Are we there yet? Momentum's Donnalyn Smith has her say

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Donnalyn Smith
President, North America
Momentum Worldwide

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.   

There has been progress made towards promoting equality in our industry but I agree there is still a considerable diversity gap that we need to close. There’s not one particular event or instance that I can point to that brings the issue into sharp relief. Instead, I will refer readers to an Adobe study on diversity in creative fields including advertising from late last year. One stat from this report in particular grabbed my attention -- more than twice as many people of color cited a lack of training as a major barrier to advancement compared to white respondents. Furthermore, 65 percent of respondents of color cited "lack of sponsorship from a senior-level advocate" as a major issue, compared to only 53 percent of white respondents.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

There have been recent attempts in our industry to address the lack of training and senior-level advocacy for professionals of color issue noted in the Adobe study. Diego Scotti, Verizon chief marketing officer, has been one of the trailblazers on this front with his Ad Fellows program. He has created a promising pilot program that goes beyond the traditional advertising internship program and built what is in effect a truly rigorous and multi-disciplined training program that is immersive and involves C-Suite mentorship. It is truly unique and serves as a great model for others to emulate.

What else needs to be done to get there?

We need more brands, companies and agencies vested in applying the resources necessary to create or partner in programs like Ad Fellows. As a participant agency of the program, I can vouch that Momentum’s involvement is laying the groundwork to build a more productive and innovative team. A greater richness and sophistication of spirit, culture and perspective can only lead to the creation of more authentic, nuanced and impactful marketing and advertising for our clients. Companies are totally missing the boat when they cynically dismiss diversity programs as token gestures of altruism. In fact, at Momentum, we believe our agency will accrue a strong competitive advantage by committing to an ever-flowing pipeline of diverse network talent to hire or promote into key roles. Diversity is not just good PR; it’s actually good for your company P&L.

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