Brace for 'very uncomfortable' conversations at AdColor 2018

Privilege, wellness and talent are all on the agenda for the 12th annual event, says chairman Marc Strachan.

Strap in for some "very uncomfortable" conversations at this year’s AdColor event.

Focus for the 12th annual conference -- taking place in Downtown Los Angeles over the last week of September -- will fall on topics including privilege, wellness and the industry’s talent of today and tomorrow.

Those coming can expect no pontification, and to leave with the tools for change, said Marc Strachan, AdColor chairman.

"Sometimes everybody wants to play nice in the sandbox," he told Campaign US. "We will have very direct and -- in some cases -- uncomfortable conversations that need to be had if we’re truly going to peel back the onion and provide the diversity and inclusion insight people can walk away with to make changes when they go back to their organization."

Strachan’s was with AdColor at its inception (founded in 2005, officially launched in 2007). Back then it was an award show honoring those in the past the present and the future who had an impact on the advertising business as people of color. The majority of attendees were historically African-American.

This theme continued for around eight years before it evolved into the conference it is today. Now African-Americans make up 25 percent of attendees, with the rest roughly split as 25 percent caucasian, 25 percent Asian and 25 percent Hispanic. There’s a "very good skew" between male and female (around 55 percent women to 45 percent me), said Strachan.

"The titans of the industry were stepping up and coming to AdColor voluntarily because they realize now that it has become the portal for driving the diversity and inclusion discussion across the diaspora for men, for women, for people of color for non-people of color, for agencies, for clients, for media organizations, for tech companies, Hollywood, East Coast and West Coast -- you name it," he said of its evolution. "A lot of what’s taking place in the world and driving the conversation and the change is happening at AdColor."

Highlights include a talk from P&G’s Mark Pritchard, who will unpack race, societal expectations and external pressures in adland. Microsoft will host a discussion on privilege; why it’s considered a dirty word, how it can be earned and the impact it has on career progression for people of color. Viacom will serve up a candid talk on the impact of Me Too and Time’s Up, helmed by some of the industry’s leading women.

Attendees can also expect an AdColor Futures hackathon. The program sources "diamonds in the rough" from colleges and high schools ranks who "get polished and have the great opportunity to become outstanding contributors to advertising." In addition -- and for the first time -- the conference will host an ‘Asians for AdColor’ dinner and discussion.

Strachan explained that this year is different because the conversation are geared toward driving real change. This isn’t a throwaway comment. One of the tools for transformation on offer can actually scale attendees unconscious bias on a scale of zero to 100 and how that impacts their thoughts in and out of the workplace.

He said: "When people continue to say, ‘I can’t find great advertising talent, marketing talent, tech talent, media talent’ -- we will dispel that rumor consistently and sustainably by bringing forth great people, great tools and great future leaders who will come to meet, discuss, collaborate and drive solutions. Not just talk. That’s the difference this year."

The chairman alluded to a surprise or three AdColor has up its sleeve this year, but -- aside from stressing the importance of staying for the very last session for an "outstandingly interest element" -- remained tight-lipped.

"People who come for the first time; be open in your mind and your heart," Strachan added. "You don’t have to agree. We prefer there to be good solid debate on both ends of the spectrum. We don’t profess to have all of the answers because there are many ways to skin a cat and many people are doing wonderful things. We bring the best of the conversation to light because of the transparency."

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