The Luckiest Man in Advertising

Ryan bio photo
Ryan Swartz
Creative Director
January 12, 2018
January 12, 2018

It’s no secret some men in the entertainment industry haven’t had a good year. Quite honestly, it was a long time coming. Unfortunately though, most of us don’t seem all that surprised to hear this industry was riddled with impropriety.

While far less public, the advertising industry has an equally torrid history of encouraging a culture of sexism. It’s very fitting that the entertainment industry made a TV show about advertising during a time where this behavior was common, and then glamorized it.


I was lucky to start out in this business with some very open-minded people. One of my first great mentors was a very talented woman with design chops that could hang with the Sagmeisters of the world. I learned a ton from her about what it meant to be a creative; she helped me develop simple design skills and taught me creative work ethic.

My next great mentor was female as well. She was a no-bullshit kind of creative director in the best way. She was key in getting me to focus on design as a way to solve a problem. She was also great at encouraging me to keep developing more and more skills outside my comfort zone.

My streak of luck continued. For years, I was inspired by great creatives, many of whom were female. Some taught me restraint; from others, I learned purpose in my designs.

They all led me to where I am now: an associate creative director at a woman-owned agency. While some men may be uncomfortable with this, I again consider myself lucky — lucky to have had my creative path paved by some of the smartest people I’ve met, who also happen to be women.

I now report to a female creative director who is one of the smartest, strategic and honest creatives I’ve ever had as a role model in this business. In almost four years working with her, I’ve honed many skills that needed sharpening, found myself asking “why” a lot more, and uncovered skills I never knew were there, all because of how she has challenged and mentored me.

Still Work to Do

As of right now, only 11% of all creative directors are female. This is unfortunate, and I hope to be a force for moving that number up. Not just because it sounds good and certainly not because, in light of the current atmosphere, it’s something a man feels like he should just say.

It needs to go up because, without the strong creative women in advertising I’ve met on my journey, I wouldn’t be the creative I am today. I wouldn’t look around a conference room as the only male and not give it a second thought. I wouldn’t be able to bring my two daughters to my office knowing they will leave feeling empowered. I wouldn’t be the luckiest man in advertising.