Three weeks ago after the Los Angeles-based black creative collective Three’s A Crowd issued the In For 13 declaration to diversify the advertising industry, leaders are providing an update on the initial response on their progress.
Thus far, 32 agencies and 67 ad pros have signed the pledge committed to advancing the goal of increasing black leadership ranks in advertising so they’re proportional to the U.S. black population by 2023. This means the current ratio will rise from less than 2% to 13% in less than three years.
“Our goal was to get at least 20 agencies confirmed,” says collective co-founder Reonna Johnson. “It’s also interesting to see a range of agencies in size and locations, who have taken the pledge. We are aware that smaller agencies are nimbler and don’t have as many layers to manage versus the larger holding-company agencies, and it will be telling to see how we net out with each.”
There have been some adjustments from the initial launch plan, says Johnson. While the original goal was to speak exclusively to senior leaders, “we have come to realize all the internal politics, buy-in and decision-making by committee that it takes to get an agency on-board, so it won’t be so cut and dry,” she says. “Folks want to support but can’t speak on behalf of their agency.”
Another adjustment: a new toolkit with advice for advancing commitments. “This toolkit walks pledgers through the conversation with senior leaders and offers steps on how to get buy-in, how to manage concerns and address them early on and how to get full commitment. Although we may have wanted the senior leaders to immediately step up, it's okay that we’re pivoting to empower the pledgers and/or allies.”
Ultimately, Johnson hopes this momentum will result in real change. “Just because the civil unrest is no longer trending doesn’t mean Black employees aren’t watching the actions of agencies,” she states. “We’ve been here before. We all talk about what needs to be done, change starts to catch fire, it then becomes overwhelming and nothing happens.”
“There may come a day when clients mandate that agencies have a diverse senior leadership team that mirrors the population of the country we live in,” she says.
“In an effort to stay focused, we encourage senior leaders to think about how they would want to leave the industry. What legacy will they leave? Will their kids or family members live in a more diverse world because of their leadership decisions?”