Marc Strachan on AdColor highlights and his moment of truth

"I had been asking myself for years - despite promotions and titles - 'Do I belong in the room? Do I deserve this seat at the table?'"

This year’s theme of the annual AdColor Conference was "Moment of Truth," with panelists and keynote speakers sharing personal experiences and realities around racial inequality, gender bias, toxic masculinity and much more.

AdColor Chairman Marc Strachan sat down with AdColor after the conference wrapped up on September 21 and shared his own moment of truth.

When Strachan was an assistant account executive at N.W. Ayer & Son early in his career, he was working on the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism account, which was a point of pride for him as someone of Bahamian heritage. A senior planner at the agency put together a media plan with a target audience of men and women 24 to 30 years old making an annual household income of $25,000.

"I said to the senior planner at the time, ‘This is great, but we should expand our reach and impact to talk to African Americans,’ and he said to me, ‘We’re not interested in them. We’re talking about people who travel and make $25,000 a year,’" said Strachan

"I was flabbergasted. I knew a boatload of people who made that money and who were traveling all over the world. And he said that to my face – a person of color, an employee and someone who is Bahamian," added Strachan. 

He said he harbored that anger for years, but it pushed him and helped him down the line become a better marketer, boss, colleague and teammate.

Another moment of truth for Strachan took place about five years ago during his time at Diageo when he was going through executive coach training. "I peeled back my personal onion and realized that many of the things holding me back were psychological baggage based on how I perceived others perceive me," he said. "I had been asking myself for years – despite promotions and titles – ‘Do I belong in the room? Do I deserve this seat at the table?’"

Once he realized that, Strachan said he was able to release the shackles of his own mind and it was a breakthrough for him.

"I realized that I have the right to be who I am style wise, how I articulate my points of view, how I show up at the party, I can zig when everyone else zags and I’m real comfortable with that right now," he said. "I was the only thing holding me back."

This year, Strachan said that he and AdColor President and Founder Tiffany Warren really wanted to deliver "provocative, eye-opening, awe-inspiring content" and in some cases, content that would push people outside of their comfort zones and "make their palms sweaty."

"The team over-delivered on the challenge," said Strachan

While it’s hard to pick a favorite panel or speaker, Strachan said he was extremely moved by the speech from Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard about his personal and professional moments of truth. It’s very rare for a global marketing leader to take the stage and be vulnerable and open about cultural biases and his own experiences – to the point of getting teary, he said. "It was so powerful – the man is a godsend," said Strachan.

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