Saturday, September 30, 2017

13843: Angry, Sassy & Underrepresented.

Advertising Age published a lengthy report—The ‘Angry Black Woman’ Makes Real Women Angry—detailing the efforts of about 15 advertising agency executives and educators to examine, expose and extinguish the negative stereotyping of Black women in media and culture. Okay, but considering that the advertising industry features fewer than 100 Black female executives, maybe all the Angry Black Women should be unleashed on Madison Avenue. Plus, team them up with the Sassy Overweight Black Women and let the revolution begin!

Friday, September 29, 2017

13842: Made Of More Stereotypes.

Adweek reported on a Guinness commercial starring the Compton Cowboys of South Central Los Angeles, created by White advertising agency AMV BBDO London. The spot is a rip-off of an iD Mobile commercial from White advertising agency CHI&Partners. Gee, White shops can’t even manage to hatch original stereotypes. What a bunch of horseshit.

Guinness Profiles the Compton Cowboys of L.A. in Its Latest Stirring ‘Made of More’ Ad

From AMV BBDO and Henry-Alex Rubin

By David Gianatasio

AMV BBDO London and acclaimed director Henry-Alex Rubin have developed new advertising for Guinness that profiles the Compton Cowboys, young men who’ve managed to break the cycle of violence and fear in hardscrabble South Central Los Angeles.

They’ve added purpose and meaning to their lives by caring for horses. In turn, the guys serve as beacons of hope for others as they ride, sometimes 10 abreast, through the neighborhood.

The story is extremely well told. Rubin, who directed last year’s lauded “Evan” spot for Sandy Hook Promise, deftly handles the material, delivering a perfect combination of poetry, grit and heart. His visual sense adds a lot to the story.

Shots of the shirtless, tatted guys sitting tall in the saddle amid a graffiti-tagged concrete wasteland are especially strong. A brief scene of Keenan Abercrombie riding proudly past an abandoned car-husk underscores the message that these dudes are determined to move forward despite the entropy around them.

That’s not to say the mood was deadly serious at the steamy four-day shoot in July.

“The cowboys certainly took to the Guinness,” recalls AMV BBDO creative director Steve Jones. “There was absolutely no difference in them when the director called ‘cut.’ They talked, laughed and drank just the same. Our director wisely just kept the cameras rolling, and what you see in the films [at various points] is just the guys with their friends, girlfriends and wives, thinking they’re between takes.”

It’s stirring work, part of Guinness’ celebrated “Made of More” series, though some commentators have pointed out that the brewer isn’t exactly blazing new trails here.

The campaign, which dropped this week, bears more than a passing resemblance to “Urban Riders,” an ad that CHI developed last year for iD Mobile. That work featured a similar group of men from Philadelphia and boasted a comparable vibe and storyline. (In fact, the Guinness work also evokes Almap BBDO’s powerful Pedigree film from a few years back.)

A rep for CHI brought the similarities to our attention, but declined further comment.

Are they wearing long faces at AMV BBDO over the similarities? Did they knowingly trot out a lookalike? We asked the agency to address the situation, but a rep said she’d have to check with the client before responding. We’ll update this item if and when we hear back.

13841: WPP B$.

Adweek reported WPP Overlord Sir Martin Sorrell is pressuring the owner of Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity to streamline the annual gala in the spirit of cutting costs. Wow, now holding companies are even dictating the financial decisions of award shows…? Sorry, but Sir Marty is hardly the guy to criticize others’ expenditures, given his own obscene compensation package—not to mention doling out exorbitant legal fees for discrimination lawsuits. Then again, maybe he should demand the elimination of the trophy for Holding Company of the Year.

WPP Tightens the Screws on Cannes Lions Owner Amid Threats to Skip Next Year’s Festival

Email reveals holding company’s contempt for sister festival Eurobest

By Patrick Coffee

The biggest news out of the summer’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity didn’t concern any dazzling campaigns but, rather, Publicis Groupe’s announcement that it would forbid all of its agencies from entering Cannes or any other awards shows next year.

Now, WPP, the world’s largest holding group, has continued its threats to follow suit unless parent company Ascential meets certain unspecified demands.

According to an internal email chain acquired by Adweek, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and worldwide creative director John O’Keefe will sit down with CEO Duncan Painter of Ascential, which also owns other industry groups like the Eurobest Awards and business development firm Medialink, regarding those negotiations next month.

The emails also make clear that WPP plans to withdraw from Eurobest entirely, but has not yet officially determined whether it will participate in Cannes next year.

“Final decisions on WPP and Cannes will await the result of a meeting Martin and I have with Duncan Painter in a couple of weeks time,” wrote O’Keefe in a message that went out to WPP executives last Friday. “But already we are seeing moves in the right direction: categories are being reduced by 120, there will be a refocusing on creativity, and there is talk of cutting the overall length of the festival.”

The strong implication is that WPP has insisted that Cannes streamline the entirety of the weeklong experience in the interest of cutting costs.

In the note, headlined “Eurobest,” O’Keefe described that festival as “an expensive distraction.” He wrote, “I asked, yet again, at the Strategy Conference in Palo Alto that we stop entering Eurobest. I seem to ask every year. It is at best a very poor relation to Cannes. It delivers no real credibility to us, nor does it much impress our clients.”

It would seem, however, that WPP agencies in Europe have not taken that message to heart. O’Keefe continued, “I see we have offered jurors and keynote speakers to Eurobest 2017 and, I believe, 117 entries.”

Referencing the ongoing discussions with Ascential, he wrote, “Martin has also made it clear that we do not support Eurobest. So it starts to become embarrassing when we are informed of the numbers of WPP people entering, attending, judging, and even speaking.”

He then noted that Ascential and WPP have gone back and forth regarding the latter’s ability to extricate itself from the festival altogether, adding, “This is a matter of priority for WPP. Our position on Eurobest is not new news.”

Sorrell responded to O’Keefe’s note by writing, “Please cancel all entrees [sic] and attendees asap.”

“WPP is a valued Cannes Lions partner, and as with all our stakeholders we are discussing how we can deliver the best possible Festival experience that suits their requirements,” wrote a Cannes representative. “These discussions are wide-ranging and cover many aspects of the event. We look forward to unveiling plans for the 2018 edition of Cannes Lions in November.”

A WPP spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

13840: The Art Of Cluelessness.

Will paying homage to Picasso lead to paying for relief efforts? Plus, is it odd to use Picasso to help Africa—when many strongly believe the artist ripped off took inspiration from Black art?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

13839: FYI, HP BS.

Advertising Age reported that HP exposed the results of its diverted diversity dictates, where HP CMO Antonio Lucio challenged his White advertising agencies to hire and promote more White women—and maybe consider racial and ethnic minorities too. As expected, the White women numbers skyrocketed. Also as expected, the racial and ethnic figures sucked. Lucio presented the same tired excuses for his White shops’ inability to identify, recruit and retain minorities. But he also set new goals to address the matter in 2018. Lucio declared, “The game is not over.” Sadly, the game has been going on since at least the 1950s, with clients and White advertising agencies co-conspiring to maintain the exclusivity. HP’s patronizing stunt clearly shows that the game is far from over.


By Adrianne Pasquarelli

Last year, HP was one of several marketers to push their agencies to include more women and people of color in senior leadership positions on the account, particularly in their creative departments. Today, HP Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Antonio Lucio shares the results of his call specific to action. Not all went according to plan.

The challenge: Last September, Lucio tasked HP’s global agencies—BBDO Worldwide, Fred & Farid, gyro, PHD and Edelman—with including more women and minorities in their ranks, specifically in senior and creative leadership roles. He set a goal of 56 percent women on account teams and 47 percent women in senior leadership roles. All agencies set their own goals for improved minority representation.

First, does HP walk the walk?: A year ago, the tech company, which recently posted a third-quarter net revenue increase of 10 percent to $13.1 billion, was 55 percent women, 43 percent of whom were managers or higher. When Lucio started in 2015, there were 20 percent in leadership roles. Overall, the marketing and communications department is composed of 63 percent women. Minorities represented some 26 percent of total employees in 2016, the most recent data available.

Now for the results.

The good: At HP’s agencies, women now represent 61 percent of the brand’s account teams—over 5 percent more than the goal. Women also now represent 51 percent of senior roles. When the challenge started, all brand account teams were less than 40 percent women overall, and many had 10 percent or even 0 percent women in leadership roles.

Regarding creative, BBDO’s creative leadership is 40 percent female and Fred & Farid’s is 55 percent female; neither agency had female creative leads on the account last year.

The not-so good: Three of the five agencies increased their minority representation, but even they failed to meet HP’s target of 60 percent. Last year, just under 20 percent of HP’s account teams were minorities; that figure has only risen to more than 25 percent today.

“As good as I feel on the progress with women, the progress on minority-represented groups was not as systemic as we wanted,” says Lucio.

New targets: Lucio has asked agencies to identify specific underrepresented groups by country and set new objectives and strategies for pursuing such ethnicities in 2018.

Part of the problem, Lucio says, is that the underrepresented groups are difficult to find through traditional means, such as recruiting firms. He’s encouraging agencies to pursue different ways of bringing new talent on board. In addition, HP is debuting a new diversity-focused talent search program, where minorities can network and share creative, with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and sponsoring the 3% Conference and Free the Bid.

“The game is not over,” says Lucio.

Monday, September 25, 2017

13838: Diverted Diversity Plus.

Adweek published the latest expansion on diverted diversity: Diversity of Size. Is anyone discussing racial and ethnic diversity anymore? Interest in true diversity continues to shrink.

Model and Body Positivity Activist Tess Holliday Wants Genuine Diversity in Ads

What brands can do to be more inclusive

By Kristina Monllos

If you ask Tess Holliday for her opinion on the current state of fashion and beauty marketing, be prepared for a long list of what’s wrong with the industry—and why even brands that appear to be inclusive need to do better.

She would know: Holliday, a model, body positivity activist and founder of the Eff Your Beauty Standards movement, has worked with major brands like H&M, Benefit Cosmetics, eBay and ModCloth. She’s also an influencer with 1.7 million followers on Facebook, 1.5 million followers on Instagram and 65,300 followers on Twitter. So, suffice it to say, if Holliday has a problem with your marketing campaign, her more than 3 million followers are going to hear about it.

As she prepared for the release of her new book, The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl, Holliday took a break between stops at the Today show and Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen to chat with Adweek about her work with brands, what she wants to see from marketers, Lane Bryant and more.

Adweek: Earlier this year there was a campaign for the new movie Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs that had an image of a skinny version of Snow White next to a larger version of Snow White with copy that read, “What if Snow White was no longer beautiful.” You called out that campaign online, asking why it was approved by a marketing team and why it was OK to tell kids that “being fat [equals] being ugly.” Do you believe you have to call out ads like that?

Tess Holliday: I was the reason that the campaign got shut down, which is embarrassing for them because it shouldn’t ever happen to begin with. Sometimes I’m just surprised at how a gigantic table of people can sit around and discuss how they’re going to advertise something [and come up with a campaign like this]. The amount of stuff that can just go through so many hands and be so horrible.

Is there anything you’ve seen that you think is successful and inclusive, something marketers should learn from?

The way that Rihanna has marketed her makeup line is extraordinary. I think the ads for it and seeing so many women of color and the fact that when she came out with the shades it had a model of each color [modeling] the makeup line—that is genius. Also, why did it take Rihanna doing a makeup line to actually show the lack of products for women of color? Now all of these beauty brands are scrambling and trying to make sure that they have the tones that she’s coming out with. So that’s probably the most powerful ad that I’ve seen to date. … She did use a plus-size model in the actual campaign, but she was a size 12, I think, so it would be nice to see someone visibly plus-size. But it’s still nice that she thought to include someone plus-size.

You’ve worked with brands like H&M and Benefit Cosmetics. Have those campaigns been inclusive? What has that experience been like?

I was a part of H&M’s campaign that they did almost two years ago. It was very diverse. It had all kinds of different people in it, including Iggy Pop, who is amazing. I was really proud to be a part of that one. The Benefit campaign that I did last year, it had myself and a transgender model and a couple of other people. … I try to be conscious socially of the campaigns and ads that I’m a part of and making sure they’re diverse. Because if you’re not, and you don’t think about it, Twitter will let you know.

Lane Bryant brought back its “I’m No Angel” campaign during the Emmys. That’s something that’s received a lot of accolades from the ad world. What do you think of it?

I don’t want to get myself in trouble. I just feel like it’s boring. To be honest, that representation and visibility are important, so it’s great to see plus-size models. And I’m friends with Danielle Brooks [who stars in Orange Is the New Black and appears in the campaign]. She wrote an endorsement for the back of my book. [Model] Denise Bidot is one of my good friends. I’m a huge supporter of them. It’s wonderful that they get to be in campaigns, especially Danielle as a woman of color and one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. But I just think [Lane Bryant’s] campaign felt forced and it just felt like—they just have so much money and I wish that, again, where is the person past size 16? All of those women were under a size 14, OK. They’re supposed to be representing plus-size women and they consistently keep showing us the same kind of body. I, unfortunately, wish that they would understand that there are people like me who wear their stuff but wish that we would see ourselves. I would have been much more moved by it if there was diversity in sizes.

So you’d like to see more size diversity?

The diversity [in Lane Bryant’s campaign] doesn’t really go past a certain size. Unfortunately, people cling onto those messages because in the plus-size world, you’re just so hungry for some kind of representation and visibility that you take crumbs. It’s really important to stop taking crumbs and say, “This is what we want.” I always tell people put your money where your mouth is and don’t buy into those brands. But we really only have a handful of places to shop. I have Lane Bryant underwear on right now. What am I going to do, you know? So it’s tough. … And the fact that there are so many women that are my size and we aren’t seeing them … You know, there are other models like me. I happen to be the only one signed and the most prominent one at this time, but I can name at least 10 models that are my size or bigger that could kill it in any of those campaigns but are not given the spotlight or chance.

You’re on a promotional cycle for your book right now. Let’s talk about the Tess Holliday brand.

Yes. I feel like it’s funny that you say that. When I was in London, I met up with a model, and I won’t say her name because I don’t want to get her in trouble, but her publicist told her, “Do you see what Tess Holliday is doing? Don’t do that.” And the model had to be, like, “Well, I like what she does and I like that she speaks her mind.” And [the publicist] goes, “Yes, but brands won’t work with her because she’s so outspoken.” I thought that’s so ridiculous because I don’t ever want to be viewed as the controversial person or the person stirring the pot. But I also think that if you have the social media platform and you’re not using it to educate your followers and to show where you stand on matters, then why even bother?

Is it true that brands won’t work with you?

It’s hard to say because I work plenty and I obviously haven’t had an issue getting myself booked on shows and stuff like that. I was up for one once, and I didn’t get it, and I even felt a little uneasy about that. … I have a good relationship with everyone I’ve worked with because I’m a professional. I will speak my mind, but I will also never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings.

How involved were you in the marketing campaign for your book?

I was very involved. I clashed with [the publisher] a bit because it took me a while to understand that I’m not a model, I’m a brand. My husband works in branding, which I didn’t even know when I met him, so he was responsible for suggesting that I change my name from Tess Munster to Tess Holliday, which I appreciate. He even had input on the book, as to how I should look, and worked with my stylist to help me because if I had my way, I literally would have shot the book cover naked with, like, troll doll earrings or something like that. … So my body is not Photoshopped [on the cover]. It’s all lighting. They smoothed it a little bit, but this is my body, which I was proud of. For the back of the book, they sent me a photo that the photographer, who’s amazing, had edited and you couldn’t see my cellulite. So I was like, “My legs are too Photoshopped. I want you to be able to see my cellulite.” And they were like, “That’s the first time that I’ve heard that.” But I thought that this image was important.

Is there a message you want the ad world to take away from reading this?

I’ve said it before but [the importance of] diversity and real diversity and genuine diversity. With the Body Positive Movement, [brands] have jumped on it so much because they see that it’s a moneymaker and it’s a hot buzzword and it can get them attention and a pat on the back. But people can tell when it’s not genuine. I built my brand on authenticity, and I try to be as honest as I can. I sometimes mess up, and even if brands mess up, it’s important to say, “We messed up and we want to do better” and ask their actual consumers what they want to see. Of course you’re going to get some people that just say garbage. But I feel like the majority of people want to see people who look like them, whether that’s people who aren’t able bodied, fat people, trans people, people of color. The world is so diverse, and I feel like we’re getting better, but we’re seeing the same people and the same bodies. I just want to see more, and I want people to do better. I’m probably going to get myself in trouble from this interview, but buy my book!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

13837: Enter The Dragon Truck.

Why would Dragon run this advertisement in an airline inflight magazine—or at all, for that matter?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

13835: McCann’s Fart Of War.

Advertising Age reported McCann won its official protest over being eliminated from a review to retain the U.S. Army account. The reversal was preceded by a 12-month extension of the current contract between the White advertising agency and its military client. At this rate, McCann could ultimately lose the business yet still realize gazillions in revenue.

McCann Worldgroup Wins Protest Against U.S. Army

By Lindsay Stein

McCann Worldgroup was won the protest it filed this summer against the Army’s Government Accountability Office alleging that its elimination from a review for the Army’s business was “arbitrary and capricious.”

According to a GAO Bid Protest Docket, GAO Attorney Scott H. Riback “sustained”—or upheld—McCann’s protest, which means the contracting office must consider the agency group’s proposal for the business. The Army has not yet settled on a winner.

It also means the agency won’t have to follow through on plans, according to one McCann executive, to take the matter to the Court of Federal Claims if the protest had failed.

In January, the U.S. Army released a request for proposals for its advertising and marketing business. An Army representative said at the time that the mandated review “estimates the contract ceiling to not exceed $4 billion” over a period up to a decade.

McCann Worldgroup complained this summer that it had been cut even though the contracting officer had failed “to read McCann-Erickson’s entire proposal.”

Amid the protest, the U.S. Army last month extended its current contract with McCann Worldgroup for another full year. According to a government document, McCann had been “awarded a $524,100,000 modification” to its contract, with a new “estimated completion date of Sept. 28, 2018.”

The agency network, which includes Weber Shandwick and UM, has held the business since 2005 and reaps an estimated $30 to $40 million in annual revenue from the account.

McCann referred calls to the client. Representatives from the Army were not immediately available to comment about the sustained bid protest.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

13834: There’s Something About Mary.

Check out this Audi commercial from Venables Bell & Partners and this Volkswagen commercial from Deutsch. Two spots for German automakers created by White advertising agencies feature the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song. That’s the power of exclusivity.

13833: Workout Needs Work.

Noah’s Ark Communications in Nigeria created this campaign that compels women to avoid excuses for not exercising and work out with anything on hand. Okay, but it’s odd that these women can’t find proper weights—but had no problem acquiring stylish fitness gear. Plus, the women don’t look like they suffer from a lack of conditioning.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

13832: Burrell Breaks Barriers.

Adweek reported Tom Burrell became the one Black in The One Club Creative Hall of Fame. Kudos to Burrell, but surely there are other worthy Blacks—including Georg Olden, Roy Eaton and Harry Webber—who also deserve recognition in the exclusive club.

Tom Burrell Becomes First African-American Inducted Into One Club Creative Hall of Fame

He founded Burrell Communications Group in 1971

By Erik Oster

Burrell Communications Group founder Tom Burrell, who has been breaking barriers his entire career, has added yet another one to the list.

The One Club inducted Burrell into its Creative Hall of Fame, making him the first African-American to receive the honor, which dates back to Leo Burnett’s inaugural induction in 1961. Burrell was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame back in 2004.

A pioneer in recognizing and celebrating the purchasing power of the African-American community, Burrell coined the phrase “Black people are not dark-skinned white people.” His advertisements for Coca-Cola are archived at the Library of Congress, recognized for their cultural and historical significance.

Tom Burrell began his career in the mailroom at Wade Advertising while still at Roosevelt University. The agency’s first black employee, he soon earned himself a junior copywriting position, working on the agency’s Alka-Seltzer and Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour accounts, according to the Advertising Hall of Fame. He went on to work at several agencies, including Leo Burnett and FCB, before founding Burrell Communications Group in 1971.

He retired in 2004 and currently serves as chairman emeritus for the agency, which is now led by co-CEOs Fay Ferguson and McGhee Williams Osse and CCO Lewis Williams. Burrell Communications Group currently counts McDonald’s, P&G, Comcast, Walmart, Toyota Motor Sales Inc., AARP and Hilton among its client roster.

In addition to his work in advertising, Burrell is the author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority and founded nonprofit The Resolution Project to “challenge and reverse ongoing mass media stereotypes and negative race-based conditioning.”

13831: Dancing For Diversity…?

The latest Google Doodle celebrates the 100th birthday of Mexican dance pioneer Amalia Hern├índez Navarro, and presumably also salutes Hispanic Heritage Month. Would Hern├índez Navarro dance with joy to learn Latinos represent a paltry 4% of Google’s current workforce?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

13830: Targeting Racists Is Easy!

Advertising Age reported it’s possible to target advertising messages to racists. Is this news? Is anyone surprised that an industry featuring lots of people exhibiting unconscious bias—as well as conscious bias—would have any trouble connecting with like-minded bigots? However, Ad Age insisted, “But it also turns out advertisers aren’t all that interested in deliberately reaching anti-Semites.” Maybe not, but advertisers are interested in deliberately conspiring with White advertising agencies where diversity remains a dream deferred, diverted, delegated and denied.

Turns Out, Brands Can Target Ads To Racists. But Would They?

By Garett Sloane

Turns out the ability to target specific bigotries is more widespread than first thought. But it also turns out advertisers aren’t all that interested in deliberately reaching anti-Semites.

On Friday, two more media outlets uncovered the ability for advertisers to target groups of people based on racist interests, this time on Google and Twitter. Racist-inspired ad targeting had first been discovered on Facebook on Thursday by investigative journalist group ProPublica.

Internet outrage aside, most advertisers are not surprised by this darker side of ad targeting. While ugly, targeting racists isn’t as much of a risk for brands as having their ads show up on racist websites through automated media buying, which is the typical brand safety concern with online ads.

“In theory, anyone could hack ad targeting tools on Facebook, but why would you unless you’re a Trump alt-right type,” asks one digital agency exec, speaking on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Anyone could reverse engineer what racists are interested in. Like if they were interested in, say, Breitbart or some other publication, you could then target lookalike audiences. There are all sorts of crude tools to target them.”

Another agency exec discussed how those same ad targeting tools can also be used for good. In one instance, YouTube is able to identify young people who are prone to radicalization and customize the videos they see to offer content that could help discourage their violent tendencies.

YouTube has developed ad campaigns that target these types of youth, who are deemed to be at-risk of joining groups like ISIS.

“Think about how much is uploaded to YouTube every day,” the agency exec said. “The fact that it can flag as much as it does, is amazing. And anything can be used for evil.”

On Thursday, ProPublica had found areas in Facebook’s self-serve ad system where it could find groups of people based on their education history, and in more than 2,000 examples people on the social network had listed anti-Semitic terms as their fields of study. People had listed “Jew hater,” “how to burn Jews” and other offensive language, and they were able to be discovered in the ad system, and they were made available for targeting. Facebook said it was taking steps to shut down the ability to target against such offensive terms.

BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast found similar flaws in Google and Twitter’s ad platforms. On Google, there were racist search terms available for targeting—“black people ruin everything” and “Jews control the media,” among a number of others, according to BuzzFeed. Twitter had similar categories available, according to The Daily Beast.

The targeting loopholes weren’t a big concern to most advertisers, because they say they wouldn’t use them, however the issue does expose more problems with automated online advertising. Leaving machines to do much of the work, and with artificial intelligence taking over more of the thinking, there are more opportunities for these types of embarrassing mishaps.

“The lesson here for Facebook is this: People are crass, stupid, and sometimes evil,” says a social media agency executive. “Don’t automate anything without some level of human oversight or guardrails in place. Machines aren’t perfect.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

13829: Beam Diversity Up, Scotti.

Adweek reported on the dubious progress revealed by Verizon CMO Diego Scotti, who had mimicked HP CMO Antonio Lucio’s request for White advertising agencies to primarily promote White women and secondarily consider colored people. Sure enough, the fuzzy figures exposed by Scotti showed a big boost for White women and questionable results for people of color. When asked why he didn’t force quotas on his White ad shops, Scotti explained, “We don’t really believe in quotas, we believe in progress.” Okay, but how does one measure—and ultimately judge—progress if specific numbers aren’t applied to the equation? Scotti then segued to hyping his company’s latest diversity scheme, which involves an internship program for colored college students. Wow, that’s original. When discussing diversity, Scotti admitted, “This is not an easy thing to solve, so for me I never expected to have crazy results quickly, but I learned a few things that are important.” Whatever. But everyone should learn one thing that is important: High-tech companies like Verizon and HP are diversity dinosaurs—and these companies have maxed their quotas for conspiring with White advertising agencies.

One Year After Calling on Agency Partners to Be More Diverse, Verizon CMO Shares the Results

Diego Scotti on new hires and Verizon’s Ad Fellows program, which kicks off today

By Katie Richards

One year ago, Verizon CMO Diego Scotti sent a letter to all of the brand’s agency partners. In that letter, Scotti called on each of the 11 agencies on the Verizon roster to focus on improving the number of women and people of color working for them.

Scotti’s letter came around the same time that HP and General Mills put out similar demands, laying out quotas for their agency partners to reach. Verizon didn’t ask for agencies to meet a certain quota because as Scotti explained, “we don’t really believe in quotas, we believe in progress.” Instead he asked that all of the agencies share the current state of their workforce 30 days after the letter was sent out and deliver an action plan to improve upon those numbers in the future.

“Now we meet every quarter with all the agencies together, and everybody needs to report their progress in front of everybody else, which in and of itself is changing the dynamic of how we are having this conversation,” Scotti explained. It holds everyone accountable.

Now one year after making that call to action, Scotti shared how both Verizon and its partners are doing on the diversity and gender front.

At the agencies, 31 percent of employees at the leadership level are people of color, up nine percent from last year. Eleven percent of those in leadership positions are hispanic, up 5 percent; 51 percent are female, up 3 percent.

“This is not an easy thing to solve, so for me I never expected to have crazy results quickly, but I learned a few things that are important,” Scotti said. One of those important lessons Scotti learned came from starting an in-house agency that launched in February.

There are already 70 people working on Verizon’s in-house team and the staff is split, 50 percent white and 50 percent people of color. Additionally, 52 percent of the staff is female and 48 percent is male.

“The number one lesson is when you build something from scratch and you put the filter of diversity in it, you can do it,” he said. “If you create the right environment, then you can do it.”

Looking specifically at new hires, 210 employees have been hired in the past year to work on the Verizon account across agencies; 41 percent of the hires were people of color and 53 percent were women.

Creating an in-house agency and focusing on improving agency and internal diversity numbers was the first prong in Scotti’s diversity-focused approach for Verizon. Another prong is the Ad Fellows program, which officially kicks off today.

The Ad Fellows program selects 20 college graduates from across the country, all with diverse backgrounds, to participate in an eight-month fellowship program. Scotti hopes that at the end of the program, 90 percent of the fellows will score full-time jobs at one of the six companies participating in Ad Fellows.

What makes Ad Fellows different than your typical fellowship, though, is that Verizon tapped five of its agency partners—McCann, Momentum, Rauxa, Zenith and Weber Shandwick—to participate in the program.

Over the course of eight months, the 20 fellows will be split into smaller groups and rotate between Verizon and a handful of the participating agencies (which cover creative, media and PR). That way the recent graduates have a chance to explore different parts of the marketing and advertising business and find out what it is they want to do with their career and what parts of the business they excel in.

The program is fully paid and covers housing and expenses for all 20 fellows to ensure that people of all backgrounds can have the chance to participate.

While the program just kicked off today, Scotti already has big plans for its future. Outside of holding more cycles each year, Scotti hopes that the idea of an Ad Fellows program can extend beyond Verizon. He hopes one day that, “every company in America has an Ad Fellows program and they gather agencies to work with them. I would love to partner with the ANA or The Ad Club or some organization that could help bring other clients to partner with the ad agencies and make it a really big thing.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

13828: Stock Schlock.

Leave it to stock image suppliers to invite you to “Elevate Your Work With Powerful Images”—via banner ads featuring thoroughly mediocre and forgettable images.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

13827: Googling Diverted Diversity.

Campaign reported Google is being slapped with accusations of gender discrimination in a U.S. lawsuit—ultimately proving the power of diverted diversity. After all, the tech company admits that women account for only 31% of the workforce; however, Latinos represent 4% and Blacks represent 2%. So where’s the lawsuit for people of color? Sorry, racial and ethnic minorities, but you’ll have to get in line behind all the angry White women.

Google accused of sex discrimination in US lawsuit

Google is being sued by three female former employees, who are claiming that it discriminates against women, paying them less and favouring men for promotion.

By Ben Bold

The three women have filed a lawsuit that claims that the technology giant while aware of the situation has done nothing to remedy it.

The suit has been filed in a San Francisco court; it argues that Google discriminates against female staff with lower pay and limited opportunities for promotion compared with men.

One of the trio, Kelly Ellis, a former Google software engineer, tweeted that she hoped to “force not only Google, but other companies to change their practices”.

Ellis joined Google in 2010 and despite her four years’ experience was given a role typically given to graduates. A male colleague with a similar level of experience was given a higher-ranking role, she said. She resigned four years later due to the “sexist culture”.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action that would cover women who had worked at the company in the past four years, demanding unpaid wages.

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in a statement: “Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.

The majority (70%) of Google staff are men, with 80% of tech staff male and 75% of leadership positions.

The news follows a row that broke out last month at Google over an engineer’s memo criticizing its diversity initiatives, arguing that “psychological differences” explain why women are underrepresented in tech.

The 10-page memo, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that “we need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism”.

Google is also under investigation by the US Department of Labor over its pay practices.

Friday, September 15, 2017

13826: WPPoop.

Adweek reported WPP is merging five shitty consultancies and design agencies to form a global pile of poop. Of course, blending shops from different countries will allow WPP to continue peddling the lie that it represents “the most diverse example of diversity of any single organisation.” Now, that’s a monumental bunch of bullshit.

WPP Is Merging 5 Consultancies and Design Agencies to Form a New Global Brand Offering

The unnamed agency will launch in January

By Erik Oster

WPP announced this week that it will combine five of its brand consultancies and design agencies to form a new global brand agency.

The new group, which has yet to be named, will combine Brand Union, The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison Group and VBAT. The launch is set for January 2018, with the latter shop continuing to operate under its own name.

The network will include around 750 employees across 20 countries, with client billings estimated at over $100 million worldwide. Jim Prior will lead the network as the global CEO and Simon Bolton will serve as executive chairman. Prior currently serves as The Partners CEO, while Bolton serves as Brand Union’s worldwide CEO.

“Our clients and our industry are ready for change and by bringing these agencies together, we can serve clients across the full range of sectors, capabilities and geographies,” Prior said in a statement. “This convergence builds the next generation brand agency and is motivated by the opportunities for growth—for our clients and for us.”

“Bringing our agencies together will instantly give our clients the benefit of scale and single point of access to a breadth of services that covers almost every aspect of brand and communications,” Bolton added.

WPP’s decision to merge the entities seems to be keeping with reorganization trends at the holding company as it attempts to rebound from a disappointing first half of 2017. Despite some major account wins, WPP failed to meet first half revenue goals in August and saw its stock plummet as a result. That stemmed largely from U.S. clients reducing ad spending totals, but it placed additional pressure on CEO Martin Sorrell to reduce overall operating expenses to increase the network’s efficiency, but some observers called for a more radical reorganization at the holding company.

“The pressures that we’re seeing accelerate the need to simplify what we’ve got,” Sorrell said at the time.

“The brand consulting business has always struggled to achieve the critical mass that ad agencies and media agencies have achieved. WPP’s hands were tied on this to some extent as they continue to push for efficiencies and scale,” Greg Paull, founding principal of international consultancy R3, said.

The pending formation of the new global brand agency also follows on the heels of WPP announcing the merger of MEC and Maxus to form a new global media network earlier this year as part of its ongoing reorganization.

Like the newest offering, that one went without a name for several weeks before the holding group introduced the world to Wavemaker last month.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

13825: Enter The Little Dragon.

Advertising Age reported China loves hip hop too.

Rapper’s Delight: China’s Hip-Hop Talent Showcase Boosts Brands

By Angela Doland

A rapper named Little Dragon struts across a stage, baseball cap slung low on his forehead. The camera cuts to glistening McDonald’s chicken wings, and Little Dragon plugs the product in a rap couplet—in Mandarin. “Hip-hop snack box/share it and it’s better.”

Welcome to “The Rap of China,” a new singing contest and a major vehicle for sponsorships and product placements. It’s also the first rap talent show in a country not known as a thriving hotbed of hip-hop culture. More: It’s a massive hit. The online video platform that shows it, iQiyi, says there have been over 2 billion combined views in 10 episodes of the show, in which Chinese rappers in huge gold chains and slouchy sweats try to outdo each other.

It’s a success with sponsors too, including local brands Nongfu Spring water and Xiaomi electronics, as well as Absolut vodka, Chevrolet Camaro and McDonald’s. As is standard in China, sponsor content and product placements are a huge part of the show, and nobody is surprised to see a supposed rebel rapping about the pleasure of sharing McDonald’s snack boxes.

Big investment, big payback

Doing a rap show “was kind of a gamble—before it actually started, nobody knew what would happen,” says Kevin Cao, iQiyi’s commercial marketing director. “We put a lot of time and resources into it, investing more than $30 million.” The program has more than made that back, taking in almost $46 million in ads and sponsorships.

One reason for its success is that mainstream stars appear too. Heartthrob Kris Wu, an actor-singer and former boy band member, is a celebrity mentor for the rappers, and though people online mocked his hip-hop credentials, he draws huge audiences. His catchphrase “Can you freestyle?” became a meme that publicized the show all over China’s internet.

Until now, rap had been more subculture in China than mainstream, but nonetheless attracted government attention. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture blacklisted 120 songs, including hip-hop tunes, because of their subject matter (from flatulence to suicide). But the Communist Party apparently doesn’t object to rap music itself, since the state broadcaster put it in a propaganda video in 2015. That song sampled speeches by President Xi Jinping and included lyrics like “Reform the supply side and upgrade the economy.”

Online TV boom

IQiyi, part of Chinese search giant Baidu, originally planned to hold a mainstream singing contest, a common form of TV entertainment in China, and had collected $46 million from sponsors to do so, Cao says. When iQiyi scrapped that project to go the rap route, it returned the $46 million and started over.

China has 751 million people online, according to official statistics, and online TV has been stealing ad dollars away from traditional TV in China as it has elsewhere. Each of the local internet giants owns a big video platform: Baidu has iQiyi, Tencent Holdings has Tencent Video and Alibaba Group Holding owns Youku Tudou. Most of the programming is free to watch, though people who buy subscriptions for a few dollars a month get extra content and see fewer ads. With so many people skipping interruptive ads now, more branded content is being built into the shows, from song lyrics to branded “stickers” dancing across the screens.

Chinese brands, more than multinationals, have embraced the zany sponsorship opportunities as they tend to be more experimental with their marketing. But foreign brands seemed to grasp the potential of rap on the mainland. Ruey Ku, Publicis media content general manager in greater China, says she believes “foreign brands saw the high relevance of hip-hop culture with the youth they’re targeting.”

McDonald’s and Absolut were among three sponsors that came on board before shooting started, iQiyi says. Some sponsors joined afterward. McDonald’s, the second-biggest sponsor, went all in; it tapped Wu to appear in commercials, and it has a snack box to match.

The show’s top sponsorship cost $18 million and went to Chinese water brand Nongfu Spring, the name of which is emblazoned on the show’s logo. That’s at the high end for sponsorships of online TV but still affordable compared with traditional or satellite TV, where prices for a top show can run four times that.

Merchandise is another potential revenue stream. IQiyi created a brand called R!ch for the show, including big golden chain necklaces that feature in the contest. They’re on sale on iQiyi’s online shopping mall for $14 each. The company is also working on licensing deals with other brands.

But one of the biggest beneficiaries of the show has undoubtedly been the New York clothing brand Supreme, which Wu, the show’s star, wears. On search engine Baidu, queries about Supreme are up about 170% this summer compared with the same period last year, according to Kantar Media CIC. That’s just a stroke of luck for the Supreme brand: IQiyi says it’s not a product placement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

13824: Conservative Crybabies.

Advertising Age published a Bloomberg News story about how conservatives in the tech industry feel “more isolated than ever”—especially after the backlash inspired by former Google employee James Damore’s notorious rant. The career-based isolationists should connect with Carl Warner for a tech-advertising pity party. It’s interesting that two fields where exclusivity is a major problem also allegedly discriminate against conservatives. Hell, it’s quite probable that each industry features a strong representation of culturally clueless conservative people at all levels. If these conservatives feel marginalized, well, they’ll have to get in line—plus, realize they still receive far more privileges than the average person of color.

Conservatives in Tech Say They’re More Isolated Than Ever

Shashi Ramchandani, who manages a team of engineers at Google, has never been shy about being a conservative working in Silicon Valley. He showed coworkers emails he exchanged with Ivanka Trump after he mailed her photos he took at the Republican convention, and on election night, he texted colleagues snapshots from the floor of Trump’s victory party in New York City. “They saw me first as a Googler, then as a conservative,” Ramchandani says.

In his 14 years at the company, he says he hasn’t felt like he had to keep his mouth shut—until last month when Google fired an engineer who penned a memo saying biological differences partly explain why more men work in tech than women.

Politics often don’t mix easily at work, but it’s particularly fraught in tech, where free thinking is prized yet the workforce is predominantly liberal. Now, as President Trump stirs up the culture wars at the same time as Silicon Valley faces a backlash for being so white and so male, conservatives in tech have their guards up like never before.

Ramchandani, whose parents came to the U.S. from India, wasn’t a fan of the memo. He particularly objected to its assumption that Google’s hiring favors women and minorities, which ran counter to his experience as a hiring manager. But he was also “extremely disappointed” Google fired the engineer. Ramchandani felt, for the first time, that he had to reconcile his love of Google with his conservative support for free speech and distaste for bureaucracy.


Tech has seen ousters for unpopular political or cultural views before, like when the chief technology officer at Business Insider was forced out in 2013 over old racist and homophobic tweets, and the next year when the CEO of Mozilla stepped down after facing criticism for a $1,000 donation he’d made to a group that opposed gay marriage. But those were executives. The Google memo, which exposed a rank-and-file engineer exposed in a public way, hit closer to home for many conservatives, who say the current environment is more hostile than ever before. “Before it was, ‘I don’t agree with you,’ but now it has evolved into this new thing that is much more aggressive, ‘don’t even say something that is counter to what I believe,’” says Aaron Ginn, co-founder of Lincoln Network, which looks to connect conservative techies with government and political work.

Some fear losing their jobs while others worry they’ll be ostracized by colleagues. (That’s in a sector where 76% of technical jobs are held by men, and blacks and Latinos make up only 5% of the workforce.) Adding to the stress is Silicon Valley’s penchant for open floor plans, which make it hard to tune out an officemate on a rant, and the way companies encourage workers to socialize and bring their whole selves to their job. Several tech workers say they don’t post about politics on Facebook, where they’re friends with many coworkers. “My wife is very paranoid about me sharing my opinion, even on private WhatsApp groups with my friends,” said a former Amazon engineer who now works at Oracle. Most employees who spoke asked not to be identified because they worried about their job security.

An engineer at Microsoft first realized just how in the minority his political views were back in 2004, when George W. Bush was up for re-election. At lunch one day, his coworkers one by one slammed the Republican candidate. The engineer, just a few years out of college, recalls saying, “I’m probably going to vote for him.” He wasn’t prepared for the response. “They says, ‘You stupid person. How can you think about that?’” Things got so heated, he says, his manager sent a memo to his 100-person team, that said, in essence, “Hey, cool it. We have engineering tasks we have to focus on.”

Affecting the product

As contentious as 2004 may have been, it’s nothing compared to the polarizing election and presidency of Trump. The Microsoft engineer says now it’s even harder to have a productive political conversation, as colleagues lump him with a president whom he said doesn’t represent his conservative values, threatening the ability to do his job well. “Thirty years ago, there was somebody in their garage doing something amazing,” he says. “Now these projects have thousands of people on them. People have to work with you and like you. If you get labeled as a bad person because you voted the wrong way and start getting ostracized, it will impede on your job because most people can’t flip modes. They can’t have a heated political debate with you and then flip modes and have a heated technical debate with you.”

Google’s office felt like a funeral the day after Trump was elected, according to an employee who describes himself as libertarian. “A lot of people didn’t come,” he says. “The people who did were very quiet, almost like their aunt died.”

This Google employee believes the now infamous memo was relatively well-reasoned and that Silicon Valley’s diversity initiatives ignore data that conflict with their ideology. He’s regularly reminded of what he refers to as the company’s “social justice agenda,” like when he gets corporate email touting a donation to a non-profit that supports minorities, or hears an executive talk about hoping to have half of his leadership team be female, which he believes shows the company prioritizes some groups over others. He worries that the company is under pressure to reach 50-50 gender equity too fast, and it will impede the promotion opportunities for men. “Just do the math,” he says.

The Oracle engineer says the bro culture in tech is real and knows of female colleagues who face sexism, but with women making up fewer than a fifth of computer science graduates, the goal of reaching anything close to a 50-50 split feels “misguided” in the near term. “Some people are better than others, and when I work with a woman who is below average, I always have a thought that maybe she is a diversity hire, and I don’t think that’s healthy,” he says. He bristles slightly when he hears about female colleagues being heavily recruited by top firms.

Some confide in colleagues they consider friends. One liberal Google product manager says a conservative teammate who used to work at Goldman Sachs told him the environment now reminds him of his time in banking during the Occupy Wall Street protests, when he tried to lay low.

Ramchandani, who said he’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal, says the pressure on conservatives is “less of a Google thing than a Silicon Valley thing.” In the suburban Bay Area at large, he says, “I had more trouble coming out as a conservative than I did with my race or orientation or any other minority status.” He believes Google should recognize his fellow conservatives more but is nervous that conservatives are becoming more polarized themselves in recent weeks. He says on internal Google employee email groups for conservatives, he notices “a few loud voices” stoking an “us versus them” mentality, for example contemplating legal action against the company. “I found that distasteful because it’s biting the hand that feeds you,” he says. “We are here to do a job, not expound political values.”

The Oracle engineer, like some others, have opted to lay low during this tense time. “Work is work, and not everything needs to be about politics,” he says. While he sees liberal colleagues who sit nearby don’t seemingly need to filter their comments, he’s decided it’s not worth engaging, adding “I don’t want to be known as that guy who wants to argue with everybody.”

—Bloomberg News

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

13823: Talk To The Hand, #AWNewYork.

Not sure what the hell this banner is trying to say about the 2017 Advertising Week scheduled for September 25-29 in New York City. Actually, the banner—along with the website—says Madison Avenue still has a long way to go in terms of understanding digital. Maybe all the hands are hinting at the smorgasbord of events, which include plenty of diverted diversity diversions promoting the White women’s bandwagon and a single seminar titled, “CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion.” Gee, what an oxymoron. It’s like holding a get-together headlined, “KKK for Black Lives Matter.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

13822: White Girls Rule!

A MultiCultClassics visitor pointed to a MediaPost story spotlighting research from COMvergence that shows how White advertising agencies have appointed 195 new leaders over the past 16-18 months. The report appears to provide categorized breakdowns indicating the promotion of White women, but ignores racial and ethnic minorities. While White holding companies like Omnicom have steadfastly refused to publicize EEO-1 data, Omnicom President-CEO and Diverted Diversity Pioneer John Wren vowed to double the number of female creative leaders at BBDO in one year. In other words, Wren won’t share figures for racial and ethnic hiring, but he’ll put an exact quota on gender boosting—and the COMvergence report signals the female totals are being actively and openly revealed. Chip in HP CMO Antonio Lucio’s promise to expose his White advertising agencies’ success in accelerating the White women’s bandwagon, and it’s clear that gender diversity has leapfrogged true diversity. What’s more, advocating for White women has become the smokescreen du jour, deflecting attention from the exclusivity that has forever tainted the industry.

Report: U.S. Creative Agencies Appointed 195 To Leadership Roles In Last 16 Months

By Steve McClellan

New research from agency research firm COMVergence has found that over the last 18 months, major creative agencies in the U.S. have appointed 195 new leaders, of which 130 were recruited from the outside and 65 were promoted from within.

By gender, 120 of the newly appointed leaders were men and 75 were women.

The research defines leaders as among 10 key titles comprising the typical agency leadership team. However, similar titles are assigned the same title code (i.e., President, Chairman, Founder, Partner, Managing Director and General Director are assigned to CEO.)

Most of the appointed executive creative directors and chief creative officers were men.

However, nearly half of the 45 reported CEO/MD/Chairman appointments were women.

The report found that among the top 25 U.S. creative agencies FCB, Deutsch and Grey were the most aggressive leadership team recruiters during the 18-month period covered by the research (January 2016 to June 2017). Combined, those agencies accounted for 25% of the recruited leaders.

FCB, DDB and Droga5 were found to be the top women leadership team recruiters, while Havas and Leo Burnett were the top promoters of women to leadership positions.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

13821: Omnicom “Wins” Pepsi.

Adweek reported Pepsi handed its U.S. creative account to Goodby Silverstein & Partners, following an exclusive shootout between White advertising agencies in the Omnicom empire. “We are pleased to add Goodby Silverstein & Partners to our diverse roster of creative agencies across our beverage business in the U.S.,” gushed PepsiCo CMO of North American Beverages Division Greg Lyons. “We look forward to working with Goodby and continuing our longstanding partnership with Omnicom through the addition of another one of its agencies.” At this point, is there an Omnicom shop that hasn’t worked for PepsiCo? It’s a wonder that GS&P managed to best Fathom Communications and Zimmerman Advertising for the business.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners Wins Lead U.S. Creative Duties on Pepsi After Closed Omnicom Review

Work will span beverage division

By Patrick Coffee

PepsiCo has concluded a review launched earlier this summer by naming Goodby Silverstein & Partners as the newest member of its creative agency roster.

The food and beverage giant announced in June that it had called upon a lineup of Omnicom-only agencies to pitch for creative responsibilities on its flagship brand and others across its multibillion dollar beverage business. The news marks another development in a relationship that has lasted more than 60 years.

“We are pleased to add Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to our diverse roster of creative agencies across our beverage business in the U.S.,” said Greg Lyons, CMO of PepsiCo’s North American beverages division. “We look forward to working with Goodby and continuing our longstanding partnership with Omnicom through the addition of another one of its agencies.”

“We’re thrilled to work with one of the most iconic brands in the world,” said GS&P partner and chief creative officer Margaret Johnson. “Throughout the pitch, we had an instant connection with the Pepsi team, and we’re looking forward to having a partner with a shared vision and a desire for innovation.” Co-founder and chairman Jeff Goodby added, “We had fun. And I trust fun.”

It is unclear which other agencies were involved in the review, though BBDO and TBWA\Chiat\Day have recently worked on the business and two parties close to the matter indicated that 180LA also pitched. The larger company has partnered with Omnicom since 1960, when BBDO first won the Pepsi brand business, and it made several smaller changes through the decades before consolidating all creative work with the holding group in 2001. Omnicom later developed a dedicated unit called Galaxy that assembled cross-agency teams to work on the account.

A Pepsi spokesperson told Adweek today that the company’s agency lineup will not change beyond the addition of GS&P and declined to elaborate on the remit. One party close to the matter did indicate that the San Francisco shop will be lead agency for the main Pepsi brand and that its assignments may change or expand.

GS&P has recently worked on campaigns for several products within PepsiCo’s non-beverage Frito-Lay division including, most prominently, Tostito’s, Cheetos and Doritos.

Beyond Omnicom, Pepsi also collaborated with other agencies such as independent shop Mekanism, which will remain on its roster for now.

PepsiCo remains one of America’s biggest advertisers, and the beverage division represents its largest spend. According to the latest numbers from Kantar Media, the company spent $527 million promoting its beverages in 2016 and just under $100 million in the first quarter of 2017.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

13820: The 4% Conference…?

Adweek published digital diverted diversity drivel from Women in Digital Founder and Executive Director Alaina Shearer, whose Annual Women in Digital Conference will reserve only 4% of tickets for men to spotlight the percentage of women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies (a figure which has actually jumped to 6.4% since Shearer and her crew started planning the event). Somebody buy a ticket for Kevin Roberts already. James Damore too. White Women’s Bandwagon Passenger Nate Rogers—the first man to buy a ticket—delivered more drivel by declaring, “Don’t assume this is only a women’s issue. It’s a human issue, and guys need to take advantage of the opportunity to show their support. I understand some men may feel awkward being in the minority, but you don’t gain empathy and learn if you don’t feel awkward sometimes…and wake up bro, if you think it’s society’s fault and not your fault—you are society. Jump on it, man, it’s us!” Whatever. In keeping with the symbols-of-discrimination theme, the 4% of tickets left for men should be supplemented with crumbs left for minorities.

Why I Created a Digital Conference Where Only 4% of Tickets Are Set Aside for Men

Changing the tone by turning the tables

By Alaina Shearer

No men allowed. It’s the common thread, the secret sauce so to speak, behind every one of our meetings in every city. Now a national organization growing at a pace we can barely contain, Women in Digital is on a mission to connect as many women on the tech and digital side of advertising and marketing as possible.

And we have found it most productive if men are only in the room on select occasions. This year, there will be one such occasion: our national conference in October.

Every year, we plan to pick a new statistic and use the numbers to flip things around. For example, at this year’s conference, only 4 percent of tickets are reserved for men, reflecting the percentage of women who held CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies in 2016. If we sell out, that will be 36 men out of 900. The number of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies has, since we began planning our event, risen to 6.4 percent—a number still so far short of where it should be.

One of the men attending this year’s Annual Women in Digital Conference will be Nate Rogers, the vice president of marketing and communications at OhioHealth, a system with more 10,000 employees in Columbus, Ohio, our headquarters city. He was also the first man to buy a ticket to this year’s conference.

Nate, who has been one of our most ardent supporters since we launched Women in Digital in June 2016, told me that being part of a scant minority of men at a conference focused on women in marketing and tech “allows you to feel true empathy for the other 51 percent of the population you should be working with, who may or may not be in roles they should be in.”

“Don’t assume this is only a women’s issue. It’s a human issue, and guys need to take advantage of the opportunity to show their support. I understand some men may feel awkward being in the minority, but you don’t gain empathy and learn if you don’t feel awkward sometimes,” Nate said, adding, “and wake up bro, if you think it’s society’s fault and not your fault—you are society. Jump on it, man, it’s us!”

There’s still so much work to do, and we need each other more than we know.

For most of us, a Women in Digital meeting is the first time in our professional careers we are among women only. Sure, there are women’s groups and organizations, but none are so honed in on our profession. Without men around, we have a chance to openly and honestly discuss the state of gender bias within our industry.

For example, what other professional women’s group can truly address the pain and frustration that comes in dealing with a room of mansplaining developers? Or the absolute degradation of a CEO calling social marketing “cute, just like you”? Or the feeling you get upon returning from maternity leave to find your seat at the power table effectively downgraded? These are just a few of hundreds of stories and experiences I have heard while traveling to Women in Digital events.

Now with nearly 400 members, we have launched in 17 cities, and more are on the way in 2018. But we’re not kidding ourselves. Not for a second do we believe we can do this without men at the table. In fact, we’re intentionally using a few of their old tricks.

We’re learning how to treat our relationships with each other as men do—business and power come first. But we’re not men, and never will be, so we do it in our own way with a tremendous amount of empathy and understanding. Beginning with individual and personal experiences from speakers or city leaders, our events then move into a favor exchange. We call them our Asks and Gives—with the male equivalent traditionally being known as the Good Old Boys Network.

The impact has been profound, and these favors are exchanged daily on our members- and women-only Slack account. Our members also have peer circles and meet once a month to confide in each other on issues too sensitive for a public setting or larger group.

OhioHealth was one of the first corporations to buy group memberships for over a dozen women on their digital team. Nate says as a leader, he’s seen a huge and positive impact on his team: “Our digital team is two-thirds female, and the fact that they’re seeing and engaging in conversations about gender in digital is awesome. I’m seeing open dialogue about what needs to change and open dialogue about what we’re doing right and what we could do better, which is incredible.”

It’s those “awkward” conversations that need to happen in order for change to truly occur. And if we as women, as men or as corporations and agencies keep brushing gender bias under the rug, one thing is for certain—nothing will ever change.

This year, we hope beyond hope that all 36 seats for men sell out. Because we have a lot of questions, and they have so many of the answers—more than they may realize. But most of all, we would hate for a little bit of awkward to scare them off. After all, we’ve been dealing with it for quite some time now.

Alaina Shearer is the founder and executive director of Women in Digital. She also founded Cement Marketing, a digital agency based in Columbus, Ohio.