Friday, May 31, 2024

16657: Bored By Publicis Groupe Board.


MediaPost reported Publicis Groupe executed another merger/consolidation, although this time involving its supervisory board and management board. In short, the two boards are now one, with Arthur Sadoun adding Chairman to his CEO title.


Looks like a more streamlined, exclusive group of White men and White women—and the person named vice chair of the new board is the daughter of late Publicis Groupe Founder Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, so there’s potential nepotism at play too.


Given the White holding company’s grand investments in technology, wouldn’t it be cheaper and more efficient to handle board duties with Marcel or other AI tools?


Shareholders Approve Single Publicis Board, Sadoun Adds Chairman Duties


By Steve McClellan


At its annual meeting today, Publicis Groupe shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of a proposed new governance structure for the company, replacing its current supervisory board and a separate management board (called the Directoire) with a single board of directors. The proposal was approved by a margin of 95%.


The board of directors met following the general meeting to formally adapt the new structure and appointed Arthur Sadoun chairman of the board, in addition to his current CEO role.


The company announced the proposal last month, asserting that the new streamlined structure would be the best way to ensure the company’s continued momentum and growth in the future.


Earlier this month, the firm disclosed that Andre Kudelski would be appointed lead director of the new board. He is the chairman and CEO of Swiss technology firm Kudelski Group and has been on the Publicis Supervisory board since 2016.


Maurice Lévy, who is now honorary chairman of Publicis Groupe (previously chairman of the Supervisory Board and CEO before that) stated: “Arthur Sadoun knew how to take the right turns, ensure growth and place the Group at the top of the sector pyramid. I am very proud of his career and convinced that under his leadership the Group will go further and higher.”


“The governance adopted by the shareholders leads, following the decisions of the Board, to an exemplary balance of powers with Élisabeth Badinter as Vice-President, and who continues to ensure that all stakeholders are treated fairly in the respect for the Group’s values, André Kudelski as Lead Director who will provide valuable support to the Board in this new framework, and finally, tighter Committees with very clear missions.”


Those committees include Nomination, Remuneration, Audit and Financial Risk, and Strategic, Environmental & Social. Committee leads were appointed by the board after the annual meeting.


Added Sadoun said, “This change makes it possible to maintain the tandem that we have formed with Maurice Lévy since 2017, and to continue the dynamic that has propelled Publicis to the top of its sector. Thanks to the stability of our partnership, the incredible commitment of the Group’s talents in all their diversity and our unique offering, we are more confident than ever in our ability to support our clients in their transformation, in a constantly evolving world.”


Lévy is credited with the idea of switching to the new governance setup.


As expected, Élisabeth Badinter, vice chair of the previous supervisory board, has been named vice chair of the new board (she is the daughter of Publicis Groupe Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet).


All other resolutions made at the annual meeting were also approved by shareholders.  

Thursday, May 30, 2024

16656: Understanding Ungeneral Agency.

Advertising Age reported on Alma—a Latino and multicultural marketing enterprise—rebranding itself as an “ungeneral” agency, claiming to be distinct from general market agencies and more than the average minority-owned shop.


MultiCultClassics prefers to label such places non-White advertising agencies or multicrumbtual firms.


As long as Alma is attached to Omnicom—a White holding company—it should expect to remain an ungeneral agency that’s underserved, undervalued, underutilized, undercut, undermined, and underfunded with crumbs.


After all, an ungeneral agency is still viewed as under a general market agency.


Behind Alma’a Repositioning As An ‘Ungeneral’ Agency


The Omnicom agency’s rebranding effort aims to expand how it and general market work are viewed


By Brian Bonilla


The term “general market” has been used in the industry to identify the mainstream audience a brand would seek to target, and often signaled white audiences. “Multicultural marketing” was interpreted to mean targeting other cultures and audiences.


Now Alma, which has roots in Hispanic and multicultural marketing, is looking to challenge those labels by repositioning itself as an “ungeneral agency.”


Alma CEO Isaac Mizrahi said this positioning is a new way to promote the agency to marketers and consultants who sometimes haven’t been aware of some of the work it has done beyond a multicultural scope. The shift won’t mean a complete move away from multicultural or Hispanic work; it is meant to expand how the agency is viewed and how general market work is approached.


“We believe that the general market no longer exists, at least in the way that it was defined before,” said Ana Bermudez, Alma’s managing director. “That’s why we gave it a new name. The ongoing demographic shifts that have been taking place confirm that the general market is not general anymore; it’s highly complex, it’s not uniform. What we’ve been doing for [clients] for the past seven to 10 years is helping brands navigate this new world and we want to eliminate the boxes.”


According to the latest U.S. Census figures, there are over 63 million Hispanics in the U.S., accounting for 19.1% of the population. Beyond the Latino market, understanding subcultures and different demographics has become increasingly important for brands and agencies.


Along with a new logo, Alma created a video explaining the positioning that will appear on the agency’s website and social accounts.


As clips from Alma’s campaigns for various brands play, narration includes lines such as “General looked backwards. Ungeneral sees the future,” and “Specificity drives authenticity.” The narration also mentions that the agency “goes deep to see into people’s souls”—soul is an English translation of “alma.”


“When it came to refreshing our logo, we wanted to keep a similar style, but enhance how it could tell our story,” said Alvar Suñol, Alma’s chief creative officer. “By taking the ‘un’ in ungeneral and animating it into our refreshed alma logo typeface, we literally show how ungeneral is ‘in’ alma, which led to the logo being formed by the letters U and N.”


While the agency’s revenue has increased for 14 consecutive years, Mizrahi said that it may have been “naive” to think in the past that its work alone would show clients how Alma is different from other agencies. So he tasked Bermudez, who rejoined Alma last year from 72andSunny, to help with this repositioning.


Mizrahi pointed to a recent campaign Alma launched for Opendoor targeting people who are 55+ years old; its “Better with Pepsi” work; and the fact that it was recently named global social agency of record for Intuit Quickbooks as examples of the broad range of work the agency handles. Currently, around 30% of Alma’s clients go beyond a multicultural scope, Mizrahi said. Other key clients include companies such as Molson Coors, McDonald’s and Eli Lilly.


“The world really needs to pay attention to Alma. They are much more than a Latino agency,” Molson Coors Chief Marketing Officer Sofia Colucci said in a statement. “We’re proud to be one of Alma’s partners who saw early on who they are and how they can speak to consumers from many angles.”


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

16655: Publicis Groupe CIO ESG DEIBA+ BS.


Campaign reported Publicis Groupe named its first Chief Impact Officer, whose responsibilities include overseeing the White holding company’s ESG commitments—which covers global DEIBA+ plans. In short, the executive works across a wide range of corporate heat shields.


The CIO will lead a team whose mission was stated as follows: “Together, they will design and deploy a consistent strategy on impact, with clear and measurable KPIs, to enhance and expand Publicis’ existing initiatives and implement new ones, at the service of its teams and its clients.”


Clear and measurable KPIs for DEIBA+ would constitute an unprecedented achievement in Adland—unless the acronym stands for Key Performative Indicators.


Publicis Groupe appoints chief impact officer to steer global ESG commitments


By Ben Bold


Publicis Groupe has named Nannette LaFond-Dufour as its first chief impact officer.


Joining from McCann Worldgroup, where she was global chief client officer and its first chief sustainability officer, LaFond-Dufour will report to Publicis Groupe chairman and chief executive Arthur Sadoun.


LaFond-Dufour will also join the group’s management committee.


In the global role, she becomes responsible for the holding company’s environmental, social and governance commitments. These include UN- and WWF-backed Science Based Targets Initiative climate goals; the holding company’s agency-wide DEI action plans; and initiatives such as the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society and Working with Cancer, the latter a personal mission for Sadoun.


LaFond-Dufour will be based in Paris and lead a centralised team across the group’s global environmental, social and governance community.


“Together, they will design and deploy a consistent strategy on impact, with clear and measurable KPIs, to enhance and expand Publicis’ existing initiatives and implement new ones, at the service of its teams and its clients,” the company said.


She will work alongside Agathe Bousquet, president of Publicis France and Directoire+ sponsor for ESG.


Prior to joining Publicis Groupe, LaFond-Dufour spent a dozen years at McCann Worldgroup, where she acted as president of the L’Oréal Paris beauty team. Before that, she worked at DDB Worldwide as a business director.


Sadoun said: “With the Directoire+, we are delighted to welcome Nannette to the group. Thanks to our transformation, we have been outperforming the industry on every business and financial KPI for the past four years.


“But we know that for our growth to be truly sustainable, on every front, it also needs to be responsible. That’s why we have also worked to lead the way through our best-in-class ESG initiatives.


“With Nannette on board and her proven expertise in delivering impactful change with some of the world’s biggest companies, we are confident we can take our ESG agenda even further, faster, for the good of our people, our clients, and our planet.”


Publicis recently shook up its governance structure, merging its supervisory and management boards into a single entity – the Directoire. Then-chief executive and chairman Sadoun of the management board took on the same roles across the combined board.


Maurice Lévy, the veteran chair of the supervisory board switched to an honorary role as chairman emeritus as part of the changes.


LaFond-Dufour added: “I deeply admire the work that Publicis has done to transform itself, demonstrating both the ability to anticipate the future, and do the hard work required to prepare for it through tangible environmental and societal commitments.


“At this moment when evolution is the mandate on every front, I look forward to joining such a visionary, courageous and agile team.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

16654: The State Of Diversity—And Systemic Racism—In Adland.


Advertising Age published a lengthy—and seemingly regular—report on the state of DEIBA+ in Adland. To summarize, the situation is bad. No surprise there.


Other non-shockers include cutting diversity budgets, ghosting diversity vendors, terminating Human Heat Shields, reneging on promises, reducing crumbs, disrespecting multicrumbtual shops, and plummeting interest—deceptively offset by increasing performative PR and delegating diversity to ERGs.


And AI trumps DEIBA+, fueling Adland’s related AI.


Inside The State Of Diversity In Advertising—Waning Commitments Cause Frustration


Cuts to internal agency DE&I departments and brands hiring fewer diverse vendors and suppliers are among the confluent issues slowing progress


By Lindsay Rittenhouse


Four years after the murder of George Floyd sparked a social injustice movement that caused advertisers to make commitments to improve industry diversity, companies appear to be pulling back or reversing the promises they made.


Several confluent issues are slowing progress on diversity, equity and inclusion in certain pockets of the industry, according to 16 industry executives interviewed for this story, including DE&I consultants and diverse agency owners. Those include cuts to internal DE&I departments at ad agencies; layoffs disproportionately affecting people of color leading to a decreasing number of diverse executives and employees at agencies and marketers; and marketers scaling back on hiring diverse vendors, suppliers and running advertising that targets diverse audiences.


There are also factors outside the ad industry contributing to this deceleration.


A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2023 effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions and many Southern states have since introduced nearly 100 bills that would limit diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state-funded schools. Utah, for one, passed an anti-DE&I bill that goes into effect on July 1. While these bills only apply to education, they are having ripple effects throughout the U.S. Companies including marketers and agencies are skittish because of the conservative-led DE&I backlash and are questioning how they are discussing their own DE&I programs and investments in this area.


Continued financial pressures have also caused some companies to make cuts, and DE&I is one of the first areas to be scrutinized, according to some of the people interviewed for this story.


“There is a panic or fear that’s happening,” said Darren Martin, founder and chairman of integrated marketing firm Streamlined Media & Communications and founder and CEO of its subsidiary, Bold Culture, an inclusive marketing and workplace development consultancy. “People don’t want to be canceled. The influx of DE&I programs, in ideology and investment financially into certain groups, was a lot [in 2020]. And it was impactful. What we’re seeing is a backlash to that.”


DE&I department changes


While many companies continue to invest in DE&I, 59% reported an increase in backlash to their DE&I efforts since the Supreme Court’s decisions on affirmative action last June, according to a January report from Littler, which surveyed 322 C-suite executives in the U.S. last November.


Conservative shareholders of some major marketers, including Coca-Cola Co., UPS and Home Depot, are trying to force changes that would hamper DE&I efforts at these companies, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.


There is a “growing concern about legislation being passed that could affect DE&I strategies across the board,” said Ezinne Okoro, VML’s global chief client and culture strategy officer and former Wunderman Thompson global chief inclusion, equity and diversity officer. “Though most are directly related to admission processes at universities, corporations are worried about violating any laws.”


Increasingly, Okoro said, companies are consulting their legal teams “when building DE&I strategies.”


“I haven’t specifically noticed any changes with titles based on the legislation, but criteria for DE&I programs are evolving to include more language, explicitly not leaving any room for someone to interpret exclusion,” she said. “For example, a sponsorship designed for people from Asian descent might now say their focus is on Asian-American and all persons interested in a sponsorship program. Or an employee resource group is open to all employees regardless of demographic and highly encouraged that everyone joins different groups.”


DE&I departments are also facing budget cuts. A DE&I executive who was laid off and requested anonymity said job opportunities in advertising have been bleak. The person said they have applied to 55 jobs in six weeks and received two interviews, and they have seen no open DE&I positions within the major holding companies.


“There’s nothing,” this person said. “There’s a high probability of me not staying in advertising.”


When Omnicom’s DDB Global Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Nikki Lamba left last June, the agency did not replace her in the role. In April, Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned Mediahub laid off Michelle Gustilo-Smithson, its VP and HR director of diversity, equity and inclusion, as part of a larger decision by IPG Mediabrands to consolidate individual agency DE&I efforts within the network. Jeff Marshall, chief diversity officer and head of diversity, equity and belonging for UM Worldwide, was also affected by the layoffs and IPG Mediabrands consolidation.


Lamba, Gustilo-Smithson and Marshall could not be reached for comment.


“Nikki made her own voluntary decision to leave,” a DDB spokesperson wrote to Ad Age. “Her relationship with DDB was strong through to the end, where she agreed to work an extended notice period to ensure business continuity.”


The spokesperson added that DDB has “intentionally shifted the role of DEI from a siloed practice, putting DEI&B at the core of every people & culture process and activation … We will continue to closely partner with Omnicom Global Chief DEI Officer Emily Graham and our many talented, and diverse leaders across the DDB network to keep DEI&B a top priority.”


An IPG Mediabrands spokesperson confirmed to Ad Age that it restructured the individual agency teams that are part of its “people experience” function, including DE&I, into one network group. “Our goal was to deliver a more consistent, connected experience for all employees by ensuring they have access to the most impactful programs and talent initiatives that exist across our network,” the spokesperson said.


Agencies in particular are pressured by clients scaling back marketing budgets and there has been a wave of layoffs as a result, many done quietly in a series of small batches. Martin said efforts to consolidate individual agency DE&I efforts at a holding company level is a trend he is seeing, as well.


“What happened? The same thing that usually happens,” Martin said, noting DE&I is always one of the first areas to be scrutinized. “DE&I was the first thing to be like, ‘Can we cut it to save money?’”


To be sure, there are agencies that are still investing in DE&I.


Empower Media, despite seeing a string of staff departures and client losses last year following an ownership change, doubled down on DE&I by recently promoting Chief People Officer Marijke Woodruff to chief diversity and inclusion officer. At the same time, the Cincinnati-based creative and media agency launched Empower Her, which invests in nonprofit organizations helping advance women- and minority-owned businesses.


“It is our philanthropic arm of the agency where we want to invest in nonprofit organizations focused on women breaking that glass ceiling of equality and really fostering a culture of empowerment for women and other underserved or social issues,” Woodruff said of Empower Her. “It’s not just for women, but we feel that we have that responsibility.”


Marketer pullbacks


Marissa Nance, founder and CEO of Native Tongue Communications, one of the first and only female- and minority-certified media agencies, shared her experience during a Female Quotient panel at Advertising Week New York last October of two major clients moving their business because they said they were scaling back on the number of diverse-owned vendors they employ due to the shaky economy.


“About February [2023], I got two calls,” Nance said on the panel. “They were very similar but I’m going to give you one of them; the one that resonated the most. It was from a non-Hispanic, white cis-male [who] said ‘I want you to know that we’re not going to work with you … this is going to be a rocky year with the economy and my P&L is more important than my diversity that I have to claim.’”


Nance told Ad Age that she had already done work for the Fortune 500 company, and that the marketer essentially told her that she could sue him, but she would not be paid for that work. Nance said she needed to pay her people who were already clocking hours doing work for the two companies and could not afford to sue.


As of May, she said Native Tongue has still not fully recovered from those losses. It was “over $500,000” between the two of them, Nance said. “Beyond that happening to us, there have not been a lot of new opportunities.”


This is part of another troubling trend diverse-owned agencies are seeing right now.


Hilda Adeniji, senior production manager for Unilever within its marketing and engagement department and co-founder of MWBE-certified cultural consultancy Transform the Hustle, said there is a growing move, especially in the consumer packaged goods space, of companies consolidating their marketing budgets with one agency of record, which is typically a white- and male-dominated shop, and scaling back with diverse-owned vendors. She specified that she was not referring to Unilever.


“Brands are going back on initiatives they were doing or phasing them out quietly,” she said, referring to commitments that were made to hire more diverse suppliers and vendors. The cuts are primarily affecting marketing, advertising, experiential and influencer budgets, according to Adeniji.


This is making it harder for diverse-owned agencies to survive and thrive.


Dawn Wade, managing partner and chief strategy officer of Louisville, Kentucky-based Black-owned creative marketing agency Nimbus, said it’s also frustrating that a lot of brands still only hire diverse-owned agencies for DE&I-related projects or multicultural marketing. She said she wants to see more major marketers hire diverse-owned agencies for “general market” work.


“It’s as if a [diverse-owned agency] is not capable of talking to everyone,” Wade said. “And it makes you wonder why? Because we’ve always had to acquiesce to a general market. So how are we not able to create ideas and creative that will resonate with that, as well?”


Hope Smith, director of brand strategy for Nimbus, said many marketers also have a general distrust of their diverse-owned agency partners.


“That’s one of the things that we’ve dealt with for a long time, the lack of trust in what we’re saying just because those that are in leadership don’t understand the insights or don’t understand the deep cultural roots or nuances that come with a lot of the work that we do,” Smith said. “It makes them uncomfortable, honestly. Instead of leaning into that discomfort and trusting your agency and putting out something that’s going to be bold and disruptive and make your brand stand out, a lot of times it is watered down to be 20% of the original idea that we pushed. That just hits you in your gut as a partner.”


This declining investment with the excuse of an unstable economy continues to persist despite ample evidence that there are financial gains for companies that hire diverse employees and vendors and invest in targeting diverse consumers. A McKinsey & Co. report from December found companies with greater executive representation of women and people of color had a 39% greater likelihood of financial outperformance.


Declining numbers


The slowing progress is being reflected in the number of diverse employees at brands and agencies.


In 2023, diversity within the marketing industry dropped for the first time in several years—people of color made up 30.8% of the marketing industry last year, down from an all-time high of 32.3% in 2022, according to a February study by the Association of National Advertisers. And a 4A’s study last year found that the number of agencies owned or run by white executives jumped to 90.2% in 2022 from 73% in 2021.


Hiring and talent experts in the industry have told Ad Age that layoffs are impacting people of color disproportionately. 4A’s CEO and President Marla Kaplowitz has said though she doesn’t have hard data on how layoffs are impacting people of color in particular, staff cuts are affecting “a lot more junior- to middle-management roles. If you look at just the composition of agencies, more diverse people are junior to mid-level,” she said.


A talent recruiter who spoke on condition of anonymity said a lot of the calls she was getting in 2020 to help agencies and marketers hire diverse employees feel “performative” now. This recruiter said there really isn’t a mandate for diverse recruits anymore.


“If I look at my talent that I’ve placed in the last two to three years, the majority are diverse talent and I was really proud of that work,” this recruiter said. “There was such a huge, huge urgency for diverse talent. A lot of that was just PR. The diverse talent knew it was. I knew it was … I think because of this quote, unquote recession, companies are just like ‘We need the skills [and] we can’t worry about [diversity] anymore.’”


These declining numbers have a ripple effect.


Dèja Mays, a freelance art director and co-founder of The Come Up, a networking event series with The One Club, set up to help Black, Indigenous and people of color in advertising, said all of these diversity issues she consistently sees within the ad industry make her question if this is the right career for her. Mays said her peers of color in the industry have had a harder time finding work than their white counterparts in the past few years, even after companies made commitments in 2020 to improve staff diversity.


“Even though I love being creative and I love advertising and marketing, I don’t really know my value in this industry,” Mays said. “You can’t treat people’s culture as a trend. We’re valuable. To me, if you’re cutting budgets and you’re cutting people of color out what does it say about you? About how you think about people of color?”


Marina Filippelli, CEO of multi-segment agency Orci, said the brands that have fewer people of color working on their marketing are the same ones not investing properly in reaching diverse audiences or employing diverse-owned vendors. Companies are “less focused on making sure that they have the right minorities represented in the marketing organizations that are making the decisions,” she said.


When brands do not invest in diversity or have the right people creating the ads that are intended to target diverse audiences, mistakes and missteps also happen, Smith said.


“The consumer is only getting louder as brands are getting a little bit quieter when it comes to diversity,” she said. “Don’t be the brand that gets canceled because you don’t see the relevance and the importance that a certain group of people has.”


Beyond missteps, brands are missing out on a financial opportunity by not employing diverse employees. DE&I consultant Shari Dunn said she recently worked with SharkNinja, a product design and technology company, and an idea to create a hair dryer with features to better serve people with curlier hair came from an engineer of color.


That product “opens up exponentially more market share,” Dunn said. “And Black women spend a shit ton of money on their hair … If companies are pulling back on their diverse marketing, [they’re losing out on] trillions of dollars. So you’re saying you just don’t want the money? This is a legitimate question.”

Monday, May 27, 2024

16653: Rethinking & Rewriting Reality On Memorial Day.


National Cares Mentoring Movement commemorates the origin of Memorial Day, charging that “forces have worked tirelessly to erase the contributions and influence that African Americans had in forging this nation.”


Take a moment today to learn more about Memorial Day—and consider supporting the efforts and ambitions of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

16652: Memorial Day In Adland—AKA Monday.

In Adland, Memorial Day 2024 should be renamed MemorAIl Day.


Extending the 2023 theme for the industry, Artificial Inclusivity remains an everyday deceptive diversion.


Don’t expect White advertising agencies to acknowledge the origins of Memorial Day—unless such a performative task is delegated to ERGs. Hell, most White ad agencies won’t even spend a moment to honor any veterans who gave their lives in service.


To make a sloppy segue, don’t expect White advertising agencies to honor any promises to diversity and equality either. Or pay homage to veteran Chief Diversity Officers who gave their all to serve Adland—yet ultimately abandoned the field entirely.