Marketing Agency Culture Diversity & Inclusion

Top Hispanic and Latinx execs on what diversity, equity and inclusion really mean


By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

October 5, 2021 | 13 min read

In the second installment of The Drum’s Hispanic Heritage Month series, we talk to Hispanic and Latinx agency execs about how to be a great marketer, what diversity, equity and inclusion look like in practice and the importance of staying true to oneself.

Hands of various skin tones overlapping on pink background

Hispanic and Latinx marketers share their secrets for success

On what diversity, equity and inclusion really mean

“I very much identify with the Hispanic stereotype of being joyous, passionate and even loud. But for many, many years I worked hard to conform and fly under the radar, working tirelessly to compensate for the feeling that I had no right to be here, to have a voice or a seat at the table. In that journey I lost my voice and lost myself. What I didn’t realize was that it would be twice as hard to find my truth than it was to lose it to begin with. But I got lucky. Before diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were mainstream aspirations, life placed me in an environment that was DEI-rich. I learned the joy of celebrating differences of background, experience and opinion, and the importance and impact of being seen and heard for what we all are: unique, amazing humans. More importantly, I learned this happens through deliberate action rooted in the highest standards of humanity. This allowed me to understand clearly the responsibility upon us to make it easier for those who come after us.” -Andrea Terrassa, chief operating officer for Dentsu creative in the Americas

“Diversity is just part of the it's just part of the equation. And it's not even the most important part — inclusion is even more important. I've been in the industry for a long time, and I’ve seen when agencies in the job market are just [focusing on diversity] to be able to say, ‘Yes, of course I have a diverse team,’ because a client asked them [for their] stats. They would show they had the diversity — but that doesn't necessarily mean that those people were included in the right conversations. That doesn't necessarily mean that those people were leading any kind of conversation or that they were being respected as peers. Here are the token employees. I've seen that happen too many times. Just having X percent of your employees be diverse doesn't tell the whole story. [Employers] need to make sure that they feel that they are truly part of the company, included and respected. That's hard to measure.” -Ingrid Otero-Smart, president and chief executive officer at Casanova//McCann

“DEI means recognition, prioritization and follow through. Recognizing that the more swirl and rhythm in the room means more success — and respecting that. [It means] prioritizing everyone but bringing those left behind to the front of the line — and no lip service, no pats on the back. Intention doesn't matter; outcomes are everything...because we notice.” -Chris Quintero, associate director, social strategy & national lead for Digitas’ Business Resource Group, Adelante

“At the core, [diversity, equity and inclusion] mean being seen and respected for all that you are, what you can bring and what you represent. So many times, as a Latina in advertising, I have had to overcome industry stereotypes like the notion that to break through you need work on Hispanic initiatives. That leaves so much untapped value! In hindsight, every roadblock hurdled was a way to shift perceptions. The more meaningful DEI initiatives are those that embrace diversity and welcome Latinx people to show up and unlock perspectives for all businesses. Those that go beyond a month, or ERGs, and support Latinx voices, leaders and organizations every day. Showing up means empowering...dynamic, diverse talent and shattering stereotypes together — and I am thrilled to be part of it.” -Annette Fonte, managing director at VMLY&R Commerce

“To me, DEI and the big ‘B,’ belonging, means that more perspectives and diverse people will get the opportunity to walk through the door and be valued for their insights. True DEI means that agencies and corporations will favor merit-based promotions over social-based ones. Most importantly, it means that I will not be the last Latina in the room — more seats will be occupied by perspectives that I know and other ones that I don’t know. Talent will be recognized as talent, not parked in a corner or left out of a meeting because of an accent, a place of birth, an orientation, a skin color, an age. Everyone’s functional expertise will have to be human-centric. I cannot wait!” -Ana Ceppi, senior advisor, Hispanic at Edelman

“Equity and inclusion go beyond hiring and diversifying the people we see in leadership positions in the industry. While having more representation at the top of the ladder is critical, we also need to pay close attention to what is happening at every level. How are you treating your entry-level talent? Do people feel heard and included when they’re not part of the senior leadership? Inclusion, or lack thereof, can be extremely nuanced, and shortcomings don’t always show up when you look at numbers and quotas. I personally know what this feels like. As a Brazilian copywriter who came to the US without properly speaking the language, I experienced prejudice firsthand because of my accent and limited vocabulary. It’s been over 13 years now and I’ve worked with several teams and agencies since then. But navigating that judgement and discrimination early on is something that’s stayed with me and shaped my approach to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion across my teams.” -Jones Krahl, Executive Creative Director, Deloitte Digital, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP

On not compromising who you are

“I'm from Brazil, so I hug and I kiss everybody. I think that at a certain point, people get a little confused about how professional you are or how shallow you are. It took me a while to [gain confidence in] my own personality. Now that I'm 50 years old, I give very few fucks about what people think if they think I'm too bubbly. And I speak four languages — I should have never felt bad about my accent. Your accent doesn't define you; you are much bigger than the way you pronounce words. I tell people, ‘Don't ever change the way you are. If it's coming from your heart, and if you are genuine, keep going.’” -Carla Eboli, executive vice president and diversity, equity and inclusion lead at Energy BBDO

“As somebody who grew up in the 70s and 80s, my notion of success was to lay low and sort of suppress the Hispanic and Latin inside of myself in order to blend in. Today, we have the opposite need. We're trying to communicate to people to bring their authentic selves to work to let their true selves out.” -Nancy Reyes, chief executive officer at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

"Be yourself. Don’t compromise your identity. Who you are—your unique lived experience—is a superpower. Use it." -Giovanni Villamar, executive group account director at Droga5

“My greatest challenge and opportunity as a Latinx leader has been...showing up authentically. As a Latina woman in the consulting industry, I have often felt like the ‘only Latina’ in the room and sometimes felt like I should suppress my heritage. Spending time [in my work] helping people feel that their identities are valid and important has helped me overcome this concern. I hope that by doing my best to always show up authentically...I’m contributing in some way to changing the image of who belongs in the marketing technology industry.” -Jaqueline Najera, senior manager of marketing performance at Deloitte Digital

“Working in new countries, new cultures can be intimidating. Be respectful, stay curious, learn to learn, understand culture. But don’t doubt for a second in bringing your genuine self into the work you do every day. Don’t try to ‘fit in’ — your point of view is what makes you unique. Do you.” -Javier Bonilla, executive creative director at Grey New York

“Do not be afraid or ashamed of sharing who you are. Our culture is very rich and full of creativity. We need to be the first ones to be proud of it, embrace it and learn the best way to share it with respect. We all need to be ambassadors of our own culture. While we do that, we also have to be open to learn from other cultures and understand different approaches to keep growing and to develop a truly global mindset without losing our roots.” -Mariano Jeger, vice president, chief creative officer R/GA SS LATAM

On what it takes to be a great marketer

“Understanding and respecting the consumer [is critical] — we need to listen to them. Don't take it for granted. We've heard clients say, ‘Hispanics are already buying my product, I don't need to do anything to market to them.’ No, you need to make sure that you protect and nurture that consumer. If you don't, your competitor will. So many times, a client will call and say, ‘I need a Hispanic Heritage Month event’ and they've never talked to the consumer before. That's going to be seen as...taking advantage of the consumer. They don't even know you. You’ve never talked to them. And now you want to celebrate them? First, earn the right to market to them. [Then] you will earn their support and their loyalty. [Consumers are] not dumb. They can see they can see when there’s no real commitment to them.” -Ingrid Otero-Smart, president and chief executive officer at Casanova//McCann

“This industry is about collaboration. Collaboration elevates the quality of the work, the quality of the thinking. And both diversity of thinking and diversity of backgrounds [are crucial]. I have been a strong advocate of recruiting from other industries, instead of playing musical chairs and [recruiting solely] from one agency to the other. Let’s recruit musicians and people with culinary backgrounds.” -Carla Eboli, executive vice president and diversity, equity and inclusion lead at Energy BBDO

“Apply a culture-first lens to the strategic and planning work...on behalf of brands in order to uncover cultural nuances but also what connects us as people. A great marketer understands that multicultural marketing today is marketing.” -Karina Dobarro, executive vice president and managing partner, multicultural at Horizon Media

“There is no one magic formula. Each person has to find the right place to develop their own strengths and work hard on their own weaknesses. Some people will say that this sounds cliché, but I truly believe that we are in the collaboration era. If you really want to grow and make great work it is important to listen, learn and collaborate with others. In order to do these, you need to be part of the right company and the right team. From my perspective, people are everything. The more diverse and with different backgrounds the team members are, the more chances you have to develop groundbreaking work and learn in the process.” -Mariano Jeger, vice president, chief creative officer at R/GA SS LATAM

"Having a core set of values, beliefs and principles that are true to you and will serve as your compass in the decisions you make throughout your career. For me, that means honesty, integrity and compassion, and being gracious, accepting and optimistic." -Giovanni Villamar, executive group account director at Droga5

“Develop a good sense of when to close the computer and go connect with a human being. Sure, you need the statistically relevant data — and don’t lose sight of that — but giving a face to the data you’re handling helps convey the problem better to your creative team. No disrespect to Excel spreadsheets, but they just don’t move me like stories and anecdotes do. [My other piece of] advice is to play — as in a five year-old playing make-believe, as in colors, music, laughing for no reason. In advertising, what we offer is creativity, and playing is the fastest way to brew it. The moment you allow yourself to be bored at the job, you’re destroying the main resource. My team is the silliest team — I have no proof, but I also have zero doubts.” -Mingthoy Sanjur, senior strategic partner at VMLY&R

“[My best advice for success in marketing is] not conforming. Understand that what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. Have big dreams and great ambition for your brand, trust your gut and come to peace with the fact that it is okay to fail. Fail forward. Learn the lesson and move on. Keep chasing that ambition. It will come. Great work and a genuine desire to do the right thing cures everything. That is the best advice I have even been given and I live by it every day.” -Javier Bonilla, executive creative director at Grey New York

“Never take no for an answer. Nothing is ‘impossible’. If it hasn’t been done yet is because nobody has been able to figure it out. That person can be you.” -Ana Bermudez, director of brand at 72andSunny New York

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