Monday, August 03, 2015

12801: DDB’s Diversity Delegator.

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.


YetAgain? said...

"DDB specifically was built on the premise of diversity and inclusion"


Which then begs the question, what happened for them to drop the ball entirely in the decades since then?

Or maybe they're waiting for the 100 year mark to do something about ethnic diversity, once they've given a century of focusing on white women time to run its course.

Anonymous said...

So is he the temporary heat shield to make everyone forget about the current $20 million discrimination lawsuit at DDB?

Anonymous said...

Threat of Cyrus Mehri lawsuit = agencies all load up with black diversity VPs.

Threat of $20m lawsuit = agency loads up with a black diversity VP.

But without numbers, targets or accountability, it's just heat shield after heat shield. Add some training for underprivileged teenagers, some Adcolor Awards and some annual reports that tout all of the efforts but none of the outcomes.

If even a 20 million threat won't get agencies to make any significant changes, why would they ever change?

HighJive said...


Yes, that statement about being built on the premise of diversity and inclusion is in the DDB press release too, so Dunn is simply parroting the company lie, um, line. Technically, DDB may have been started with pseudo diversity motives; however, it was more about dealing with the segregation of Jewish ad executives from traditional White advertising agencies. In the beginning, DDB handled a lot of Jewish clients, ultimately leading to projects with “general market” appeal. But to say, “DDB specifically was built on the premise of diversity and inclusion,” displays some basic ignorance.

HighJive said...

More evidence of basic ignorance can be found here:

Hulkamania said...

So basically hes saying ethnic diversity is not the issue here its "generational diversity" and "white female diversity". Every 5 years or so when the temperature gets turned up, these white agencies are magicians and magically pull another black diversity officer out of their hat. They make them rehearse and talk and lie about diversity being apart of their core values. But at the same time refusing to release hiring numbers.

At least Tech companies are actually providing employees with salary bonuses of $4000 minority they bring into the company.

dejanothingnew said...

Damn. Since 2009 he's been yacking about this and nothing has changed? Has anyone ever held him (or anyone, hell) accountable for actual NUMBERS? Data?

He seemed so young and fired up in 2009, and I'm young in this industry too but literally it's the same old circle of nothing changing since then, until now. He should have known better or learned something since then, right?

And how does the agency get off with doing the thing they always do? SOmeone sues, or threatens to sue, agency hires an ineffective black diversity officer.

Someone sues, or threatens to sue, agency hires an ineffective black diversity officer.

Someone sues and... etc.


And what happens when the threat of that 20 mil discrimination lawsuit goes away? He just goes to part time or consultant status or somethign? Or do these black diversity officers ride off into the sunset and just all join the Adcolor board?