Are we there yet? Verb co-founder slams *insert underrepresented group here* tactic

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.

Yadira Harrison

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

Earlier this year, an industry publication came out with its annual list and I, like most marketers, clicked the link to see who had earned a place on it. I must have scrolled that list at least three times making sure my eyes were not deceiving me. Where were the people of color?

It’s common to scan these type of lists and not find a breadth of diverse talent on it. But this was so glaring that it felt out of step with all the diversity and inclusion industry chatter, articles and numerous panels that have become routine. Of course it became an immediate hot topic within the advertising and marketing communities of color. Was this an oversight? Or are we (especially black and latinx marketers) still not breaking through to reach these ranks?  Either way, it is problematic.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

"The Talk."

When I first saw the Procter & Gamble spot, I remember wiping my tears and applauding the emotional and honest depiction of key moments that rang true in my own life.

While discussing the outcry of voices that did not agree with the spot, it was refreshing to hear how P&G stayed committed to the ‘My Black is Beautiful’ campaign. They knew there would be an uproar from some, but took a public stand to tell an authentic narrative and did not waiver, knowing that doing so would undermine the message they put forward.

One key opinion that Marc Pritchard reiterated at Cannes this year was that general market is quickly becoming, if not already, a thing of the past. In a world of data-driven segmentation, it no longer makes sense to target everyone with a ‘catch-all campaign’ --  rather double down with niche markets to breakthrough the clutter and build brand affinity one group at a time. ‘The Talk’ is an example of how this strategy can work for brands. Look at Nike: their bolder approach to stand with Colin Kaepernick may have lost them a battle with a few, but it won them the war of public opinion and sales.

What else needs to be done to get there?

The time is long overdue for diverse talent and leaders to have a seat at the table beyond the ‘diversity & inclusion’ roles. Don’t get me wrong -- D&I is VERY important work, but it cannot stop there. Many of the faux pas in the advertising/marketing sector happen because there are not enough underrepresented groups throughout the entire process. The ones that are present may not feel like the environment is conducive to speaking out about cultural nuances that many of our counterparts simply do not know or want to understand.

With every Pepsi-Dove-H&M blunder, I always ask how many *insert underrepresented group here* were part of the creation, production and approvals. Are we looking around the figurative and literal tables during our brainstorms, storyboard sessions, client pitches, production teams and approval stand-ups? Are we fostering environments where said group members can speak up to give their point of views? Are we even concerned about their points of view in the first place? And for those of us that are at the table and can speak up, are we allies for those that are not?

We can no longer focus only on the top spots, because it doesn’t end there. This is a top-down and bottom-up call to action. This is about associate creative directors, account executives, junior copywriters, experienced producers, digital specialists, etc. that collectively develop campaigns and experiences for the masses. This is about companies, and internal departments, that must also create safe spaces for people to be their most authentic selves to share their stories and points of view. That’s how we begin to move the needle.

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