Advertising Age reported on a preposterously patronizing ploy produced by Grey (a White advertising agency) and The 3% Movement (a White women’s club), whereby creative briefs will include the following question: “How can we make the idea reflect and respect the world’s diversity?” Um, make certain there is real diversity on the team assigned to the project…? The insipid inquiry is part of a new WPP initiative called “The Progress Brief”—an effort allegedly designed to ensure “all client work at the agency meets standards of respect for all people.” Hey, it would be great to review the specific “standards” that must be met. Plus, such an action seems unnecessary at the holding company that boasts being “perhaps the most diverse example of diversity of any single organisation.” Kat Gordon explained the question was written to be “brief and open-ended,” and she added, “If it was just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, then people would rush over it, but Grey settled on the ‘how’ question because then people have to defend it and put thought around it.” Sorry, but it feels like the infamous “What’s Black about it?” that handicaps staffers at Black advertising agencies. The goal should not be to force diversity into the work, but rather, into the workplace.
Grey adds a question to every creative brief: How can this work reflect diversity?
By Lindsay Stein
From here on out, all Grey staffers who work on creative for a client must answer this question: How can we make the idea reflect and respect the world’s diversity?
The question is part of the WPP’s new program called “The Progress Brief,” which focuses on making sure all client work at the agency meets standards of respect for all people. Grey partnered with The 3% Movement to help figure out the language for its creative brief.
“I worked with the team at Grey, but they took the lead on the language and made sure it was brief and open-ended,” says Kat Gordon, founder of The 3% Movement, which advocates for diversity in the marketing industry. “If it was just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, then people would rush over it, but Grey settled on the ‘how’ question because then people have to defend it and put thought around it.”
While it may look simple, Gordon says the team at Grey worked on the creative brief question for several months. (The 3% Movement did not collect a fee.)
Grey Worldwide Chief Creative Officer John Patroulis says the brief will ensure that agency staffers—as well as clients collaborating on creative—discuss diversity and fairness at the beginning of an idea, which will help the work better reflect the world and its consumers.
The brief will have an impact on all work because it is the basis of every client discussion, says Patroulis, adding that other agencies can adopt it and change it to make it their own.
Far too often, Gordon says she sees brands and agencies getting backlash for work that misses the mark in some way, which made her think: “Why is there no mechanism at the birth of an idea?”
“This isn’t a policing mechanism though,” she says. “It’s an invitation to dimensional thinking and to be more inclusive and go into a direction that’s unexplored, rich and culturally relevant.”
Gordon also hopes that other agencies follow suit. “This is a small act that can have wide-reaching impact,” adds Gordon.