In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Campaign US is spotlighting Hispanic executives from across the industry. This interview with Nancy Reyes, CEO of TBWA\NY, has been lightly edited.
What is it like to be a Latino/Hispanic in the advertising industry?
I was recently speaking to a client about this. My response was, “OMG, I don’t think I have ever been more Latina than I am now.” In the 24 years I have been working in this industry, the Latino/Hispanic identity has evolved. Or rather, the industry’s recognition of our identity has evolved in a transformative way.
When I was growing up, assimilation was key to survival. We were told to lay low, keep our heads down, blend in and literally suppress the Latina in us so we wouldn’t be noticed, picked up by “la migra” or make trouble. We spoke English, were grateful for what we were given and learned the ways of the people around us, often shedding what we were born with to do so.
How has it changed since you first started?
Today we are having an entirely different conversation. We talk about bringing our whole selves to work — all parts of the Latina in me. I’ve been pretty honest when I say I don’t know what that is, because I can’t figure out if that’s the same person I am now, or the one I lost 35 years ago.
That being said, I love today’s conversation — a celebration and exploration of our identities, cultures and a desire to express that to its fullest. I have to acknowledge the progress, because it is not how we started.
How would you like to see brands honor Hispanic Heritage Month this year?
It’s important brands first have proper representation in their own house. Only then are they able to effectively celebrate the achievements of the Latin community. Look inside, always, before you look outside.
Where has the advertising industry made progress with diversity and inclusion? What still needs to be done?
At TBWA, we treat diversity as a client on our roster. That's our blueprint on how to organize and measure progress. At an agency, clients are given the highest priority. Now DE&I receives this same level of prioritization and dedication.
We’ve redesigned our recruitment process to reduce bias and ensure objectivity. We reignited Youngbloods, a creative residency that selects high-potential creatives from diverse backgrounds who will benefit from additional training and mentorship. We reviewed our compensation policies to ensure all employees, regardless of race, ethnicity and gender, are paid fairly.
We set up clear, easily accessible resources for education, including a micro-aggressions curriculum and a guide to allyship, activities to practice learnings and growth and mindful ways to use new understandings. We regularly run Listening Circles, which are safe, inclusive, open spaces for employees to share, feel heard and learn from each other’s lived experiences.
We’re building a process that uplifts unheard voices, marginalized communities and diverse experiences in our work, a notable example being our work for non-profit Family Equality. We launched OneSandbox, a platform that connects agencies and clients with diverse vendors, and has helped TBWA’s agencies invest over $300MM with women and minority-owned businesses. TBWA\Chiat\Day NY is also committed to diverse creative discovery, joining Free The Work, and includes diverse directors in each bid.
Looking externally, it’s important I acknowledge the incredible work the folks over at 3 Percent Movement and ADCOLOR are doing to ensure a more equitable industry.
What is something you love about your culture?
The way we express ourselves. What some call spicy we call love and passion. ALL IN!
How would you like to see your culture represented in the industry and by brands?
I’m often quoted saying that nothing feels better than when it’s been earned. This can be attributed to personal accomplishments as well as brands. Brands can only earn consumers’ respect through proper representation. The business of creativity is unpredictable, and agencies and brands are only as strong as the people who make the decisions.
I would like the industry to ensure DE&I is a business objective. Only then will cultures be appropriately represented.