Perseverance and, especially persistence, are vital relating to change within the industry. The conversation around parity and inclusion has been around for a long time — and, thankfully, we’re continuing to see positive momentum in how the kaleidoscope that is humanity is represented both externally in the work and internally in the way that the industry does business. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”
To that end, DDB Worldwide is part of the chorus knocking loudly as they launch “Pride in Talent,” a social media campaign in support of LGBT Pride Month, with the intention of underscoring the agency’s overall belief in engendering a wide, diverse talent base. Starting with a film celebrating and starring DDB employees — and a rally cry for overall acceptance — the program will encourage DDB, and others outside the network, to use the “Pride in Talent” app to upload a selfie and show their support using the #PrideInTalent hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
The campaign builds on DDB’s earlier talent initiative, “Talent Has No Gender,” which launched on International Women’s Day, in support of gender equality at the agency and throughout the advertising industry.
Speaking first to The Drum, Wendy Clark, president and chief executive officer of DDB in North America, noted that the conversation around diversity has evolved to a critical moment and how this is one more piece of the puzzle to move DDB and, by extension, the industry forward.
“The talk is out there, but we have to move to action,” said Clark. “Talk is good, but action is infinitely better.”
One of the aspects of diversity that has become more prevalent is that of unconscious bias, where even the most well-informed and decidedly “nice” folk still attach stigmas to things like names and backgrounds. People who may not think they have a bias may see or hear an ethnic-sounding name or view a particular background that is different from the one they have and unconsciously attach a bias to it. It doesn't mean the person is necessarily racist or bigoted, but therein lies a potentially destructive issue. Internally, DDB identified this as an opportunity and moved to start training programs, part of their diversity and inclusion strategy, designed to identify those unconscious biases. Exercises, including swapping gender and cultural names on the exact same resume, for example, and playing out other somewhat touchy social scenarios are part of the path forward, as the company sees it.
“When one does these exercises and training, you find that people may judge other people’s talent on something that has nothing to do with it,” noted Clark. “The unconscious bias training is something we immediately moved in to — and all 2,000 [DDB] associates will be trained by the end of the year as a foundation.”
To ensure that progress is made, DDB is engaging a third party, Edge, to conduct a deep study and, ultimately provide certification when certain benchmarks are achieved. Though certification is the goal, learning the blind spots are key.
“My anticipation is that the study will illuminate areas that we need to work on to achieve certification,” acknowledged Clark. “But it gives us an unbiased, third-party perspective on our strengths and challenges. The training and study and path to certification are two immediate actions but it allows us to say that this is going to be a continuous dialogue. We’re going to it consistently and we’re going to celebrate in moments like International Women’s Day and Pride Month, but in between those pillar moments, we’re going to be taking action to move, change and shape our culture. That’s the biggest message I can send to our team and prospective team members.”
The feedback loop on progress is multifaceted. Each year, DDB conducts an annual survey, providing one barometer of opportunity, and expects that the continual effort unlocks one of the most critical aspects of talent, one that is often stanched due to cultural mores or perceived expectations.
“All of this is about creating a culture where people feel as though that they can bring their ‘whole self’ to work,” said Clark. “It’s my contention, and others agree, that if you can bring your ‘whole self’ to work (a theme that is present in the “Pride in Talent” film), you have the best opportunity to do the most amazing work. I want to take any barrier away so that people can feel as though they can be their true, whole self in the workplace.”
Those who put their all into creating a cohesive team that is truly diverse can outperform those who don't have that dedication. During Clark’s previous time as a senior leader at Coca-Cola, she saw, first-hand, how investing time, resources and vision can make a profound impact, especially for the business.
“I led perhaps one of the most diverse teams at Coke, across all the spectrums of diversity” said Clark. “We worked really hard on it, and the best thing I learned from that was that team was the highest performing. The output, outcomes and impact that team created for Coke were greater than any of the teams that had preceded that one, for a number of years. This is proof-positive that business results are better with diverse teams. I lived and experienced that, and I am an evangelist of the highest order on it because it’s absolutely the right thing to do, but also the right thing to do for business.”
Another essential part of the discussion, aside from race, gender, orientation, disability or age, is the unique point of view diversity of thought brings.
“Someone’s point of view because of the life they’ve lived, the community that they are a part of, is so important,” said Clark. “It’s meaningful to have that perspective — and that’s where the creativity is unleashed. Suddenly, you have this beautifully holistic view of the world and the marketplace that gets imbued into our work. As a leader, you cannot not have that most mosaic view of the marketplace. To me, it’s the deepest responsibility we have to our clients.”
Throughout this journey, transparency is a salient consideration as well, and Clark is making a point to be visible and active throughout the network, conducting town halls and continuing to not just talk about change, but actively seeking an open and free dialogue.
“In a way, we’re flipping the org chart, really trying to drive and hammer it down in our organization and be much flatter, less hierarchal,” said Clark. “Many people have emailed me directly. As I go around [the network] I hear directly how we’re doing, getting live, real-time feedback and I strongly encourage that.”
What binds all of this together, as a leadership team, is a word that consistently came up in conversation: accountability. Clark mentioned an interaction recently with a young female creative team in Chicago, where an open dialogue about the what was working and, importantly some of the frustrations they felt, resulting in sharing her plan and point of view, with the goal of creating belief in the vision, but with one caveat, beyond the plan.
“I told them that I wanted them to hold me accountable, especially to the things that I believe in,” said Clark. “Some of the things we’re looking to change culturally take time. But should they not feel that change in a reasonable amount of time, they should absolutely hold me accountable and, as a leader, I will give them feedback on how we are progressing. We have to be honest about where we are, what our ambition is, and then hold ourselves publicly accountable to moving everything the way need to move it. That will come both quantitatively from the numbers and studies and qualitatively from team feedback and our ability to recruit and retain the best talent.”
The internal statement to DDB through “Pride in Talent” and the overall program is one of celebration — where the entirety of the organization feels as though they are part of a vibrant, dimensional culture. Success will come from many different areas, including measurement through data and analysis, but Clark believes deeply that it all comes down to a simple formula.
“The very first thing I said, 150 days ago when I started, was that the highest measure of success for us will be retention and recruitment of talent,” recalled Clark. “Everything else — revenue growth, profit, awards, any other metric you can put up, will only happen if we retain and recruit the best and brightest people — because our business is entirely built on talented people.”
PRIDE: Creative Credits
Agency: DDB New York
Executive Creative Director: Janet Guillet
Creative Director: Matthew Christiansen
Creative Director: Bob Davies
Executive Producer: Chris Klein
Senior Digital Producer: Alise Bellina
Production Assistant: Morgan Edstrom
Senior Project Manager: Andrew Miller
Director of Content Strategy: Tim Polder
Director of Social Strategy: Chiara Martini
Director of Digital: Joel Nagy
Director of Analytics: Christopher Chobanian
Post Production: Cut and Run NY
Executive Producer: Raná Martin
Producer: Ellese Jobin
Editor: Adam Bazadona
Music: unoino music
Producer, Composer: Jesko Stahl
Audio: Heard City
Managing Director: Gloria Pitagorsky
Executive Producer: Sasha Awn
Producer: Talia Rodgers
Audio Mixer: Elizabeth McClanahan