Beats By Dr. Dre Blasts Lack Of Agency Diversity

There are numerous controversies currently being debated at the 4As Transformation Conference, including the rift between the group and the ANA, third-party verification concerns, privacy, bots, and payment woes.

But the top issue for Beats By Dr. Dre is diversity. "It is absolutely issue one” for the brand, says Jason White, EVP/head of marketing, Beats By Dr. Dre. He notes that his brand thrives on being relevant and trend-setting, but can't drive conversations when there is a like-minded groupthink developing creative briefs.

"How do we take people on a ride rather than discuss component of headphone?" White asks, citing Adidas and Nike as advertising inspirations.
As a result, the headphone maker is forced to use smaller independent shops or develop creative in-house in order to stay ahead of trends and pop culture, he says.

Yet, diversity isn't necessarily adding an array of race and ethnicities or more female faces. Diversity is about bringing in different voices that experience life differently, he says. Those living in urban areas such as street culture kids. "I wish there was more of that in agencies," says White.



White was joined by STX Entertainment's Amy Elkins and Taco Bell's Marisa Thalberg in a panel discussion with Campaign USA's Doug Quenqua at the 4As Conference to discuss challenges and opportunities within the advertising industry.
Despite the shift towards digital channels, Taco Bell's Thalberg plans to spend less on digital this year. "Why? We are a mass business with a huge cult brand. Until we figure out how to use digital more effectively to get the results, TV is important to us. Still works for us. Radio still works for us."

While Taco Bell continues to spend heavily on TV, Beats By Dr. Dre is moving in the opposite direction by winnowing down TV advertising to spend more on content proliferation via digital and other distribution channels, says White. STX Entertainment, on the other hand, will spend more on programmatic media, but less on radio.

The traditional agency relationship is also being reevaluated by these companies. Taco Bell, to that end, continues to develop social media in-house. "Does that mean they are alone? No. It's collaborative," says Thalberg. The fast food chain also brought restaurant marketing in-house to have greater control over the entire process, which includes point-of-purchase merchandise and menu design.

STX Entertainment is also bringing social insight and data analytics in-house because the company "can't afford the time lapse," says Elkins. When it releases a movie, such as last summer's "Bad Moms," the entertainment studio needs to make an impression in a four-week window that may need adjusting based on viewer reactions.

Beats By Dr. Dre, by comparison, mixes up its in-house and outside work. "We think of ourselves as an eight year old start up," says White. Although the company's "internal creative engine" has gotten bigger over the years, ad agencies have permanent desks at its offices. "We keep everyone close," he says.

One misconception is that companies are constantly thinking about switching to other agencies in order to seek an infusion of new energy, they say. Even as an ex-agency person, White admits to not paying attention to awards or whether an agency is hot or not.

"The cost of making change is pretty profound," says Thalberg. "The risk of bringing a partner on board is complicated and expensive. But they need to stay hungry. [Make a change the] second they get lazy." She points out that the agency partnership is similar to romance where "you have to work at a relationship to keep it working."


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