It’s wonderful and refreshing to finally see a brand's CMO on stage delivering an impassioned keynote about the company’s plans to lean into major diversity and inclusion practices. However, unless it's also providing access to decision-makers, the brand is not delivering on this promise.
I am a biracial Black man and have been in the digital advertising space for 20+ years. I currently co-own and operate a successful creative agency that has been around for 10 years. I also co-own the first minority-owned, female-led agency network. We employ 200+ diverse people around the globe. We have an insanely rich pedigree of creating and executing high stakes, A-list global marketing campaigns. We’re on a handful of fastest growing lists, and we also happen to be profitable.
By all measures, I tick all the diversity boxes that any brand would want to have in their agency ecosystem. So why can’t I find any open doors in the midst of advertising's industrywide celebration of diversity, equity and inclusion?
Over the last year, I have attended multiple industry conferences where I listened to brand reps talk about inclusion across the spectrum. They are so passionate about the topic, and always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy about brands doing the right thing in a world that desperately needs it. They announce partnerships with (minority) celebrity-backed agencies, and say things like "multicultural marketing is mainstream marketing" and use phrases like "representation in ads" and "minority-owned and -operated."
These brands say they plan to unlock more marketing dollars for their multicultural initiatives, all while being inclusive with how they source the work. In a recent presentation to the Association of National Advertisers, Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer spoke about the most recent U.S. Census and that 100% of population growth in the past 10 years came from increases in the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native, Indigenous, multiracial and multiethnic segments of the population. He mentioned that the buying power of these minorities is worth more than $5 trillion. His remarks focused on serving these communities in an authentic way and expanding spending with the minority-owned and -operated media market, because it’s the biggest opportunity for P&G brands.
I spend time in these rooms to meet the right people. Gut despite our attempts, there is not much effort to connect with minority-owned agencies. As we all know, in most businesses -- and perhaps especially in the advertising industry -- relationships are typically the access points.
I applaud all those brands taking the necessary steps to create a more equal playing field, but I ask that you finish the job. I am not a famous musician, or anyone who has ever been on television. But I have the qualifications, the resources, the skill sets, to deliver for your brand day in and day out.
So I humbly ask all brands to take the final step: Illuminate the path and point folks like me toward the decision-makers, so that more minority-owned businesses can earn a place in your agency ecosystem.