Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Adweek reported the 4A’s named MEC North America CEO Marla Kaplowitz to serve as its new leader, replacing current 4A’s Chairman and CEO Nancy Hill. The committee that unanimously approved Kaplowitz sought someone who could “deal with a very diverse membership” of 4A’s players. Additionally, Kaplowitz declared, “I think the 4A’s has done a tremendous job with diversity and I want to make sure that continues to grow, not just through the foundation but through the work that’s being done with diversity of all types, whether that’s gender diversity or ethnic diversity, and really leveraging the training that’s happening here.” Hey, Kaplowitz seems like the perfect person to help the “diverse membership” continue the diverted diversity drive, accelerating the White women bandwagon ahead of racial and ethnic inclusiveness. Just check out this diversity drivel from a former MEC HR wonk. Plus, MEC UK is a dedicated defender of doddering diversity to defeat discrimination against old White adpeople. In the end, Kaplowitz will probably do for industry diversity what President Donald Trump does for national diversity.
Why the 4A’s Chose MEC North America CEO Marla Kaplowitz as Its Next Leader
And what she hopes to accomplish
By Katie Richards
On Friday the 4A’s announced Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of MEC North America, would replace Nancy Hill as the new president and CEO of the organization. Kaplowitz will officially take over for Hill in early or mid-May, although an exact date has not yet been disclosed.
A 10-person selection committee, led by 4A’s board chair and Horizon Media president, CEO and founder Bill Koenigsberg, unanimously selected Kaplowitz. When current 4A’s chairman and CEO Nancy Hill announced in July that after nine years she planned to step down from her role, Koenigsberg and his team got to work looking for someone to take over for Hill.
The first thing Koenigsberg and his team did was enlist MediaLink to help conduct a “research study among a cross section of our membership,” he said. “It gave our members an opportunity to voice how they saw the future, what a future leader might look like, what they were looking for in terms of guidance and what the 4A’s should stand for.”
From there, the team created a job description and set out to look for the next CEO. Overall, the committee looked at somewhere between 70 and 80 candidates until finally narrowing it down to four. Kaplowitz proved to the committee that she could use her previous experience, which includes 12 years at Mediavest as the head of Procter & Gamble’s communications planning assignment for North America, to do a number of things for the trade organization.
The committee wanted someone who checked a few different boxes. The next CEO needed to be highly respected in the industry, a great leader and someone who could inspire and lead internally and outwardly to the industry as a whole. Koenigsberg and his team also wanted someone who could “deal with a very diverse membership,” including small shops, holding company agencies and big media agencies. Finally, the new CEO’s vision had to align with that of the organization and all of its members.
“Marla personified all of those in her ability to show us that she had what it took to navigate all of those different swim lanes, [which] led us to a unanimous decision that we are very lucky to have her,” Koenigsberg added.
As soon as Kaplowitz steps into her new role sometime in May, she said there are a few things she hopes to tackle. The biggest being to mend the relationship between the 4A’s and the Association of National Advertisers. The two organizations have, in the past year or so, publicly debated the issue of media transparency. While the 4A’s and ANA had formed a joint task force in April 2015 to investigate allegations of pervasive kickbacks among media agencies, the 4A’s eventually released its own set of transparency guidelines nine months later without the support of the ANA.
“Agencies need to once again be valued for the partnership that they deliver and the work because it’s about growing their business,” she said. “My goal is to make sure that I work and partner closely with the ANA and Bob Liodice and hope to be very connected to them moving forward,” Kaplowitz added.
A few other issues Kaplowitz plans to tackle as CEO of the 4A’s include making sure all members understand and take advantage of what the organization has to offer to help agencies grow their businesses and continuing Nancy Hill’s work on diversity within the industry.
“I think the 4A’s has done a tremendous job with diversity and I want to make sure that continues to grow, not just through the foundation but through the work that’s being done with diversity of all types, whether that’s gender diversity or ethnic diversity, and really leveraging the training that’s happening here,” Kaplowitz added.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Campaign published a perspective and sales pitch from Jeffrey L. Bowman, who is still trying to peddle what was once dubbed Cross-Cultural Marketing and later renamed Total Market. Pepper Miller delivered detailed dissections of the direction, and White advertising agencies ultimately hijacked the notion to seize total control of marketing budgets. Meanwhile, Bowman is selling a report on Total Market that will likely be totally ignored by the total industry.
Close the gap: The state of the ‘total market’ industry
By Jeffrey L. Bowman
If we do not get the total market topic right, businesses could lose the next 50 years of market share, writes author and founder of Reframe: The Brand.
We should have gotten it right by now, but we haven’t. We’ve had the data, the tools, the observation skills and the creativity to recognize a bad plan, and yet little has changed in almost 60 years.
That bad plan could be called “Separate But Equal Marketing,” and it was introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. It was inappropriate at the time and has been ineffective since then—and with good reason. McKinsey introduced the topic of “Total Market” in the mid-1960s. At the time corporations were not paying attention to the upward and mobile black consumer. Companies started creating ethnic marketing departments to target blacks and diversity compliance initiatives for their employees in the 1960s. The marketing and communications industry created two different ways of buying services known as “general market” to focus on the “mass” consumer audience and “ethnic marketing,” which later became “multicultural marketing,” to focus on blacks, Hispanics and Asian consumers. Over the last 50 years, nothing changed.
In 2010, the topic of general market and multicultural marketing was revisited at great length and reinvented through the innovation of total market. However the topic was more relevant and it was defined as a new way of buying services from suppliers whose offerings reflected the new America. The innovation, definition and approach were met with resistance and pushback from general market, ethnic and some industry associations. Why? This required structural changes for buying services within the $350 billion marketing and communications industry. As a result, we’re still pursuing a direction that proves inefficient and ineffective. But there is a clear and better way forward.
After five years of weathering the total market topic storm, my team and I sought to uncover why there is resistance to innovation and provide clarity on the topic, while committing resources to providing educational leadership. To identify industry best practices, we conducted over 50 interviews and observations with leading brands, agencies and collected data at conferences and through many hours of desk research. With our inaugural “State of the Total Market Industry Vertical Report,” our goal was to help others truly understand and apply the principles needed for their best employee and consumer outcomes.
If we do not get the total market topic right, businesses could lose the next 50 years of buying consumption. Why? Statistics show that the entire human race is going to flip generationally, racially, ethnically, religiously and in terms of gender, creating a new marketplace and workplace. Therefore we should stop using dated service models, and companies should have new ways of creating value in the new workplace and marketplace.
What’s wrong with the way things are now? Today, a business chooses to buy marketing and communications services based on a segregated model in which general market is separate from multicultural. If you are talent or a business owner within the marketing and communications industry, your ideas and services are likely chosen or purchased based on this model and often multicultural service providers get the short end of the stick even though the multicultural consumers have the highest growth demographically.
Based on our report findings, employees within major brands are two generations culturally removed from consumers. Most big companies culturally reflect a monocultural society or a homogeneity, whereas, culturally in America, there is the debate about moving away from multicultural society to either cross-cultural or poly-cultural society.
Because of the macro cultural and population shift, accept that this is just as much of an employee (workplace) outcome as a consumer (marketplace) outcome. In order for this to work, it has to start internally and then impact externally. You have to have the talent within the organization to fully comprehend and execute the total market approach for the new marketplace and the total market enterprise approach for the new workplace. This starts with education.
This is not a quick sales lift action. If you are attempting to use the total market approach for marketplace results, focus first on strategy, then execution. Many in advertising and marketing have tried using this approach without any strategic planning or outside help. There is now a graveyard of brands that rushed into this only to have discovered their organization was not mature enough. They’ve reverted back to the old and ineffective models. You don’t have too.
Expect some structural changes. For more than 60 years, brands and their service providers have allocated resources and funding under the model of “separate but equal,” meaning mass and multicultural audiences are equal. As multicultural audiences are increasingly the mass audience, this presents a fundamental opportunity about how to restructure budgets, partnerships and departments to accelerate growth within this new marketplace and workplace.
Be honest with yourself and your organization to drive structural change and transformation. Organizations first have to identify and accept where the gaps exist in understanding and acting within the new marketplace and workplace. This requires you to assess your organization.
We are committed to transforming the work and marketplace and are partnering with Campaign US to share our findings over the next several months. Our ambition is to make a difference for the future of the work and marketplace and redirect the industry towards a better way forward. Please join us and #CLOSETHEGAP.
—Jeffrey L. Bowman is an author, and president and CEO of Reframe: The [Brand] – A Business Acceleration Platform.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Coca-Cola saluted Black History Month by spotlighting Shirley Hasley, a social and advertising pioneer.
Meet Shirley Hasley: The Accidental Coke Model Who Helped Make History
By Elliott Smith
By the time Shirley Hasley became an advertising pioneer, she’d already made history in her day job.
In 1965, Hasley was hired as the first African-American teacher in Mill Valley, Calif., a predominately white and affluent suburb of San Francisco. A recent graduate of San Francisco State, what should have been an exciting time for a young professional was instead fraught with the regressive racial politics of the day.
“It was not a welcome time for me,” Hasley recalled. “The parents really didn’t want me, and they were going to protest. That wasn’t the kind of welcome I wanted.”
But with the support of the superintendent and a strong reliance on her faith, Hasley stayed in her teaching position.
Then, in early-1966, a random encounter brought Coca-Cola into her life in an unexpected way.
“I was crossing the street going to my car, and a PR person for Coke said to me, ‘We are embarking on a new ad campaign that I thought you might be interested in,’” Hasley recalled. “He took a Polaroid and said he was sending it to headquarters, and if they liked me they would pursue the next step.”
Indeed, Coke was working on a new campaign that featured African-American professionals, including doctors, lawyers and, yes, teachers for a series of ads that asked readers “Do Things Go Better With Coke?”
Many of Coke’s early ads featuring African-Americans were centered around sports heroes and entertainment figures before shifting to people in “everyday life”. Mary Alexander made history when she was selected as the first female African-American Coke model in 1955.
“The intent was pretty obvious,” said Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan. “Coke had been doing African-American focused ads since 1950, and this series was Coke’s way of normalizing race in America.”
Much to her surprise, Hasley got the call to be in an ad the following Monday, and initially deferred due to her impending wedding. But Coke persuaded the young teacher to fly to New York in December 1966 as part of a “honeymoon” trip for the photo shoot.
“I was really excited because I got to stay at the Plaza Hotel, which was quite ritzy,” Hasley remembers. “It’s exciting just to think back on it. It was quite an eye-opener for me. I was interested in horses, and we got to do part of the shoot in Central Park with horses. There were takes and takes and takes. It’s hard work!”
Another aspect Hasley said made the shoot special was that noted photographer Richard Avedon was taking the pictures. She shot at a local school, the Plaza and Central Park as part of the triptych in the advertisement. When the ads appeared in magazines like Ebony and Jet in the fall of 1967, it sent shockwaves through Halsey’s community.
“When I came back from the shoot, everyone was very excited,” she said. “That’s how I kind of became accepted in the community. It didn’t solve all the problems, but it was a way to be a part of the community.”
After the Coca-Cola ad, Hasley modeled in a few other pieces, but came to realize that her true calling was in the classroom.
“It challenged me to really look at what was important. If I had continued doing commercials, I would not have had my teaching career,” she said. “I’m glad I decided to continue with teaching.”
Hasley taught elementary school for 38 years before retiring to work on charitable causes in her community. She recently remarried, and as part of her honeymoon, took a trip to Atlanta, where she visited the World of Coca-Cola. To her surprise, she was recognized by employees and given a tour of the attraction.
Hasley took it as a sign that, after all these years, she and Coke are still connected.
“Back then, I didn’t really think about what the ad meant,” Hasley said. “I wasn’t thinking about making inroads. But now that it’s a proud memory, I’m pleased to be a part of the early (African-American) models. I’m glad that it is a part of my memory and has been a focal point of my life for all these years.”
AgencySpy posted an announcement that FCB Chicago recruited 8 new creatives, and the accompanying photo (depicted above) indicates the hires were predominately diverted diversity additions. When FCB Global CCO Susan Credle was running the creative department at Leo Burnett, her team estimated that true equality won’t happen in the advertising industry until 2079, given the current snail-like pace of progress. Yet the recent hiring moves at FCB will push the ETA to the Promised Land well beyond 3000, ultimately updating No.2.66 to No.2.Triple-Digits. Oh, and IPG ought to revise its diversity PR BS too.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Campaign allowed Y&R Global Strategic Planning Director Sandy Thompson to bitch about being a bitch. Why is it okay for White women to use that term, but it’s not okay for men to use it?
How I turned bitch into badass
By Sandy Thompson
In an attempt to be strong, forceful and competitive, I became a stereotype, writes the global strategic planning director at Y&R.
Recently, I lunched in a cafe with an inspiring young woman who was about to launch a great new roommate app. She shared her experience of being an ambitious woman in a predominantly male environment. Her business partners are men, and her board of advisors is comprised mostly of men. She told me how they show up for meetings in suits, while she prefers casual Converse. They have grey hair, she has braids.
I told her that when I was her age that would have scared the you-know-what out of me. I would have been intimidated and on guard. But she didn’t seem too fussed about it. If anything, I felt it empowered her. It made her a badass, who knows how to create and build in a “smarts and structure” world.
I was about her age when I found myself in a similar environment. Mine was the corporate world of advertising, not a tech startup, but back in those days ad agencies were the fun, fast moving industry. I worked for men, surrounded by men, learning from men and competing with them for my next promotion.
Unfortunately, at the time, the only way I knew how to compete was to become more like them. I began dressing like them, in corporate suits with padded “power shoulders” to give me the appearance of strength. I began addressing them with a broader stance and a more forceful voice. I learned the same war tactics they applied to “winning” and made sure not to talk about my family in an overtly “feminine” way.
What I became was the stereotypical “bitch” that you hear about so often. I was strong. Forceful. Competitive. Intimidating. But underneath it all, I was miserable. I cried my way home everyday and became angry with my lack of career progress. I worried that the tactics my male colleagues applied to their careers were making me into someone I didn’t want to be: The Bitch who is good at her job, but not someone you want fronting your business.
Thankfully, I met a wonderful and successful woman who, with one question, changed my outlook on work and set my professional life on a whole new trajectory. She asked, “Why do you want to be a man, when you are such a fabulous woman?”
The advice shocked me. I didn’t think of myself as a man, but I see now that I did assume I was doing what needed to be done to succeed: imitate and emulate my male counterparts.
Not that long ago, there seemed only two female leadership styles. You were either the nurturing and caring person who, while valuable, was not seen to be “driven” enough to lead the company. Or you were the bitch who could get the job done but was not liked by the broader team.
Fast-forward to today. The topic of gender diversity is at the forefront of our industry. And while there’s certainly no lack of finger-pointing, data sharing, and the rare feature profile of female leaders in business, I worry whether we’ve lost sight of the larger, more important goal: finding and supporting the best talent available.
I wonder whether this focus on “bitchiness in business” signals a passive acceptance of another kind of stereotype, rather than a call for professional excellence.
I question whether rewriting job descriptions to include code words like “collaborative,” “team builder,” “genuine” and “flexible” will attract truly, fiercely effective female leaders to our industry.
Charlotte Beers, one of our industry’s most successful and inspirational CEOs, posed the question beautifully. “Of course you are a collaborator. Of course you are a team builder,” she told me. “You are a woman. How does that make you any different than any other woman out there who wants the same job you want?”
I did not like being a business bitch. I wasn’t my best when I was. And while some women are good at it, and may even enjoy it, I believe that I believe that bitchiness shouldn’t be our objective. It’s not fun. It’s not inspirational. And it makes getting the job done a whole lot harder.
I am a badass that has chosen my career success. I have done it my way. I have never wavered from my beliefs since the day I took off the weight of those shoulder pads. My clients and colleagues know I will always tell the truth whether they like it or not. It means I know how to build a team, but just importantly have their back when they need it most. It means I can be beautiful and still have the undeniable power to command a room. Being a badass means I can put my family first and still get the job done better than anyone else. But it also means I can smile more often, which at the end of the day, makes me exponentially more powerful.
—Sandy Thompson is global strategic planning director at Young & Rubicam.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Okay, it’s technically not a Black History Month moment, but Campaign reported the Truth Initiative is turning smoking into a social justice issue by comparing Big Tobacco’s targeting of Blacks to racial profiling. The concept was hatched by 72andSunny, which adds layers of hypocrisy and deceit to the propaganda. Plus, it’s not even an original notion—simply type “Newport” into this blog’s search field to see. “We hope young people will help us spread the word,” said Truth Initiative CEO and President Robin Koval. “When you see a social injustice, when you see tobacco being advertised up to 10 times more in black neighborhoods, call it out. We’re always looking to get young people to engage with us whether sharing our hashtag or coming to thetruth.com to enroll. The way we’ll stop this is by getting young people engaged.” Hey, wait until the young people gain awareness of the discriminatory exclusivity happening at White advertising agencies like 72andSunny. It’s bona fide social injustice—and that’s the truth.
Truth turns tobacco advertising into a social justice issue
By Alison Kanski
In the new #StopProfiling campaign, Truth Initiative accuses the tobacco industry of profiling African-Americans and people in low-income communities.
The Truth Initiative has made smoking not just a health issue, but a social justice issue in its new campaign #StopProfiling.
One thing the campaign is capitalizing on is the recent surge in protests and renewed focus on social justice issues since Donald Trump’s inauguration. In the past, many of its campaigns have been more lighthearted, like a campaign showing smokers are less likely to get dates on Tinder, said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative.
“We felt that there is a shift in the cultural mood right now,” Koval explained. “Young people are feeling that they want to make a statement about this country and that they care about all the things going on. We know young people care a lot about social justice issues. It felt like a good time to pivot a little bit and take a more serious tone in our advertising.”
The campaign, which began Sunday, takes aim at tobacco’s advertising tactics. The campaign focuses on tobacco’s targeting of African-Americans and people with lower incomes. In two videos featuring comedian Amanda Seales, the campaign points out that black neighborhoods have up to 10 times more tobacco advertisements and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools.
“Some people might say, ‘Isn’t the tobacco industry just targeting their best customers? Isn’t that what all brands do?’” said Koval. “It’s not as innocent as that. That’s not just marketing, that’s singling people out and that’s called profiling.”
Along with the videos, which premiered during the Grammys on Sunday night, the Truth Initiative is running a robust digital campaign for #StopProfiling aimed at young people from 15 to 24 years old. The initiative used the MTV Video Music Awards last August to kick off another campaign called #Squadless.
“We like to use these tentpole events where you can aggregate lots of young viewers in a single moment and start to generate awareness,” Koval said. “We’re igniting the spark on a major event like the Grammys, but the real power is in all of our finishers, the people who follow and engage with us afterward.”
The initiative took over YouTube on Sunday with the campaign and promoted the hashtag on Twitter Monday, Koval said. The campaign will also include work with influencers on Snapchat and Twitter.
Truth worked with several agencies to help create the campaign: Ketchum for PR, 72andsunny for advertising, and Assembly for media planning. This campaign is an extension of Truth’s Finish It campaign, which began in 2014 and aims to make this generation of young people the generation that ends smoking.
“We hope young people will help us spread the word,” Koval said. “When you see a social injustice, when you see tobacco being advertised up to 10 times more in black neighborhoods, call it out. We’re always looking to get young people to engage with us whether sharing our hashtag or coming to thetruth.com to enroll. The way we’ll stop this is by getting young people engaged.”
Thursday, February 23, 2017
This campaign was hatched by loved in Germany, with an explanation that read:
They look different on the outside but are all the same on the inside. That’s true of people all over the world — and now of cola, too. Or at least ALI COLA, the first cola that comes in six different skin colors. In 2017, politics is lurching to the right — in Germany, Europe and the USA. So the German agency loved relaunched the pro-tolerance cola brand ALI COLA and invented their own cola. Instead of coming just in the usual black, ALI COLA is available in six different skin colors. But though they look different, all six colors taste exactly the same. They’re all the same; they just look different on the outside. Like people. ALI COLA responds to prejudice and with humor. [sic] The slogan: Cheers to tolerance. The brand also supports Kiron, an NGO that has found a way to cut red tape and help refugees earn university qualifications thanks to online courses and partner universities.
Um, German pro-tolerance is as oxymoronic as, well, Madison Avenue pro-tolerance. And it’s odd to deliver such a concept via a cola brand, especially given the history of intolerance connected to Coca-Cola.
Adweek reported Havas in Chicago pooped out a pathetic promotion to pay tribute to Black History Month. The agency created a “jobstacle course” designed to help non-Black employees get a sense of what it’s like for Black people to work in the predominately White advertising industry. Ironically, the wannabe breakthrough concept features all the standard clichés involved with being Black on Madison Avenue and beyond. “I love reading these articles about how white and old the industry is, and the industry itself acknowledges and talks about the problem versus actually changing and activating on the kind of issues we have,” said Havas Chicago CCO Jason Peterson. “We are by no means perfect, but acknowledging the issue and talking about it is something we take really seriously. I think everyone needs to look at it and think about how we are going to change and act differently if we want this industry to evolve and be better.” Well, for starters, Peterson might consider the simplicity of substance over style, sharing the hiring figures at his own office and within the nepotistic Havas network. Of course, such an act doesn’t allow for self-absorbed hype in trade publications. But it would clearly underscore the true obstacles Blacks face from idiots like Peterson—the results of which can be fully experienced by peeking at the Havas careers section on the company website.
This Agency Created an Obstacle Course to Show People What It’s Like to Be ‘Black at Work’
Havas Chicago’s plan for Black History Month
By Katie Richards
In honor of Black History Month, Havas Chicago wanted to do something that would get its employees and the people of Chicago to not only reflect, but also learn a little something about what it’s like to be black in an ad agency today.
A team of employees decided to create an obstacle course in the lobby of the building. Each obstacle was designed to teach the rest of the agency about what a black man or woman might experience in the workplace while also starting a much needed conversation about the lack of diversity in the advertising industry.
“I love reading these articles about how white and old the industry is, and the industry itself acknowledges and talks about the problem versus actually changing and activating on the kind of issues we have,” Jason Peterson, the agency’s chief creative officer, said. “In my point of view, America is multicultural, so if you’re an agency that doesn’t have or isn’t made up of a multicultural point of view, there’s no way you can do your job properly.”
Peterson went to Jason LaFlore, an art director at Havas Chicago, and a few other creative and strategy people at the agency and asked them to come up with “something that’s going to show our point of view and not be passive and have a real active positioning,” Peterson said, in honor of Black History Month.
LaFlore and his team got to work and came up with the idea of the #BlackAtWork campaign. Each obstacle in the “jobstacle course” came from real experiences or conversations members of the team previously had in their careers.
The first obstacle, the beam of perception, is a balance beam that participants have to cross. On one side of the beam, the agency printed the word “angry.” On the other side, it printed “lazy.” The purpose of the beam is to illustrate some common stereotypes that present themselves in the workplace.
“If you’re too nonchalant about your job, you’re automatically seen as lazy,” LaFlore explained. “If you’re too passionate about your job, you might be seen as the angry black man or the angry black woman.” The beam is meant to illustrate the fine line between falling into one or the other stereotype.
A second obstacle, the speech bubbles, is about why certain questions and comments are inappropriate. Examples include “Can you teach me how to Dougie?” and “That’s so ghetto.” The team hung the comments and questions from the ceiling, teaching people to dodge the culturally insensitive words.
A similar obstacle, the Hollywood shuffle, tackles the weight many black people feel when co-workers ask them about black culture, the assumption being that one person knows everything from the latest dance moves to slang or cultural trends.
“It spoke to the idea that a lot of times, whether it’s a company party or something, people expect that the black guys are going to dance,” LaFlore said. “I don’t always know all the dance moves and all the trends that are happening just because I’m a minority in the office.”
The obstacle course will be up in Havas Chicago’s office for the rest of February. As with past activations the agency has set up in its lobby, the hope is that people will see the sign on the lobby window (it currently reads “Black At Work”) and pop in to see what’s going on. Anyone can take the challenge, even other agencies in the Chicago area.
“We are by no means perfect, but acknowledging the issue and talking about it is something we take really seriously,” Peterson said. “I think everyone needs to look at it and think about how we are going to change and act differently if we want this industry to evolve and be better.”
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Wow, 72andSunny has no shame, promoting diversity via a Smirnoff campaign starring a Congolese-French-DJ-albino and a Swedish-Iranian-deaf-hip-hop-artist—along with a tagline proclaiming, “We’re Open.” Not sure such openness is actually present at the White advertising agency. “We’re all the same on the dancefloor” is debatable; but we’re definitely not all the same on the floors of a typical shop like 72andSunny.
Campaign reported Titanium Worldwide (a minority-owned collective headquartered in New York City) tapped member Ten35 (a shop with offices in Chicago and Houston that focuses on multicultural and generational audiences) to help Mercedes-Benz woo Blacks in Atlanta. The scenario underscores the advertising industry’s diversity zaniness on multiple levels. That is, a minority-owned collective headquartered in New York City—which has a Black population of about 25%—must recruit a shop with offices in Chicago and Houston—which have respective Black populations of about 36% and 25%—to service a client in Atlanta—which has a Black population of about 54%. Mercedes-Benz couldn’t find a qualified agency in Atlanta, where Blacks essentially dominate? To top it all off, the photo illustrating this news story featured a White woman. Perfect.
Meet the minority-owned collective fueling Mercedes-Benz’s African-American outreach
By Kathryn Luttner
Titanium Worldwide catered to the LGBT community first; now, it’s after Atlanta residents for the automaker.
It’s not often that a football team gets to play their first game in a new stadium as reigning world champions. But with their appearance in the Super Bowl this Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons could be exactly that when they christen Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season. This stroke of luck wasn’t part of Mercedes-Benz USA’s original plan to win over Atlanta residents, but for VP of Marketing Drew Slaven, it doesn’t hurt the brand’s chances in a town where the automaker is planting some serious roots.
The initiative, titled “Take Back Atlanta,” began two years ago when Mercedes-Benz moved its American headquarters from Montvale, N.J., to an Atlanta suburb. That same year, the brand bought the naming rights to the Falcons’ new stadium, making it the second to bear the Mercedes-Benz name (the other is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans). Now, the automaker has tapped Chicago and Houston-based marketing agency Ten35 (part of minority-owned collective Titanium Worldwide) to connect with African Americans in its new hometown.
To be clear, Slaven doesn’t like the term “Take Back Atlanta”—even though the phrase originated from the automaker—because he said, Mercedes-Benz is the best-selling luxury automotive brand in town, so “there’s nothing to take back.” Although it isn’t entirely focused on the African American community, that is a big factor. “In our new home, we want to not simply be No. 1, we really want Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz to go hand-in-hand,” Slaven said.
If you haven’t heard of Titanium Worldwide or read about Mercedes-Benz’s big push into the African American community, it’s all part of Titanium CEO Robyn Streisand’s plan. She takes a “walk, crawl, run” strategy to business—and her own collective of minority-owned agencies is a testament. Titanium Worldwide soft launched in 2013, but Streisand, an LGBT entrepreneur (and Barbara’s second cousin), didn’t announce it until last year, because she wanted to “prove the model. Holding companies are watching us.”
That model, she said, bloomed from a frustration she encountered after 20 years at her own marketing agency The Mixx. Fortune 500 companies regularly approached for small jobs, she said, but when it came to the big campaigns, the argument was always the same: minority-owned businesses simply didn’t have the depth—in talent, money and resources—to do the job. So Streisand interviewed more than 150 agencies across the United States and landed on 17 to form Titanium. “There’s no overlap in skill sets,” Streisand said proudly. “Everyone has their own lane.”
And yet, there’s one point of contact and one P&L (while maintaining 17 individual agencies), which was one of the attractions for Mercedes-Benz who had been a client of The Mixx for 10 years. (The other, Slaven said, was authenticity. “When you want to talk to a community, to work with a provider that understands that [community]—that lives that [community]—is really important,” he said.) That single point of contact is something agencies are increasingly looking to provide, as witnessed by recent client-centric restructurings from Publicis and Ogilvy.
In 2015, the community that Mercedes-Benz zeroed in on was LGBT. That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriages, so the timing was no coincidence. Titanium developed a year-long strategy of print and digital advertising, in addition to paid social media and an event at the New York International Auto Show, to deliver 2.2 million digital impressions and 135 percent increase in brand mentions on gay news websites.
Plus, the National Gay Media Association awarded Mercedes-Benz the top honor in its automotive category at its first Ad POP Awards (POP stands for Pride in Online and Print). In the end, Streisand said marketers have thanked her for “getting corporate to wake up and smell the coffee.”
“It can’t be that you’re just advertising at Gay Pride,” she said. “You want 100 percent on the HRC Equality Index. One and done at Pride is not enough anymore.”
Fast forward to 2017, and Ten35 is implementing Streisand’s “walk, crawl, run” strategy to its Take Atlanta Back initiative. Sherman Wright, managing partner and COO of the agency, said the campaign won’t be a one-off effort. While it’s still in development, Wright said to expect “heavy digital components and an experiential element” that connects personally with the communities of Atlanta.
“What’s important to understand is the African American community is not this monolithic community,” Wright said, adding that it’s important for marketers to understand the nuances. “You look at things such as accomplishments and that values are placed in achievement. Making sure the idea of luxury comes through this idea of achievement” is extremely important to African Americans, so look for Mercedes-Benz and Ten35’s work to pay “homage to that journey and the hard work and commitment that goes into it.”
If successful, Wright said the carmaker will expand this African American initiative nationwide, taking the minority-owned collective along with them—proving that together, minority-owned agencies can tackle the big jobs.