Tell us about yourself. Who or what inspired you to get into advertising and marketing communications?
I majored in Communication Studies with a concentration in media analysis, reception and criticism. After working at a television station, I realized that the current position was in direct contradiction to what I believed as the function of media. I decided to return to graduate school and transitioned to a position as an assistant media buyer. That was 21 years ago. Today, as a GMD, I manage local audio and video investments for the accounts out of our LA office. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a Black girl from rural North Carolina manages activity for some of the most recognized brands in the world.
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity in the industry? Have you seen a significant change since the start of your career?
I have seen significant change since the start of my career in advertising in 2000. Everything has changed. Probably most substantially over the past few years. While we have a way to go, I do believe that we are making an effort to create change. Will that happen overnight? Likely not. Will it be hard? Absolutely. There are deep-seeded inclinations that need to be examined and corrected.
Over the years, there’s been a rise of roles focused on Diversity & Inclusion, the introduction of quotas, and other possible solutions. What have you seen to be the most effective, and where have you seen these initiatives fall short? I think the most effective initiatives are those that open communication. I work in an industry that communicates but has failed to find a way to effectively communicate across racial/ethnic lines. That has to be fixed in order to move forward.
Within your agency, what’s being done to increase/maintain the diversity of talent?
Attracting and retaining diverse talent is a key priority. To do this, we launched a Talent taskforce last year (made up of employee volunteers from all levels and disciplines) that partners with HR leaders to revise our approach to recruiting talent with a focus on attracting and retaining more candidates of color, LGBTQ+ candidates, and first-generation candidates. There are a number of key initiatives, including a new mentorship program with local schools, diversifying recruiting schools, and removing 4-year degree requirements. We’ve also redirected referral bonuses to programs supporting under-represented talent, created a C-suite mentorship for Black employees, and instituted executive accountability for team diversity and retention.
Looking to the client-side, are there any brands you think should be commended for their efforts?
We’re fortunate to work with a number of clients who are leading in this area and continue to hold us accountable. Ulta Beauty’s commitment to multicultural audiences and media partners stands out. As does Patrón’s work with the Marcus Graham Project to diversify the next generation of leaders. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has also been out front on these efforts.
What do you think can be done at a grassroots level to open opportunities to create a more inclusive future in the advertising world?
I think it’s very, very important to reach out to BIPOC people at a high school/collegiate level. We miss many great candidates just because we don’t talk to them. I think this is one of the biggest missed opportunities in the advertising world. We want to hire diverse people, but, actually reaching out and inviting in is something we struggle with.
Following one of the largest movements in history for racial justice, what was your agency's response? Have you launched or participated in any initiatives?
We’ve signed up for Three’s A Crowd’s Pledge for 13, and continued our commitment with 4As’ MAIP program.
We’ve also set a course to make long-term, fundamental change. We challenged our teams with an open brief, “Project Change,” inspiring 100+ ideas for organizational change. BIPOC leaders and allies evaluated each, ultimately recommending 20+ initiatives that have changed our core operations, including:
· Sharing salary data by race and gender to ensure parity
· Increased BIPOC leadership
· Removing degree requirements
· Paying employee groups who opt into “cultural consultancy” work
· Launching a Mediahub Accelerator program connecting under-represented publishers directly with brands to increase access to brand media dollars