The Story Behind That Ridiculous 97% Conference Twitter Account

And how using humor adds to the diversity conversation

Last year, at the annual 3 Percent Conference, a movement designed to get more women in creative leadership positions, an interesting Twitter account called The 97 Percent Conference popped up purporting to represent the other 97 percent of the advertising industry—men, naturally.

The account began tweeting things like "Not sure what #CannesLions would be like if we let in more lady CDs. Peacocking and dong waving is really the heart and soul of the thing," and "I mean, can lady CDs even grow a cool hipster beard? #MaintainTheRatio."

Soon after the arrival of the 97 Percent Conference account, women in the advertising community—including Kat Gordon, the 3 Percent Conference founder, and Cindy Gallop—took notice, interacting with the account and praising it for its humorous approach to a serious issue facing the industry.

At this year's 3 Percent Conference in New York, the genius behind the parody Twitter account revealed himself—yes, a man is behind the account—to the world and shared why he created it in the first place.

John Kovacevich, a freelance creative director and copywriter, was putting his daughter to bed a year ago, scrolling through his Twitter feed and taking in all the key quotes and moments coming out of last year's 3 Percent Conference when he was struck by how ridiculous it all was.

"I was thinking, who in the world would be against gender equity in our business?" Kovacevich said. "And then I thought, well, there's a lot of people against gender equity, and what if we give voice to how absurd some of those things were?"

Thus, the parody account was born. Not everyone caught on to the fact that it was a parody at first, but most people seemed to get it. For Kovacevich, it was a way to satirize some very topical issues that, for some, are difficult to confront. Humor was the best way to do that, he thought.

Speaking about the account a year later at this year's conference, Kovacevich said he felt completely "inadequate and unqualified" to make statements about gender and diversity simply because he "created a parody Twitter account." But, he noted, he thinks "there is a role for humor in advocating for change."

In a Medium post today, Kovacevich also noted that over his career, he has worked with many talented women and seen some of the "extra crap" women have to deal with in the ad world. 

While Kovacevich said he is well aware that his Twitter account won't fix the gender issue in advertising, humor can "get people to have a physical and emotional response to break down some of the bullshit."

"I think that in any cause, if all we are doing is lecturing people, it's going to be very hard to convert people," he added.

In the case of the 97 Percent Conference account, the humor was simply a way to not necessarily fix the issue, but start a conversation around diversity and inclusion or add to the existing conversation.

"Sometimes absurdity demands an absurd response," Kovacevich said.