CANNES, France—Google CMO Lorraine Twohill is only the second woman in 25 years to accept the Creative Marketer of the Year award at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. She closed her winning speech, where she noted that Google is “not an easy client” and that the company doesn’t give its agencies “easy briefs,” by saying that being one of two women to accept the award is “lonely” and that she’d like more women to be recognized with the award.
Adweek caught up with Twohill before today’s ceremony to learn more about how Google’s creative has changed, why she thinks they won the award and what she’s hoping to see from the industry. During that conversation, Twohill also spoke about the loneliness of being a woman in a top leadership position in the advertising industry and said she would be wearing black during the ceremony in solidarity.
“There’s no one braver than someone who speaks up who has been through a rough time, who has been sexually harassed or who has been treated differently at work because they are a woman or they feel their career hasn’t progressed because they’re a woman or feels left out,” said Twohill.
She continued: “It’s lonely. You know, I’ve been in many meetings this week—we had an important meeting yesterday—where I’m the only woman. There’s five guys, or nine guys, or seven guys [or] eight of us—seven guys and me. We had lunch yesterday, six of us—five guys and me. It’s lonely!”
“I think while we’re all wearing black today, we’re a community,” said Twohill. “There’s solidarity. We’re a family. It’s a bit less lonely. … I’m only the second woman of 25 years to receive this award.”
To change that, Twohill believes the industry needs to look at leadership roles. “We need to work on senior leadership because these young people are not seeing people like them at the top,” said Twohill. “I’m working on my own team as well. I’m very strong on diversity overall, but I haven’t got enough women of color in senior levels so I’m working on that.”
But the work doesn’t stop with appointing women to senior roles; the industry needs to mentor that talent too, she explained. “I’m pushing all my agencies to make sure that they [are putting women] on every big brief we bring them because if they are not putting women on the big briefs they are not going to get to the table,” said Twohill.
As for Google as a marketer, she explained, “We’re a bit unconventional; we’re not a typical marketing team. We get very involved in our products since we build a lot of interactive things, and [in] our user experience, which I consider marketing because of the different ways of reaching out to people and engaging people, but it’s less traditional.”
The company is digital-first, putting roughly 60 to 70 percent of its media spend in digital. “Given that we’re quite a large advertiser, it’s quite unusual to be that high a percentage,” said Twohill. “We’re very much digital-first in how we think and how we’ve built it, but also we love storytelling. I don’t think those things are at odds.”
The marketing at Google has changed significantly since Twohill took the reins nine years ago. “When I took over it was effectively, ‘we’re launching a product, here’s a blog post and here’s a video of a product manager explaining his product,’ and that was pretty much the marketing,” she said.
Twohill, who wrote a Voice column for Adweek earlier this month about how advertisers can make their brand message more inclusive, believes the truly impactful work shows “real people, real life—we just build the tools and they go off and do something amazing with them. It resonates more with people when we talk about those stories rather than what’s great about us this week.”
The company works with many agencies including Droga5, Anomaly, BBH and 72andSunny. It also has two in-house teams: Creative Lab and Brand Studio.