More Than 650 Mid- and Junior-Level Professionals Attend The One Club’s 2017 “Here Are All The Black People” Career Fair and Panels
The One Club
Sep 28, 2017
NEW YORK — A record 650 young advertising professionals attended The One Club for Creativity’s seventh annual “Here Are All The Black People” (HAATBP) multicultural career fair, a recent day-long event in New York where they benefited from portfolio reviews sessions and heard dozens of senior industry leaders talk about critical issue of diversity and inclusion in the advertising world.
Now in it’s seventh year, HAATBP is a central program within The One Club’s ongoing commitment to promoting inclusion and diversity in the ad industry. Initially launched with the focus of making the industry more inclusive for aspiring African American creatives, the event has expanded to embrace everyone who is looking break into the industry and thrive. New this year was an expanded scope to include mid-level professionals, with the day offering specific panels and workshops geared toward those already in the industry who want to advance.
“The One Club for Creativity has a long-standing commitment to providing programming that helps solve the industry's diversity problem as opposed to just giving it lip service,” said Kevin Swanepoel, CEO, The One Club. “We created our own Inclusion & Diversity Department nearly a decade ago, and have invested heavily in result-oriented programs like HAATBP and Creative Boot Camps that open the door and help get young diverse creatives hired by some of the leading companies and brands.”
Keynote speech: actor/activist Marc John Jefferies
The day kicked off with an inspiring keynote talk by film and television actor and activist Marc John Jefferies (http://marcjohnj.com), who told the crowd how he faced up and conquered the challenges of entering the entertainment industry. He said he defined success not as fame and fortune, but as the achievement of one’s goals. “Every goal needs a plan, the steps behind it,” he said. “And talent is second to work ethic. Planning, action and a strong work ethic are what lead to opportunities.”
He encouraged the audience to build strong relationships because no one succeeds on their own, spend time with people who have already achieved what you want to do, and know who you are but be flexible enough to adapt to change. (His keynote talk can be viewed at https://youtu.be/02JbMTuekTs).
Cultural Awareness Advertising
Next up on the main stage was the “Cultural Awareness Advertising: Learning Solutions for Future Development” panel addressing how creatives can tackle real-life challenges from a diversity perspective (https://youtu.be/_5rR8JmQX7g).
Dhane Scotti, EVP, global business lead, Coca-Cola at McCann summed up a key point saying “We are tasked with telling stories to the entire world, so our staffs should reflect that entire world.” Natasha Aarons, YouTube marketing managers of brand experiences and partnerships, agreed and went a step further: “It’s not enough just to have a diverse team. That diverse group of people need to be empowered to make decisions.”
Terrence Burrell, VP, creative director at Burrell Communications, explained how diversity in agency staffing also benefits the effectiveness of the work. “People buy what they understand. If you as a advertising person who doesn’t understand a group, be it women or African Americans, then you won’t know the best ways to reach that group.”
The panel ended by addressing the impact of the currently political and social climate on brands. “Most brands stay away from politics, they’re careful because many of them either do business with the government or have to deal with them in some capacity,” Burrell said. “But nothing is the same anymore, the old rules are gone particularly when it comes to social issues, and we’re seeing younger brands testing the limits and taking bolder positions.”
Scotti framed the world in two distinct segments: “BT and AT” (Before Trump and After Trump). “Brands will have to make a decision, they might not be able to sit back anymore, they need to ask ‘who are we?’. Consumers are demanding that brands stand for something.”
Not Your Token: Hiring Differently
A popular mid-level breakout session entitled “Not Your Token: Hiring Differently to Achieve Real Diversity of Thought”, was significant in that the panel included the two “godfathers” of HAATBP: Jimmy Smith, chairman, CCO and CEO, Amusement Park Entertainment, and Jeff Goodby, co-chairman, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, who together were the catalyst for starting the multicultural career fair in 2010.
Smith, a One Club board member, encouraged young professionals to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Accept it, embrace it and enjoy it.” He recalled how when he was hired at Wieden+Kennedy on the Nike basketball account, he quickly became known as “the basketball guy” at the agency. Instead of feeling restricted, Smith took ownership of the role and used it to grow in stature and visibility within the agency and industry before branding into other areas.
Goodby continued on that theme, adding he likes to assemble creative teams where one person has experience and knowledge of the topic or brand and the other person does not. “It’s great to have a balance and some discomfort.” Because the person who’s unfamiliar with the industry views it from an entirely different perspective, Goodby feel that person can often come up with new and different creative ideas and solutions. “Look at the whole person, not just at the person’s work experience,” he said.
Leslie Ali, executive creative director, J. Walter Thompson, New York, expanded on the idea of staff mix and fresh perspectives. “We as agencies still make too many assumptions and overt choices based on gender. We still automatically staff the tampon account with women and the bourbon account with men,” she said. “We need to combat that in how we hire and staff accounts.”
Jimmie Stone, chief creative officer at Edelman, New York, said the issue of diversity has progressed quickly within the industry. “The idea of diversity went from a ‘nice’ to a ‘must’, and now it’s advanced to a critical concept in the workplace.”
The next challenge, he said, is what happens after the hiring process. “People come into an organization and then they leave. Hiring is not enough, agencies need to provide a pathway and environment where people can see themselves grow.”
“Diversity programs are great, but we have to actually do it,” added Goodby. “First, create the programs, then remind people, and then follow through to bring the outside world inside the agency through diversity. Have women and minorities in senior positions at agency to serve as examples and role models.”
Smith concurred, saying agencies need to have a champion for diversity in hiring and support, but that employees must also play a role. “Have high standards for how to be and what you want, and be willing to leave or even get fired if those high standards are not upheld,” he said. “Bring the richness of your experience and stand up for it, it’s an asset that no one else has.”
“Reframe diversity as your superpower, own it!” said Ali. “It will mean more to you that way, and provide you with the confidence to have the hard conversations that need to take place.”
Micro Aggressions in the Workplace
It was a packed room for the mid-level session “Dealing with Micro Aggression in the Workplace”, where the topic was defined as “a casual degradation of a marginalized group”.
Independent creative Mariam Guessous set the stage with a personal example. “I work at an agency that once asked me to attend a new business pitch but didn’t provide me with a role. When I asked what I should do, they said they just wanted me to ‘be the woman in the room’ to give the appearance of agency diversity.” She said this sort of micro aggression is often done unconsciously; in this case, for example, the pitch team leader was surprised when she brought it to her attention.
“Micro aggressions are a cocktail of arrogance and ignorance, usually spoke from a place of privilege,” is how Keni Thacker, senior event technology specialist at J. Walter Thompson described it. “They make you not want to go to work. They are disheartening, like death by a thousand paper cuts.” He said having a mentor in the workplace is an invaluable asset in dealing wit the situation.
Tiffany Edwards, senior programs and outreach manager at Droga5, explained how some people will claim the targets of micro aggressions are just being too sensitive. “Find a way to walk in their shoes and give them an example of a situation they can relate to,” she suggested. Her other advice included set your values, speak up, find an ally or advocate and remain calm and professions. “Agencies need to deal with micro aggressions from top to bottom, it doesn’t matter if they come form the CEO or an intern.”
“It’s not tattling to raise the issue with human resources, we are there to help all employees,” said Felicia Geiger, HR directors at Mission Media. She added employees should always know where you stand. “You shouldn’t have to wait until your annual performance review to know where you stand. A good agency that respects people will have provide a path to growth and peers and mentors who can help you achieve goals.”
Other HAATBP programming included the “FCB Global Presents ‘Creativity in Color’: An Authentic Conversation on Diversity in Advertising” panel (https://youtu.be/MMJL9mKSxuM), “Policing the Tone Police” and “The Influence: Black Culture on Social Media” mid-level sessions, a series of hands-on mentor sessions and a live talent pitch.
About The One Club for Creativity One I.D.
The One Club for Creativity has a number of successful programs that address inclusion and diversity under its One I.D. initiative. In addition to the annual HAATBP event, the club works closely with member ad agencies and universities to produce more than a dozen four-day Creative Boot Camps in major markets around the world. Some examples of Creative Boot Camps here: South Africa - https://youtu.be/x4kUMv2zWYI; Miami - https://youtu.be/UwJn9itAkZ0.
Both programs offer students and young professionals exposure to the industry through both panel discussions and workshop led by senior creative leaders, and hands-on, one-on-one portfolio review sessions.
A number of aspiring young people have gotten jobs in the industry after attending these events and gaining insight into how the ad agency world works. A couple of examples include Corey O'Brien at 72&Sunny (https://youtu.be/g-VYidkKKI4) and Sonja Johnson at Droga5 (https://youtu.be/mzj1Ce7kDZo).
“While attendees get a great deal of value out of hearing top industry leaders talk about the issues of diversity and inclusion, the benefits go both ways,” said Stefanie Smith, Inclusion & Diversity manager, The One Club. “Those top creatives also benefit from experiencing these events in person. It’s a reminder to them of how they broke into and advanced in the industry, and how they can help the next generation do the same thing.”