebel.
“I was really trying, poorly, to be funny. It was a failure,” Hall told Business Insider. “Despite what people may say, I am truly a nice guy. Get to know me, find me at a conference, you won’t hate me.”
To be clear, the point of this post is not to say that Steve Hall is anything but the nice guy he says he is. Indeed, he was perfectly pleasant and forthcoming when I spoke with him on the phone.
But the fact remains that just 3% of advertising creative directors are women. As someone who has been involved in advertising for nearly three decades, Hall knows this.
He also recently called the “quite hot” Adweek correspondent Lauren Reeves his “new favourite Adbabe.” And he defended an Axe ad last year that portrayed a female office employee as nothing more than boobs and legs.
“I don’t know that anybody goes to work every day thinking of themselves in that light,” Schaffer said in an interview with Business Insider. “To have your appearance be the feature that was highlighted, especially when you’re trying to establish yourself and make good impressions, it makes you feel like a bimbo.”
Though Hall said he was sorry he wrote the post, his actions since suggest he doesn’t entirely understand why people are so upset. When Holcombe sarcastically asked him on Twitter whether taking the article down meant “U don’t think I’m prety?” Hall took the taunt literally and reassured her that he still did.
In our conversation, Hall said that while the blog has carried some graphic content since he started it in 2002, it has never been his intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. He also said it’s not his intention to be sexist, pointing out that he’s written posts calling out advertisers for sexist ads and that he’ll be attending a conference next week on how to better integrate women into the advertising industry.
“I might joke like that, I might say some jokes publicly or privately, but I’m not that person and I don’t want to be that person,” Hall said. “That post wasn’t really representative of the person that I want people to see me as.”
“While he is absolutely the perpetrator of this ridiculousness, I’m not angry at him,” Schaffer said. “It was just so ludicrous, and there was a part of me that feels like if that’s your mindset, then I’m kind of sorry for you because 2013 is calling, and you should be introduced to it.”
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