Don’t call the hiring of four women creative directors at CP+B a big deal (even if it is)

CP+B

Four different perspectives. Four new creative directors. Four talented people who want to help nurture the next wave of creative talent for one of the industry’s top agencies. Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Boulder office has promoted four of its employees to the creative director position recently, but they don’t want you to think they were put there just as a diversity ploy, which is why we haven’t mentioned that all are women. Until now.

Kelly McCormick, Stephanie Kohnen, Mona Hasan and Quinn Katherman, all previously ACDs, were promoted to creative directors within the agency, and the company hopes that all four will help push the agency forward.

“These four have been vital contributors to multiple noteworthy campaigns, clients and new business. Their incredible talent, work ethic and creative instincts push the agency forward in a new way every day. It’s an honor to have them help lead and shape the next generation of creativity of CP+B in Boulder,” said Ralph Watson, chief creative officer at CP+B.

McCormick has been at CP+B since 2010, most recently working on Infiniti, Domino’s and American Airlines. Her work on the launch of American Express Small Business Saturday in 2012 resulted in top honors across industry award shows, including two Cannes Grand Prix, a Gold Effie and Clio. She was later identified by Creativity as the second most-awarded copywriter that year. Prior to CP+B, Kelly worked at McCann Erickson NY.

Kohnen has been at CP+B since 2013, working on Kraft, Domino’s, Best Buy, Windows Phone and Fruit of the Loom. In 2014, she received an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Interactive Experience” as well as multiple Webby awards for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon website and mobile app. A Detroit native, Stephanie spent 10 years creating work for automotive brands like Lexus, Toyota, Ford, Cadillac, GM and Chrysler, which included a Gold Effie-winning Mustang Customizer Integrated Campaign for Ford.

Hasan has been at CP+B since 2012, contributing to Fruit of the Loom, Domino’s, Kraft and Under Armour. While at CP+B, she introduced Domino’s virtual voice ordering assistant ‘Dom’ on TV, and has led recent efforts to modernize the Fruit of the Loom brand such as the launch of a faux line of high-end plastic pants called 'Plastique”. Prior to CP+B, Mona worked on traditional and digital initiatives for brands like Nike+, Travelocity, Gold’s Gym, and EAS sports nutrition at R/GA and McKinney. She has been recognized with Cannes, One Show, Clio, D&AD, LIA and MIXX Awards.

Katherman joined CP+B in December 2015 and helped the agency win multiple brands from The Hershey Company. She went on to introduce a majestic unicorn for Ice Breakers. Quinn began her career as a humor writer for Recycled Paper Greetings, acquiring a large following and being named one of “18 Funny Women to Follow” by The Huffington Post. She wrote for the Sonic account for Barkley, then went to Arnold Worldwide to give voice to Progressive.

The four were hired following six VP-level employees leaving CP+B Boulder to launch a new venture. That takes away nothing from their talent, their drive and their will to take CP+B to new places and new successes.

“We're all excited for ourselves but when I found out I was part of a great group getting promoted together, there's nothing better than feeling like you're at the caliber that the rest of these women are. I know what these guys have been doing and how hard they work. It just made me feel even that much greater about my own promotion,” said McCormick.

“Regardless of whether we're women or not, I think we're some of the hardest working people in the building. It's nice to feel like that was recognized and you earned those promotions based off of that and not just because we're women. I know that's not why Crispin promoted us. It's just nice to have some women in leadership positions here at Crispin. We're really excited for the opportunity to mentor a lot of the up and coming powerhouse ladies kicking butt in the office,” said Kohnen.

“We have so many young, talented, creatives here and young women who I think we all feel excited to have the opportunity to mentor more and to just show them you work at a place that believes in you and believes in women and believes in your talent,” added Katherman.

“The title only means being able to do great work, more, better, awesome work. That's what I'm excited about,” said Hasan.

Promoted and Appreciated Because of Talent

While all four women believe that they were hired for their talent and not their gender, they do acknowledge that the hiring of four smart, strong and talented women is something that has perked up ears in the industry.

“Everybody in this room is super talented. We've all been promoted before – not at the same time, not necessarily to creative director – but this particular promotion, we received an overwhelming number of people I haven't talked to in years, old agency friends, people in this agency who I've never even met before, so many people on Facebook giving me calls. I had a text message with someone, I don't even know who it was. It just made me realize people want this. People are ready for that change, not just having the same old white typical male perspective on work. I think a lot of the people who've reached out to us are looking for their opportunity as well to become part of this new stage in advertising,” said Hasan.

“I think we have clients who are excited to see this change happening at their agency as well, that we're taking on a bigger leadership role on accounts that we were already leaders on. They already saw us in this role and now it's official. I think that it speaks highly of Crispin because of that,” added Katherman.

A Need for More Diverse Leadership to Move the Industry Forward

Having strong women leaders in the industry is important for the next generation and also for clients, who often want a different perspective. But it’s still an uphill battle.

“I don't want to say for everyone because I think Steph said she had some wonderful women leaders in her career, but that's probably the exception to the rule. Quinn said she had none. I think maybe I've only ever worked for one. Something I've noticed is that in client relationships, our clients often have women in really powerful roles. I actually have found myself respecting and looking up to them versus anyone agency side. To Quinn's point, so far they've just been overwhelmingly supportive and excited for us. I met with Karen Kaiser who's VP of marketing at Domino's, a really strong, successful woman. She just could not say enough about the four of us. Likewise, Alison Witherspoon, who's head of Infiniti marketing US, she could not be happier that Crispin, who she's working with is an agency that aligns with similar outlook,” said McCormick.

“It's one of those things where it's like what's good for our business ends up being good for their business," added Katherman.

“What has made the agency a little brighter these days is we're not the only people who've gotten promoted in recent weeks. Crispin has really done a good job about promoting a bunch of other creatives much deserved for the promotions. Other departments as well. We keep getting emails it feels like every day where someone's gotten promoted. It feels like a long time coming for everyone so it's really nice to see that talent inside these walls is being recognized and no one feels stuck or stagnant. It's really nice to know that people above us are looking out for people and recognizing talent and fostering it,” said McCormick.

Next Steps Forward for the Agency

The group wants to be considered a strong agency, first and foremost, known for having the talent and diversity to meet client needs no matter what they may be, not just for one style.

“We have people from all different disciplines working on a business from different points of view that you couldn't get anywhere else. That's a huge part of what makes us great by comparison,” said Katherman.

“Every person, us four, we all have completely different sensibilities. Yeah, we all can do funny. Yeah, we all can do serious. Yeah, we all can do cars, but I think given the power, we each have our own voice and that's what would help make it what Quinn calls the ‘agency versus a pigeonholed agency,” added Hasan.

Kohnen sees that every client is different, so every solution must be different as well.

“Each client comes with its own challenges and its own unique problems to solve. We always just try to bring the most interesting, breakthrough perspective we can that's going to impact culture and make them topical. We all wear different hats all the time in terms of what we're trying to say and what we're trying to solve. That's what's so exciting is every brief brings a different possibility and a different perspective for us to do something great,” she said.

While they don’t like dwelling on the fact that they hold a unique role in advancing women in the advertising world, they do acknowledge that it comes with some responsibility.

“I think the four of us will definitely be more aware of the hard working women beneath us and looking out for times when they may be stuck in a role that they should have long ago gotten out of, risen out of, and try and help foster all talent but specifically female talent beneath us. That at least has become a goal of mine even though I never thought it was going to. I appreciate the opportunities I've gotten and I really want that for other women,” said McCormick.

“In a year from now, hopefully you'll be talking to four female creative directors somewhere else, not just at Crispin,” concluded Hasan.

Additional reporting/interview by Doug Zanger.

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