Advertising Age reported the 3% Conference is shuttering after a decade of divertsity defending and patronizing partying.
Ironically and hilariously, the announcement was delivered during Women’s
consideration for nixing is the vaunted 3% Certification stunt, a move that would eliminate an easy heat shield for White advertising agencies to
purchase and promote.
As always, 3% Movement Madam Kat Gordon provided fuzzy commentary, including,
“…but I’m 56 years old and if I feel like I have 10 more years to give to this
issue, which it would be so great to do, I just don’t think that putting on
events for the next decade is the highest use of my brainpower.” Is Gordon
saying that she intends to eventually retire from the cause? Sorry, but that
smacks of entitlement and privilege. Does a true advocate for social change
ever stop fighting for justice and equality?
but wonder if Gordon is surreptitiously fishing for bailout investors—and
volunteers—to keep the annual soiree afloat. Surely Cindy Gallop will march to save the conference,
albeit mostly to prevent the loss of a paid speaking engagement for herself. Hey,
don’t be surprised if the “certified” White advertising agencies cough up
cash—and much more than 3% of their allowable tax-deductible donations.
Conference Ends After A Decade
The event is a
casualty of COVID, but the group’s mission will live on with ‘capsule’ and
Conference, perhaps the premiere industry event championing diversity and
female leadership in the industry, is ending after a decade, Ad Age has
which regularly drew nearly 2,000 attendees, attracted a veritable who’s who of
top-level speakers and panelists including David Droga, now CEO of Accenture
Interactive; Cindy Gallop, founder of Make Love Not Porn and If We Ran the
World; Vita Harris, global chief strategy officer of FCB; and Margaret Johnson,
partner and chief creative officer, Goodby Silverstein & Partners.
realities of COVID have caused the event’s organizer, the 3% Movement, to
change course. The group will be retooling its programming to offer more
year-round virtual content and shorter “capsule” in-person events, and may drop
its certification program, said Kat Gordon, founder and CEO of the 3% Movement.
conditions have also changed: When the 3% Conference started, only
3% of creative directors were female; now that number is up to 29%.
A big part of
the decision had to do with how much time and effort the large event took to
“There was a
sense that after 10 years and 28 live events it’s time-consuming work if you do
it really well,” Gordon said. “We delivered really thoughtful events that were
high production value events where we sweated every detail and everything was
beautifully art directed. It got to the point where I realized that even though
the events were such a home run and brought in so much money, they took
everything. They took a lot of money, they took a lot of my time.”
“I started to
think about the world we’re living in today versus when 3% launched and there’s
so much momentum around racial issues and gender expression and all these other
things that relate to the central mission of 3%. I felt like I could not give
my highest brainpower to those problems if I was still overseeing” the
conference, she said.
Gordon is the
sole owner and currently the only full-time employee of 3%, which at one point
had 10 staffers.
“There was a
lot I got pulled into that was sales-related, such as selling sponsorships; a
lot of people wanted to talk programming ideas with me,” said Gordon. “It was a
great honor to do that and I felt there were elements of it that I loved, but I’m
56 years old and if I feel like I have 10 more years to give to this issue,
which it would be so great to do, I just don’t think that putting on events for
the next decade is the highest use of my brainpower.”
She declined to
discuss revenue figures but said that virtual events allowed the group to lower
costs and ticket prices. Its first entirely virtual event in 2020 amassed
10,000 attendees, including 1,000 students who attended for free. Its hybrid
conference last year filled 400 in-person seats, due to COVID restrictions, and
“thousands of virtual attendees,” but less than the year prior, Gordon said.
‘A lot to
offering that 3% will “probably” be moving away from is its certification
program, which dissected and evaluated participating agencies’ policies,
programs, and systems around women in the workplace. Each certification typically
took around two months. Currently, agencies that have been certified are
72andSunny, VMLY&R, Swift, Possible, and Forsman & Bodenfors. Only one
agency was certified last year, not because of a lack of interest, but because
of difficulties brought on by the pandemic, according to Gordon.
certification was born out of no one owning the metric piece [of the lack of
women in creative leadership],” said Gordon. “But it became clear that it’s
difficult to be both the awareness creator around an issue and the solver for
everything that contributes to the problem. That’s a lot for a small
organization to tackle.”
From now on,
the organization will be focused on bringing awareness to organizations like
Agency DEI, whose sole focus is measuring the diversity numbers of agencies.
Instead of the certifications, the organization could still consult with
agencies in various ways, Gordon said, such as by offering them its belonging,
inclusion and leadership talent survey to be filled out by employees.
organization will now look to launch around eight virtual events annually and
around three in-person events, although nothing is definite yet, Gordon said. A
virtual roundtable the organization is streaming later this month focuses on
the freelance workforce in the industry, hosted by Jill Gray, executive VP,
client solutions at VidMob.
3% will also be
shifting from its “Minicons,” which were essentially one-day conferences that
happened throughout the year, to smaller events. “It could be a meetup in New
York City in the summer where it’s a cocktail party or maybe there’s a speaker,
but it’s not so much conference-driven,” said Gordon. “We would love to find
more opportunities to bring capsule content into other events like South by
Southwest or the 4A’s, or even an agency conference.”
have been asking for years for more year-round ways to support our community
and have their conference sponsorship have a lasting impact,” Gordon added.
“This enables us to meet sponsor requests, world health realities, and bring
more people into the conversation around diversity and creativity.”
organization will continue its virtual mentor matchmaking event, launched last
year, where young female talent “speed dates” for 15-30 minutes with various
senior female creative leaders from different companies. Gordon is also working
on creating a report out of crowdsourced ideas that came out of the last
conference around the topic of “isms,” meaning racism, sexism, and ageism.
Making a difference
that stepping back a bit allows her to enact true change herself. In November
she took on a “creative entrepreneur in residence” role that she created
within San Francisco-based agency Eleven. The goal is to ultimately build a
curriculum for “modern creative leaders” as she looks to tackle the challenges
creatives are facing amid the pandemic and shifts in the workforce.
“We’re in a moment in time where everyone is awake to the
realities of the importance of diverse perspectives in creative cultures, women
being one group, but there are multiple groups that are underrepresented
currently,” said Gordon. “I don’t think this is the kind of mission that will
fully solve itself in my lifetime and I’m ok with that. But it feels really
good to devote a good portion of my career to trying to make a difference.”