Adland in 2021 could be headlined: The Rise of Human Heat Shields.
The Human Heat Shields phenomenon emerged through increased appointing and/or hiring of Chief Diversity Officers with a variety of lofty titles, which allowed for surreptitiously spiking minority representation at senior management levels.
McCann Worldgroup, Ogilvy and Wieden + Kennedy named Global DE&I Officers. Publicis Groupe and Wunderman Thompson boosted US and EMEA CDOs, respectively. Hill Holliday, Merkle, The Richards Group, VaynerX, Universal McCann and Ad Council were among the numerous White advertising enterprises that added regular CDOs. The Martin Agency invented a DE&I PR Officer. Of course they did.
Omnicom Pioneer of Diversity John Wren boasted that the White holding company had “doubled its DE&I leads since last summer”—emphasizing that all practice leaders now have a DE&I Human Heat Shield on staff. Of course they do.
The arguably most outrageous Human Heat Shield scheme starred Kat Gordon, who claimed a CDO role—cleverly titled Creative Entrepreneur In Residence—for a White advertising agency sponsoring and consulting with her 3% Movement. In short, Gordon leveraged divertsity, cronyism and privilege for personal gain, presenting the maneuver as pseudo inclusive innovation. Of course she did.
As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed on, everyone proceeded to exclusively delegate DE&I duties to Human Heat Shields—leading to a new form of contact-free diversity for White people in Adland. (As well as a seemingly endless stream of redundant how-to-reach-DE&I-Nirvana divertorials.)
So, can meaningful and measurable results be expected from Human Heat Shields today? For a prediction, it’s worth revisiting the 2009 Advertising Age interview with Sanford Moore that featured the exchange directly below.
Ad Age: You’ve called chief diversity officers “pimps.” Why?
Mr. Moore: Let’s call them diversity parasites. They do nothing to help. If they do any good, where are the Black executives in the organizations that they’re hired to? Besides themselves, who else is there?
The diversity officers, I mean they’re window dressing. They don’t have power, they can’t hire. But it’s not just diversity officers. It’s lawyers and diversity consultants and people that feed off of the exclusion to Black people. It’s like blood diamonds. These people profit off of the blood that Black people have spent trying to break into and achieve success on Madison Avenue. They do nothing to help. They just get paid to run interference, to create meaningless dialogue.
In closing, don’t envision the rise of Human Heat Shieldsto ignite a rise of humans of color in Adland.