This year, I was lucky to attend my first Adcolor Conference. Marking its 13th year, the conference is an immersive gathering of diverse innovators, experts and thought leaders across advertising, marketing, media, entertainment, public relations and tech industries.
This year’s theme, ‘Take A Stand’ focused on accountability, advocacy and activism. While still (and seemingly eternally) relevant, there was a sense that the conversations across the panels, workshops, and fireside chats were reaching an audience who already understood the importance of the data points – but did not have the sway to advocate for necessary changes.
When it comes to minorities in media having a voice and platform in the industry, Adcolor is by far in a lane of its own. I highly commend founder Tiffany Warren for trailblazing a renaissance that recognizes the minorities that make up roughly 24% of our industry.
The reality is, however, that despite the unparalleled access to like-minded colleagues and the opportunity to partake in conversations on how to act on these deafening data points, Adcolor is not held in the same regard as industry events such as CES or SXSW, pushing diversity and inclusion into a ‘lip service’ category where the talk doesn’t always match the investment.
To start, let’s look at who attended Adcolor. From my perspective, it was all my industry colleagues who wanted to be there and who already have a passion for diversity and inclusion.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough people. Most attendees were very much like me: someone who possesses the passion to create internal diversity and inclusion initiatives that drive awareness, but often lacks the authority and seniority to implement real, actionable change.
I know from experience, not every industry event is home to such a targeted, niche audience. If it seems that every senior figure in your agency gets to head off to CES, SXSW or Cannes Lions, that’s because they do. Meanwhile, only a select few get to attend conferences such as Afrotech, ColorComm, Summit 21, or the NAMIC conference, and often only after asking for company sponsorship (to which I am lucky enough to have from my team and company – thank you Wavemaker).
When planning their yearly industry sponsorships, agencies should not view diversity and inclusion conferences as a second-tier priority. Instead of asking “Why should we pay for this?” they should ask, “What’s the potential growth opportunity for our organization as a result of our investment?”
While the value proposition of Cannes and SXSW is to offer insight and inspiration into the ways the industry is innovating client work, the value proposition of conferences such as Adcolor is to offer equally important opportunities to learn how others are disrupting the paradigm in the area of talent, recruitment and education to drive greater growth and transformation.
Instead of attendance being a reward on an individual level for raising a hand and asking to go, it should be viewed as a necessary component of retention, recruitment and revenue growth.
When viewed from the lens of growing an agency and retaining the best talent to bring a diverse pool of thinking to the table, let’s no longer reserve these conferences for your “rising stars” or impassioned employees. C-suite executives, internal experts, and team leaders: let’s commit ourselves to putting the same amount of investment and attention to the Adcolors of the world as we do when we pack our bags and fly to Vegas, Austin or France.
It’s only then that we may truly start to see the paradigm shift, elevating our industry to a new standard in diversity, equality, and inclusion.
Porscha Scott is associate director of marketing and events at Wavemaker