By Molly Dunne, Associate Creative Director
It’s Awards Season once again. And for the first time in a long time, I actually care. As you may remember, it was one year ago at The Golden Globes Awards when the Time’s Up campaign kicked off with a bang. Piggy-backing on the #MeToo movement, it was an urgent call to action that also shone a light on the ad community’s complicity in upholding the status quo. Because like the Entertainment industry, Advertising wields an enormous power in the battle for inclusivity: The power of representation.
After all, the number of advertisements the average consumer takes in per day continues to rise—with some estimates as high as 10,000 branded messages per day. While viewers may dedicate more undivided attention (does that exist anymore?) to a 10-part Netflix series, the sheer volume of ads one encounters makes advertising an equally powerful medium for channeling, challenging and changing our culture.
Every one of us has sat in a (likely all-white) meeting where we discussed—or, more accurately here in Minnesota, tiptoed around—how we plan to include “diversity” in our campaigns. We’ve used words like “ambicultural” in our casting specs. We’ve even included one woman who was a size 8 (gasp!) in that one spot, that one time. We’ve done our “due diligence.” But Time’s Up was a wake-up call. One that, along with many others in the Ad industry, I’m proud to say my double-white-dude-owned agency truly took to heart. We agreed, in no uncertain terms, that we have not, in fact, done our due diligence. That due diligence is not enough. That we must do more.
Before you say it: No, we aren’t paid to fight the good fight. Yes, our job is to sell our clients’ products and services. But in doing so, we are in the powerful position to decide who does and does not get to see themselves reflected in the media we consume. We become the de facto gatekeepers of representation. And that matters. Because representation matters.
Over the past year, I can honestly say—perhaps for the first time in my career—that I feel truly proud of the way we handled that responsibility. We went beyond checking boxes to sell products. In our work for the University of Minnesota, we actively sought out (and found) new stories—told by new faces. In our recently launched campaign for Anytime Fitness, we showed that “healthy” doesn’t have to mean “skinny;” that good health and self esteem are not a reward reserved for those few “beautiful people.” We partnered with local hip-hop phenom Lizzo—an artist who stands in proud defiance of nearly every convention of the pre-Time’s Up world.
As for 2019?
My resolution is to continue to make inclusivity an imperative. To step up and engage in those difficult conversations. To be a champion for others to tell their own stories. But we also need to reflect that same inclusivity within our own walls. We’ve made strides this year: four of the five employees we added in 2018 are women; our Creative team is now evenly split between men and women, including in leadership roles (a first for me!); our agency is 60% women, 40% men. And while I am proud of the work we are doing and the policies we are putting in place to intentionally diversify our office, we are not there yet. Not by a longshot. The pastiness of our payroll is not lost on anyone at F&N—especially not those in hiring positions.
So, in 2019, we are committed to:
1. Strengthening our partnership with The BrandLab, whose work is truly (and literally) changing the face of this industry.
- We will continue to mentor BrandLab students.
- We will continue to take on interns, like our incredible summer 2018 intern, Jazmine.
- We will be hosting a series of Fearless Workshops tackling issues of race and representation.
2. Further extending our hiring pool beyond our personal networks to ensure we are consistently meeting new faces, from different backgrounds, with fresh ideas.
3. Actively championing underrepresented groups within our walls and without.
4. Mindfully choosing to work with vendors, partners and clients who do the same.