Digiday interviewed new DDB North America Director of Talent Julius Dunn, and the talk covered thoughts on diversity. This is not surprising, as “Director of Talent”—at least in Dunn’s case—sounds like a thinly veiled Diversity Officer title. Plus, the official DDB press release seems to confirm the matter. Dunn has certainly been around this particular block, having held stints with The One Club and 4As, in addition to running his own Adversity enterprise. That only Digiday bothered to spotlight Dunn in his semi-fresh position kinda shows the growing lack of interest the advertising industry shows for diversity. Sadly, Dunn had nothing original or unique to add to the dwindling discussion, although he did make one peculiar comment:
“Diversity today is a generational divide. People want to focus on the traditional pillars of what it means to be a diverse organization: gender equity, racial equality and sexual orientation. But nobody ever talks about generational diversity.”
Um, generational diversity gets more attention than ethnic and racial diversity, especially as veteran White men and White women feel the challenge of remaining relevant in the field—all of which leads to cries of ageism. Plus, integrating Millennials receives greater consideration than integrating minorities. DDB must be giddy over hiring Dunn, as it allows the company to check off “minority” and “Millennial” in the EEO-1 data that parent Omnicom will never publicly disclose.
Can’t help but think that with Dunn’s appointment, DDB stands for Delegating Diversity Bamboozlement.
DDB’s new director of talent: ‘Nobody ever talks about generational diversity’
By Tanya Dua
Diversity has become a hot topic in the ad industry, as executives wring their hands at how monochrome many agencies appear. The issue is particularly important thanks to demographic shifts and advertising’s twin talent crisis.
With that backdrop, Omnicom Group’s DDB North America has brought on Julius Dunn as director of talent. In his new role, Dunn will draw from his experience as the industry liaison at the 4A’s as well as the founding director of Adversity, a nonprofit organization established to promote multiculturalism and diversity in creative media industries.
For Dunn, the key to solving the industry’s long struggle with diversity is a coordinated, sustained effort to tackle the issue. There will be no silver bullet, he said.
“The agency world was founded by men and without a conscious effort to address that unconscious bias; it is bound to stay an industry dominated by men,” Dunn warned.
Digiday spoke to Dunn on the issues he wants to tackle. What follows is condensed and light edited for clarity.
Why do you think the agency world isn’t diverse?
The issue lies in the fact that the industry continues to pursue isolated contingency groups in an effort to be more diverse when the definition of diversity is subjective. I think that the issue arises from an unconscious bias that people naturally have to be surrounded by people who are similar to them.
What is the biggest problem you’re trying to solve coming into this role?
Our industry traditionally has not been known to have cultural diversity or to promote women to positions of leadership. We are looking at what the intersections are between all the hallmarks of diversity, whether it is gender, race or sexual orientation and then trying to ground that in our legacy. We’re going to try our best to be proactive.
How is your standpoint going to be non-traditional?
Diversity today is a generational divide. People want to focus on the traditional pillars of what it means to be a diverse organization: gender equity, racial equality and sexual orientation. But nobody ever talks about generational diversity. Right now, we have three different generations in the workforce. Millennials are taking leadership positions. I really want to understand the things that connect them with one another rather than things that separate them.
What do you think is the best way to encourage diversity?
My overall approach will be to infuse diversity in everything that we do. I want to create a more inclusive environment that celebrates everybody’s freedom to be who they are. Our business is about people. Without having a diverse group of individuals working within our organization, we cannot authentically connect with the consumers. That is why it is important for us to embed the agenda of diversity and inclusion into the talent strategy.
And you think that will be enough to address the issue?
Creativity flourishes in an environment that allows you to be comfortable and be who you are. If you celebrate all the flavors within an organization and kind of put them into one stew, it helps realize the ultimate aim of connecting with the consumer market. Our organization needs to mirror the people our clients are trying to reach out to, and if not, then we need to address that.
What are some of the industries you think are worth looking at for inspiration?
Most industries have positions dedicated to the diversity question, which means no industry has got it quite right. If anything, we should look back at our own history. DDB specifically was built on the premise of diversity and inclusion. [DDB founder Bill] Bernbach was the first one to partner a copywriter and an art director in a room, which by chance was a female and a male. We’re still building on that legacy and looking for new ways to do that.