In posting a series of tips from a lecture by George Tannenbaum, executive creative director and copy chief at Ogilvy New York, on how to foster a successful career in advertising, the agency seems to have gotten itself into a bit of a foot-in-mouth situation.
No. 12 on the list of 60 pro tips from Tannenbaum suggested that women, and specifically women, “forget about trying to get on one of those 40 under 40 lists” but “stick instead to your knitting.”
The post was deleted rather quickly, but not before it turned a few heads.
— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) October 3, 2018
The agency also took down the page from which the quote was drawn where Tannenbaum relayed “60 Thoughts From a Career in Advertising.”
“Stick to knitting” is an idiom for sticking to what you’re good at or remaining heads down on the work. Tannenbaum may well have been suggesting that employees not be concerned with winning awards but rather focus on producing good work, as he did conclude with “accolades will follow.”
Why the statement singled out women is unclear, though the term “knitting” has clearly gendered undertones. Tannenbaum did not respond to a direct request for comment so the context of his quote is not entirely clear.
“We got this wrong. It is not reflective of our agency or our beliefs,” an Ogilvy spokesperson said in response.
The agency did not clarify why it also chose to delete the page.
Ogilvy has recently been involved in several projects focused on gender equality, including the UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance and the World Afro Day campaign. At this year’s Cannes festival, the agency also said it would be hiring at least 20 women in high-level creative roles by the end of 2020.