Advertising Age reported 600 & Rising Co-Founder Nathan Young took heat for criticizing ADCOLOR® via Twitter, calling the organization “an awards ceremony completely divorced from reality that sells the story that progress is being made on diversity in advertising and buys cover for holding companies.” Hey, it should be interesting to see how Young fares at the upcoming virtual gala, as his efforts to date surely warrant an ADCOLOR® trophy nomination. Then again, has the organization ever really saluted revolutionary figures? Young’s commentary holds validity, given that Omnicom—the owner of ADCOLOR®—just admitted its Black representation is, well, light. Plus, ADCOLOR® honorees like John Siefert—as well as the numerous patronizing sponsors—have not exactly brought meaningful or measurable multicultural change to the industry, supporting Young’s perspective on buying cover via tax-deductible donations. And despite its self-promotion as a force for progress, ADCOLOR® did come to prominence with an awards ceremony. Sorry, but the organization has always held a Pollyannaish view on reality, arguably divorced from the cold truth of EEO-1 data. In the end, Young delivered old observations.
600 & Rising President Stumbles With Criticism Of ADCOLOR
By Ann-Christine Diaz
Since Nathan Young and Bennett D. Bennett founded 600 & Rising in June, their nonprofit has made considerable headway in encouraging agencies to take concrete action toward addressing systemic racism in the industry. The organization’s #CommitToChange campaign has prompted a number of agencies and holding companies to share their diversity data—not just for overall staff, but also for leadership positions. Such information is crucial to holding the industry accountable on its promises to increase equity for people of color.
But yesterday, the organization stumbled when Young, its president, tweeted a criticism about the ADCOLOR awards, the advertising fete that has long celebrated the achievements of diverse industry professionals as well as work that has promoted diversity and inclusion.
“@ADCOLOR is an awards ceremony completely divorced from reality that sells the story that progress is being made on diversity in advertising and buys cover for holding companies,” he wrote.
*whispers*@ADCOLOR is an awards ceremony completely divorced from reality that sells the story that progress is being made on diversity in advertising and buys cover for holding companies
— Nathan Young (@notnathan) July 29, 2020
The ADCOLOR organization was founded in 2005 by Tiffany R. Warren, who since February 2009 has also served as SVP-chief diversity officer at Omnicom. ADCOLOR has also strived to promote diversity and inclusion through mentoring programs including FUTURES, geared toward identifying and nurturing promising diverse talents.
Young’s tweet sparked blowback from the industry, including those asserting that their careers have thrived thanks to ADCOLOR. Those include veteran media exec Michele Thornton Ghee, an ADCOLOR board member and former winner of the organization’s “Change Agent” honor.
“The work that the people of Adcolor have put in to clear a path for POC’s is undeniable,” she wrote. “I’m one of them. Then I hired people who look like me. Oh and now I have a firm that demands equity in the marketplace.”
Others saw a point to the issue Young brought up.
“I mean ... you’re not wrong,” wrote Jennifer Ekeleme, founder of JennZen Co-Creation Studio. “This is a HARD conversation b/c I think we all like to believe that the celebration of survival in the industry solves problems ... but we know it doesn’t. I’m open to having a town hall about this.”
Ad Age reached out to ADCOLOR founder Warren, who declined to provide comment.
By yesterday’s end, Young was apologetic about his statement in multiple subsequent tweets. “I didn’t make my critique of @ADCOLOR in the right way,” he wrote in one. “It felt like an attack, and of all orgs, @ADCOLOR doesn’t deserve that.”
Criticism is something I both dole out & take in daily. I believe that critique important, and that done the right way, it can accelerate conversations.
I didn’t make my critique of @ADCOLOR in the right way. It felt like an attack, and of all orgs, @ADCOLOR doesn’t deserve that
— Nathan Young (@notnathan) July 30, 2020
Ad Age reached out to Young for comment today but he deferred to a statement provided by 600 & Rising’s PR.
“As a co-founder of 600 & Rising, I am holding myself accountable to the Black talent and non-Black allies in the advertising and public relations industries who have trusted us to fight for change,” he said. “Our initial Call for Change open letter would not have been possible without their voices and support, and it is critical that we make space for them to be heard, reflected and respected in everything we do on our journey to battle systemic racism in the industry. I also want our peers—especially, the Black womxn who have been fighting this fight long before 600 & Rising was created—to know that I admire them and only hope to be able to add to the meaningful progress they’ve made. The extensive work and contributions to the cause by Black womxn cannot be erased nor overlooked.”
The organization this afternoon also sent out an email to its 3,800 Black and non-Black signatories, assuring that it supports “true equality and equity,” gives “space to intersectional experiences,” is collaborative and believes in transparency and real action.
Earlier this morning, 600 & Rising’s Bennett released his own apologetic statement on Twitter, saying he could not stand by his co-founder’s actions and asking the community “to continue to challenge us two Black men and the people standing with us on our board and advisory council to do right by you.”
It’s been a while, and I can’t be silent about what went down yesterday. So, my only statement about the issue on behalf of my peers at 600: pic.twitter.com/0TvkLOrYsb
— Bennett D. Bennett ♠️ (@BennettDBennett) July 30, 2020
Young’s admitted misstep brings to light the challenge of unifying diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—any social justice efforts, for that matter—among people and organizations of differing approaches and backgrounds who are striving for the same goal.
But from dialogue can come progress. As Curaleaf CMO and former Apple/Beats by Dre exec Jason White tweeted, “Lots of us old folks here to help. Hit me. We need the energy. We just need it pointed in the right direction. Let’s build.”
Lots of us old folks here to help. Hit me. We need the energy. We just neee it pointed in the right direction. Let’s build.
— Jason White (@jwhitelikes) July 29, 2020
Contributing: Lindsay Rittenhouse
But ADCOLOR is indeed “an awards ceremony completely divorced from reality that sells the story that progress is being made on diversity in advertising and buys cover for holding companies."
If he's being criticized it's from people who've benefited from the organization's heatshield tendencies through the years.
It never served to make any change, it has served to cover for holding companies and agencies and white people who collected their trophies for diversity and then went right back to doing nothing, just like they were doing before.
Why are they punishing a guy for telling the truth?
Massa said that man had to go.
Absolutely disgusting. You "Negroes" want to thank "Jim Crow" Mad Men for letting you become "house Blacks." You don't even know the origins of ADCOLOR, stolen by Ms. Warren. If you really want to know whom has benefited from ADCOLOR, check-out the article in the NYTIMES about how Tiffany spends her SUNDAY's-getting her hair done by a celeb hairdresser and time with her personal trainer-then lunch at the Mandarin Oriental on 57th Street. Truly a Princess-like day while your Black behinds are the fuel that feeds her lifestyle. She may not be ashamed of her behavior but you Black folks most assuredly ought to be.
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