Friday, March 31, 2023

16195: Thank God It’s Freday.


Advertising Age and Adweek reported that Dentsu Global CCO Fred Levron and the Japan-based company are splitting up by “mutual agreement,” with a divorce date speculated for mid-April.


Levron took the Global CCO role in November 2021—and roughly 10 months ago, he and former Dentsu CEO Wendy Clark orchestrated the dumping of all the global creative agencies into single pile of poop dubbed Dentsu Creative. Clark’s Dentsu tour of duty was slightly longer than Levron’s, yet it kinda looks like both executives executed a corporate restructuring that ultimately led to their own executions.


The CEO+CCO CUL8R also underscores how holding companies have created a commoditization of talent. That is, bodies are generic, interchangeable, and expendable—at every level in the organization. Although White bodies still receive preferential treatment.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

16194: Writing A Better Plan For Inclusion With Ink-Mgmt.


Advertising Age reported on Ink-Mgmt, a new talent agency designed to help Black creatives find jobs. Although it’s somewhat ironic—in a predominately White industry desperately needing diversity—that Black creatives would leave their jobs to help Black creatives find jobs.


New Talent Agency Aims To Help Black Creatives Find Jobs


Ink-Mgmt was founded by former CPB creatives


By Brian Bonilla


A trio of Black creatives launched a talent agency that specializes in helping Black creatives find jobs. The goal of Ink-Mgmt is to help even the playing field for Black creatives in an industry that has a clear diversity problem.


The agency was founded by CEO Jason Pierce, who most recently served as a creative director at CPB, as well as Heads of Creative Ant Tull, who will remain in his role as a senior copywriter at Droga5, and Sebastian Walker, who most recently served as an associate creative director at MullenLowe. Tiffany Golden, formerly a director of community programs at Wieden+Kennedy, joined the agency as director of business development.


The founders met while working at CPB, where they discussed creating something change-making following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.


“The one thing we didn’t want to do was something that didn’t represent us and something that you would just forget about tomorrow,” Pierce said.


Ink-Mgmt will look to help agencies and brands recruit talent for creative departments, which Pierce said doesn’t have to necessarily fit within an advertising scope.


The founders said they have spent years in the industry experiencing the recruiting mistakes and missteps agencies make when looking for diverse talent.


“We know what it’s like to get ghosted for a job that you were excited about,” said Walker. “We know what it’s like to get your dream job and you join the company and then you realize the culture and place didn’t really match you.”


Tull cited an instance in which he received an email from a recruiter aimed at diverse candidates, and the recruiter used another candidate’s name in the email to Tull.


Black talent across the industry remains significantly low: Black employees make up just 7.2% of the marketing industry's workforce, according to a 2022 report by the Association of National AdvertisersA 2020 4A’s report found that Black talent made up nearly 6% of agency employees; of that total, 68% were in administration roles and 4% held VP roles or higher, excluding C-suite positions. (The 4A’s does not yet have agency data past 2020.)


“Jason was the first black CD I’ve ever seen,” Tull said. “When you’re trying to see a future for yourself in the industry, you’re trying to climb a rank, you want to see that it’s possible. You need to visually see it in order for you to believe that it’s possible.”


Lauren Tucker, founder of consultancy Do What Matters, said creating significant change in the industry will take more than fixing the pipeline to Black creatives: It will take buy-in from the top of executive suites.


“Elevating excellence is great, and I applaud this talent agency for promoting Black excellence. The headwinds are tough. Leaders love using threats of recession as an excuse for rolling back efforts to improve diversity and representation,” Tucker said.  “Unfortunately, I’m not hearing the whistle of the winds of change in the executive suites of the advertising industry.”


Pierce said the biggest mistake agencies make when looking for diverse talent is thinking too narrowly about where to find it.


It “leads to us sourcing from the same pools,” Pierce said. “Us constantly picking on portfolio schools, constantly picking on our friends that give recommendations, which really just leads to us recycling the same talent over and over again. We have to expand our view on what talent is, what creativity is, to be open to the answers of where creativity lives.”


This includes finding talent that doesn’t have traditional advertising backgrounds or even college degrees, according to Walker.


“There are people out there that financially cannot make it through that level of higher education, but they’re still very talented people,” Walker said.


Currently, the agency has its own database of talent and has brought on agency clients such as nice&frank, launched last year by former Goodby Silverstein & Partners executives, and TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. The agency will also look to work with creatives at any level for freelance or full-time positions.


Besides finding the right talent for clients, Ink also offers cultural consulting, helping to identify areas of improvement within an organization to help make diverse talent feel more welcome.


“It doesn’t help if you’ve done all of the work to find unconventional talent if once they get to your organization, you don’t have the environment to sustain or to tap into and grow that talent,” Pierce said.


Once a client hires talent through Ink, it will keep the dialogue going with the hired employees.


“Let’s say you get placed somewhere and you’re a junior strategist of color on your team,” said Golden. “Well, based on your connection with Ink, we can definitely ensure that you have a network of other Black junior strategists or more senior strategists if you need to put minds together or have questions.”


The company plans to donate 6% of its fees to currently undisclosed initiatives dedicated to helping Black creatives.


“It’s one thing to place talent and get help Black people that are already professionals by getting them jobs, but it’s a completely different thing to think about the future generation and help them exist even in this space. That is something that is very important to us,” Pierce said.

16193: Adidas ≠ All Day I Dream About Suing.


The New York Times reported adidas executed a crossover backpedaling stutter step move in its trademark dispute with Black Lives Matter. The German sportswear company had challenged a BLM trademark application, arguing that the organization’s proposed logo was “confusingly similar” to adidas’ three-stripe logo. Two days later, adidas said it would pull its opposition ASAP. In this case, three stripes and you’re out.


Adidas Drops Trademark Dispute With Black Lives Matter


The German sportswear company challenged the trademark application on Monday, saying it was “confusingly similar” to its three-stripe logo. Within 48 hours, it reversed course.


By Amanda Holpuch


Two days after Adidas objected to a trademark application by the advocacy group Black Lives Matter for a logo featuring three parallel stripes, the German sportswear company said that it would withdraw its opposition.


Adidas challenged the trademark application in a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Monday. On Wednesday, the company said in an emailed statement that it would withdraw its opposition “as soon as possible.”


In the filing on Monday, Adidas said that it opposed the Black Lives Matter application because it showed a trademark that “incorporates three stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar” to the company’s familiar three-stripe logo “in appearance and overall commercial impression.”


The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation filed the trademark application for a yellow three-stripe logo design in November 2020. The group is one of several organizations associated with the wider Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager.


The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In its statement, Adidas did not say why it was reversing its opposition to the trademark application.


In September 2022, the window opened for individuals and groups to file their opposition to the foundation’s trademark application. Adidas repeatedly sought to extend the window before submitting its notice of opposition on Monday, according to the filing.


Adidas said that it had been using a three-stripe mark on footwear since at least 1952 and that the design had been used in its partnerships with professional athletes, including Lionel Messi, James Harden and Patrick Mahomes. The company said the three-stripe logo had also been used in its collaborations with and sponsorships of celebrities, including Beyoncé, Selena Gomez and Bad Bunny.


In the filing, the company said that the public understood that the three-stripe mark “distinguishes and identifies Adidas’s merchandise.”


This short-lived trademark battle comes after a failed attempt by Adidas to challenge the fashion designer Thom Browne, who the company said used stripes in his designs in a way that was too similar to the Adidas stripes. In January, a federal jury in Manhattan ruled against Adidas.


In 2020, when global Black Lives Matter protests took place after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Adidas made several commitments to its Black employees. The company said at the time that 30 percent of new hires would be Black or Latino, and it pledged to invest in programs that benefited the Black community. Some employees said then that Adidas’s promises lacked an explicit acknowledgment of how the company had treated Black employees.


A year earlier, a New York Times investigation found that the relatively few Black employees at the company’s North American headquarters in Portland, Ore., often felt marginalized and sometimes discriminated against. The investigation found that in 2018 only 4.5 percent of the 1,700 employees at the company’s Portland campus identified as Black and that only about 1 percent of the more than 300 worldwide vice presidents were Black.


More recently, Adidas has been dealing with the aftermath of its messy split from Kanye West in October, after he made a series of antisemitic remarks and embraced white supremacist tropes. Adidas was criticized for not being quick enough to cut ties with Mr. West, who is now known as Ye.


The company said in a statement that Ye’s “recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”


In March, Bjorn Gulden, who took over as chief executive of Adidas in January, declared that 2023 would be a “transition year” for the company. Adidas has been losing its market share to rivals, such as Nike, and in February it issued its fourth profit warning in six months, saying it expected big losses this year.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

16192: Levi’s AI DEI Fits Adland Perfectly.

The Cut commented on Levi’s use of AI-generated figures to replace human talent, boosting the number and diversity of models portrayed in the brand’s marketing and communications. Global backlash erupted from real people who took offense and labeled the move “Artificial Diversity.”


Given the growing infatuation with AI, is anyone really surprised by the Levi’s scenario?


In Adland, “Artificial Diversity” considerably predates the offspring of the latest technological innovation. For generations, the exclusive advertising industry has fudged DE&I in diverse and diversionary style.


For example, EEOC figures are routinely spiked by counting janitorial maintenance, security staff, cafeteria personnel, and mailroom attendants of color. In recent years, diversity has been inflated via designating White women as a minority segment.


As White advertising agencies further adopt AI to render services, expect even greater shenanigans to generate an illusion of inclusion.


What’s next—Using AI to create royalty-free stock photography for multicultural marketing and Black History Month campaigns?


In Adland, diversity has always been artificial—and AI may ultimately escalate systemic racism. The discriminatory possibilities—and probabilities—are endless.


Just keep in mind who is orchestrating and activating the machinations.


Levi’s ‘Artificial Diversity’


By Tariro Mzezewa, a blogger for the Cut


Levi’s said last week that it is partnering with, an AI studio that creates AI-generated models, to “supplement human models” and increase the “number and diversity of our models.” So who’s going to tell this multibillion-dollar company that it can develop a diversity and inclusion strategy by just … hiring and paying actual models of different races and body types? The irony is not lost on us.


In an announcement first covered by Mashable, the denim company said that later this year, it will test showing models of different body sizes on its website and app, but instead of just using real people of different ages, ethnicities, and body types, it will use the “hyper realistic” AI models created by “Artificial Diversity” is what founder and CEO of analyst firm HFS Phil Fersht called it.


Currently, if you look at an item on Levi’s online store, you can see most things on one model. The company says it wants to give shoppers the opportunity to see clothes on people who resemble them. “This AI technology can potentially assist us by supplementing models and unlocking a future where we can enable customers to see our products on more models that look like themselves, creating a more personal and inclusive shopping experience,” the company’s announcement said.


Amy Gershkoff Bolles, global head of digital and emerging technology strategy at Levi’s, said that AI will “likely never fully replace human models for us,” but it’s worth noting that in recent years, Levi’s laid off about 15 percent of its workforce, which allowed it to save about $100 million per year. The announcement also comes at a moment when body diversity in the fashion industry is shrinking.


Gershkoff Bolles also said that Lalaland’s technology “can help us continue on our journey for a more diverse and inclusive customer experience.” Maybe someone should tell the leadership team at Levi’s that there’s a straightforward way to achieve the same goal: to hire real-life humans who work as professional models and deserve the chance to be paid for their work.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

16191: Bookmarking Mark Robinson.


Sure, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—or in this case, its half cover—but predicting that this will be a brilliant read is a safe bet.


Mark Robinson has been a strong leader and clear voice in the industry for a long time. Check out the pre-hype for his upcoming book now.

Monday, March 27, 2023

16190: Aunt Jemima Has Not Yet Left The Building…


It’s been roughly two years since PepsiCo erased Aunt Jemima and reintroduced Pearl Milling Company.


Per the corporate website navigation logos, Pearl Milling Company boasts having existed “Since 1889”—yet still embraces the “Same Great Taste As Aunt Jemima.”


Our History” delivers revisionist history, acknowledging how the company bought and adopted the Aunt Jemima brand, while ignoring how the “mammy cook” toiled on the plantation of her master, Colonel Higbee.


The iconic mammy figure has been replaced by seemingly stock photography of grinning Black women, presumably representing the recipients of P.E.A.R.L. Pledges.


In 2022, PepsiCo and Pearl Milling Company awarded “$1 million in grants to seventeen nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating opportunities for Black women and girls across the country.” Although $1 million feels like low reparations after profiting from Aunt Jemima for over 125 years.


One can’t help but wonder about the number of Black women actually working for PepsiCo and Pearl Milling Company. And how many Black women lead at the advertising agencies cooking up campaigns for Pearl Milling Company?


The truth is probably a pile of pancake crumbs.



Sunday, March 26, 2023

16189: VCCP BEE BS.


More About Advertising reported on VCCP launching an employee engagement division—VCCP BEE—designed to help companies attract and retain talent. Um, why would a White advertising agency feel qualified to consult on such matters? After all, Adland has demonstrated an absolute inability to create friendly and inclusive environments for minorities. And in recent years, the unhappiness expressed by White women, LGBTQI+, White people with disabilities, White people who are neurodivergent, White old people, etc. shows that the typical firm doesn’t even offer a safe space for Whites.


Sorry, but BEE sounds like a sting.


VCCP launches employee engagement division, VCCP BEE


By Emma Hall


VCCP is launching yet another division, this one is called BEE and is dedicated to brand and employee engagement — a hot topic during a talent crisis, and at a time when escalating numbers of staff take to social media to vent their frustrations with an employer.


Only 9% of employees are apparently engaged at work, which is where VCCP BEE comes in, with an offer to help companies attract and retain talent by “unifying the brand and employee experience” with help from its other divisions to bring in behavioural science, data, AI, branding, design, film, social, digital and experiential.


The offering is led by Huw Morgan, director of brand and employee engagement. He was previously at PR and social agency Good Relations, and has worked with brands including Channel 4, TfL, Johnson & Johnson, New Look and Asahi.


Morgan said: “Whether businesses are confronting turbulence or riding a wave of growth, VCCP’s integrated model enables us to uniquely challenge brands to consistently treat their people like valued customers, to attract talent and keep them informed, engaged and motivated.”


Adrian Coleman, founder and Group CEO at VCCP, said: “Our mission at VCCP is to challenge the bad habits of the industry and BEE is our latest example of this.”


According to The Society for Human Resource Management, it costs up to 60% of an employee’s salary to replace them, and even more if you take other factors like impact on culture, morale and knowledge into account.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

16188: Celebrating Earth Day In Adland.


The theme for Earth Day 2023: Invest In Our Planet. Appropriately enough, it’s a recycle of the 2022 theme.


In Adland, there will undoubtedly be significant investment in promotional advertising campaigns for all forms of sustainability—especially in the plastic-kills-wildlife category.


Indeed, sustainability has leapfrogged racial and ethnic diversity in terms of awareness, commitment, and action.


Invest In Our Planet trumps Invest In Our People—and the people who inhabited parts of the planet pre-colonization, well, never mind.


Friday, March 24, 2023



Digiday published the first part in a series on DE&I at White advertising agencies.


Regarding DE&I in Adland since 2020, the only thing that has significantly increased is the diversity of ways that diversity is discussed—although it can all be categorized as bullshit.


A common argument is that DE&I must be separate from HR. Yet now, DE&I is connected to PR. More than ever, Chief Diversity Officers are political mouthpieces delivering scripted promotional propaganda. They are performative performers.


The Digiday report covers the routine rhetoric: percentage bumps without firm figures, monumental vision sans measurable action, spiking recruitment and sinking retention, and pollyannaish optimism vs realistic pessimism.


One EVP admitted, “The first wave of DEI was really about women.” The missing qualifier is “White”—i.e., “The first wave of DEI was really about White women.” And the admission didn’t include how people of color will unlikely be addressed until a much later wave—well after waves for White LGBTQI+, White people with disabilities, White people who are neurodivergent, White old people, White menopausal women, White conservatives, White house pets, and White fill-in-the-blanks. BTW, these other waves will be preceded by many more waves for White women.


Oddly enough, Chief Diversity Officers generate lots of White noise.


‘It has to be built in’: How agencies strive to advance their diversity goals


By Antoinette Siu


This is part 1 of 2 in our series about diversity at agencies. Part 2 will focus on strategies for the future and client diversity.


For many agencies, it can be hard to quantify progress in diversity.


There often is no blueprint for it in the broader corporate world, and many initiatives at media agencies are still being developed since the murder of George Floyd in 2020 sparked a nationwide movement toward greater awareness over the lack of diversity in the working world. Almost three years later, as agencies reflect on these various efforts, they agree that impactful diversity, equity and inclusion work needs to be ingrained across an organization’s culture and values — and not sit in its own lane.


“It has to be built in, not bolted on,” said Janis Middleton, evp and executive director of inclusion strategy at Guided by Good, the parent organization behind agency 22Squared. “The bottom line is you’ve got to have the intention and someone leading it in the organization. You’ve got to give them the power to actually lead it — the power that breaks down into budget, [and] that breaks down into say-so at the table.”


Overall, it appears the industry is eager to move beyond making statements to showing action. As Angela Seits, head of strategy and insights at independent agency PMG, put it, “We’re seeing companies move beyond the reaction stage — of pledges and external statements — to measurable commitments, progress and collective action.”


Impact of the numbers


When it comes to the aspects of DEI that are more easily measured, some agencies have improved their workforce diversity and added people of color to their teams. Others have made progress by including more women in leadership roles, increasing hires from diverse backgrounds or guiding clients in furthering their own diversity goals. These are pieces of the blueprint that are still a work in progress.


In advertising, there is also a business incentive in engaging communities of color. Research shows that consumers will stick with brands or favor a company when they see diverse and multicultural media. Some 90% of U.S. consumers belonging to BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) and LGBTQ+ communities said they would switch over from a competitor, tell others about a brand or support it on social media if a company is investing in their community, according to data from ad tech firm Direct Digital Holdings.


From major agencies to news publishers, the industry has been attempting to shift its gender and ethnicity representation. Floyd’s murder forced major publishers to examine the diversity and representation of their workforces — resulting in measures like hiring diversity officers and adding DEI training. By 2023, many of those publishers had lowered their overall number of white employees and increased staff who are people of color.


At Dentsu, regional chief equity officers across the holding company’s four main regions are subject matter experts. Christena Pyle, chief equity officer of Dentsu Americas, said beyond the representation numbers, tracking progress means looking at qualitative data. These can be surveys or metrics around employee sentiment and sense of belonging.


“From region to region, there are so many laws, nuances, differences,” Pyle told Digiday. “Diversity means different things in different regions, so we’re able to have subject matter expertise in what’s happening in in Asia, or the diversity challenges in Japan, South Africa, Germany.”


Increasing representation


At Dentsu Americas, BIPOC representation increased from 27.1% in 2021 to 31% in 2022. The company said its goal was to surpass 30% by 2025, and the strongest growth has been in Asian and Black populations and those identifying with multiple races. Additionally, 37% of Dentsu’s new hires in the last year identified as BIPOC, up 33% from the previous year. Globally, the agency saw hires who are women remain at 49%.


Guided by Good began reporting its diversity numbers annually in 2020. Its workforce shifted from 24% BIPOC out of 352 employees in 2020, to 30.3% BIPOC out of 395 employees in 2021. White employees decreased from 75% in 2020 to 68.9% in 2021. When looking at leadership (directors and vp level), BIPOC representation remained 20% for both years.


The company’s 2022 report has not been released yet, but Middleton mentioned its executive team of BIPOC staff has increased from 25% in 2021 to 40% in 2022. Women now make up 67% of the executive teams, which is up from 61% in 2021.


“The first wave of DEI was really about women,” Middleton said. “[As we continue this work], not only do we just look at it, but we also make sure that we’re putting different types of training in place, different workshops and things in place throughout the year.”


For IPG’s UM Worldwide, Chief Diversity Officer Jeff Marshall said the diversity goals have centered around recruitment and retention as well. Around 33% of new hires identified as BIPOC in 2018, which increased to 59% in 2020. Since then, Marshall said the agency has maintained around 50% in incoming BIPOC employees in the last few years.


“Honestly, a lot of it is awareness,” he said. “There’s not always some nefarious actor. It’s usually just awareness, like people don’t realize what their teams look like or they don’t realize that they hired the person because they connected with them on something else.”


Current staff at UM is about 38% BIPOC, and the target by the end of 2023 is 41%, Marshall added. “By the end of next year, we hope to be at 43%. This year, we’ve got three percentage points to make up and then next year, we’ll try to cap those other two percentage points and then we’ll adjust — but our goal is to be representative of the U.S. population,” he said.


The U.S. population was 41.9% BIPOC in 2021, according to the U.S. Census. Marshall said he believes there is also more work to do “in particular groups,” in cases where they over-index against one demographic group, for example. UM said it will soon release a public and internal version of its diversity report starting this year. Dentsu, Guided by Good and Publicis also publish their diversity program results publicly.


Diversity as a strategy and challenge


Increasingly, diversity leadership is included in the C-suite, or is at least appointed to director and strategic roles. Experts agree that this may become more common, as agencies implement DEI goals across their businesses. But the commitment to diversity is not without its obstacles. Dentsu’s Pyle noted that sometimes companies may also pull back during periods of economic uncertainty.


“Watching what is playing out with some of our tech partners or platform partners, for us it’s a cautionary tale to the advertising industry,” Pyle said. “In the past, things like diversity, equity and inclusion have been invested in and focused on [only] in good times.”


Pyle started in 2020 in a multi-faceted role with clients, outside organizations and employees. She contends effective change needs to go beyond voluntary work, and DEI should have a stake in the business functions of an agency.


“When the role is respected, there’s a lot of areas of impact,” Pyle said. “The accountability aspect is where DEI in some organizations has failed. So I think that accountability piece and the business rigor of DEI is why we’re breaking through in this moment.”


Similarly, PMG’s efforts ramped up in 2020. It launched a steering committee responsible for auditing its commitment to a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity (which it dubs “CBID”). The group tracks progress and milestones with support from its nine employee resource groups. It has expanded those ERGs recently, focused on new hire diversity and expanded programs for community college students.


“Cultivating an equitable and inclusive culture is a complex process, and one that takes time,” Seits said.


At UM, Marshall is supported by a program manager, with a council of 50 people and a pillar lead that is selected from different teams. Part of the company’s strategy is also giving teams the tools to gain perspective and make decisions on diversity and hiring. Since around 2018, balance sheets showing the makeup of a team were given to leadership every quarter.


These are decisions and practices that need to be “executed on the business side,” Marshall said. “You can put a chief diversity officer in place, but that chief diversity officer’s role is to provide a strategy at the end of the day. A coach can write up the plays, but if the players don’t follow the coach’s plays — it is probably not going to be a good result in the end.”

Thursday, March 23, 2023

16186: Out Of The Wilderness—Thanks To ZipRecruiter…?


Is ZipRecruiter offering job candidates currently living in tents? Gee, such noble social concern…