Future of Work briefing, a weekly email with stories, interviews, trends and links about how work, workplaces and workforces are changing. Sign up here.
In June, following a call to action by Black employees in advertising, agencies and holding companies began to release employee data with regard to race, which shed a light on the glaring lack of diversity at agencies particularly in mid-level and C-Suite roles. At the same time, those agencies committed to become more diverse and to make the internal culture more inclusive.
How agencies have addressed the call to action in the months since then varies. Some have focused on adding chief diversity officers. Shops like DDB, MiQ and Barkley are all currently seeking diversity and inclusion execs, per LinkedIn job postings. And this week, BBDO appointed its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Others have created new internal councils focused on diversity and inclusion. For example, Havas announced its appointments for its new diversity, equity and inclusion committee this wee. And others have tapped consultants to help improve the hiring process as well as overall company culture.
“Agencies recognize that there’s an urgent need to envision themselves as a group that values diversity but they’re not there yet,” said Nandi Welch, co-founder and head of business strategy for the brand consultancy Rupture. In the last two months, the brand consultancy has seen a significant uptick in inquiries, nearly “a year’s worth,” per Welch, to help brands and agencies with strategic work as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Rupture isn’t alone in the uptick in interest from agencies, holding companies and brands in need of help improving diversity and inclusion. Keni Thacker, founder of 100 Roses from Concrete, a network for men of color in advertising, has not only heard from agencies seeking to fill open or newly created diversity and inclusion roles but had requests to help train or coach employees who have been newly appointed in those roles. Some agencies, in a need to fill a diversity and inclusion focused role, have opted to elevate employees who have shown passion for diversity and inclusion into new roles within the agency, said Thacker. Still, training and deploying those staffers to be truly effective will take time.
“Being passionate about [diversity and inclusion] it is one thing but being able to talk to the CEO, to senior leadership and to be able to make the case for diversity, equity and inclusion is a whole other skill set,” said Thacker. “You heard the battle cry of needing more Black and Brown leaders but are you setting them up to win?”
Some agency employees and execs say the focus on adding diversity and inclusion executives to fix systemic issues with diversity and inclusion at agencies can be problematic. By zeroing in on one role to fix a problem with the entire agency, agency employees and execs say that can make it one person’s responsibility rather than the whole agency which can make it difficult for that executive to succeed. Others say that diversity and inclusion execs have been at agencies for years and haven’t been given the power to make true change.
“It takes the entire agency to do this, not just one person,” said Barb Rozman, chief talent officer at Campbell Ewald.
That’s why some agencies, like Innocean and Muhtayzik / Hoffer are leaning more on internal committees to create new policies to better the agencies’ diversity and inclusion rather than adding a diversity and inclusion officer.
Improving diversity and inclusion at agencies has to be a “groundswell movement,” to keep the change going, said Kirk Guthrie, svp and executive director of HR at Innocean, adding that the shop has not only added a new council to help drive new initiatives but committed to regular town halls on diversity and inclusion as well as a pay analysis and to look into its recruiting practices. “It’s very easy for these conversations to be a hot topic for a quarter and then the gravitational pull of client needs slows it down.”
Agency execs and employees say that they worry the push for change and true diversity and inclusion could slow down but are hopeful that agency employees will continue to speak up if it does.
“Agencies are focused on quick fixes sadly,” said Thacker. “Or better yet a more aggressive band-aid solution will put them at the cool kids / woke table. It’s going to literally take years to see the effects of this time on the industry. It needs to be intentional.”
Retail brands rush to cover abortion care, but not all of their workers may be covered
What’s not immediately clear from some of these post Roe announcements is how many employees will be covered by these new policies.
Days Inn seeks unique ways to stand out as people return to traveling
Days Inn is introducing a new, limited-edition amenity: a pillow that compliments guests. It's part of a strategy to find unique ways to stand out and help drive brand awareness.
‘Clients are being cautious’: Roe vs. Wade overturn has advertisers evaluating ads, pausing spending
Some marketers, agency execs are also reconsidering their blocklists, adding phrases related to the Supreme Court to their lists to stem potential brand safety issues.
SponsoredWhy the caliber of content is paramount for advertisers
Agata Brodniewska, brand safety manager, Dailymotion Content is king when attracting consumers but is equally essential when courting advertisers. While both stakeholders want many of the same things, they most notably want relevant content they can count on to deliver an accurate and honest message without confusion or misinformation. This is especially important for advertisers […]
‘We anticipate this percentage will increase’: QuickBooks will allocate more fees to LGBTQ+ influencers
DTC business QuickBooks has found that the more diverse its influencer roster gets, the more effective it is, with content from these influencers more likely to spark a relevant response from viewers.
Why brands want to make NFTs useful, rather than profitable amid the crypto downturn
Despite the volatility in the crypto markets, consumer brands and e-commerce platforms are trying new ways to evolve NFTs from being novel collectibles to something more useful for both consumers and companies.