Q&A: HP's Antonio Lucio on Why Diversity Matters

Tech CMO Explains His Call to Action for Agencies

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Antonio Lucio.
Antonio Lucio. Credit: Courtesy Visa

After years of talk but very little progress, it seems marketers and agencies are finally taking solid steps toward diversity. Consider what happened with the space of a week: First, General Mills told Ad Age it is requiring the creative departments at the agencies participating in its review to be staffed by at least 50% women and 20% people of color.

Then, HP Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio sent a memo to HP's five advertising and marketing agency partners—Gyro, BBDO, Fred & Farid, FleishmanHillard, and Porter Novelli—asking for a commitment "to radically improve the percentage of women and people of color in leadership roles" in their organizations.

Mr. Lucio, who said HP is creating a scorecard to track its own efforts, expects agencies to deliver formal plans within 30 days and make good on such plans within 12 months, the memo read. Below, in an interview with Ad Age, he explains the reasoning behind his effort.

Ad Age: Why did you decide to send out this challenge to your agency partners?

Mr. Lucio: It is the right thing to do from a business standpoint, flat and simple. We are about reinventing marketing and to do this we actually have to have a better representation of our customer base. You are learning about this now, but we've been working on this in our company for the last 12 months.

Ad Age: HP is creating a scorecard to measure its own efforts. How does the company stack up so far?

Mr. Lucio: We believe that if we have a team of people representative of the client we service we are going to be able to be more successful. When you analyze our business, you see over 50% of the personal [computer] system side is driven by women; on the print [printer] side, 45% of the business is driven by women. You start with that premise, then begin to look at yourself—do we have the right team, the composition to be able to have the point of view of the clients we service? The answer at the time was no.

We are very well represented in terms of total female population—we have about 1,000 marketers around the world—55% of those are women. When you go into the manager level, the female composition is 43%--it's higher than most companies, but not where it needs to be. Then my biggest problem was the top leadership marketing positions. I have 10 that report to me. At the time we started I only had two that were female—20%. To transform your marketing organization, it needs to start at the top level.

Ad Age: You now have women in 50% of your top marketing positions. How did that happen?

Mr. Lucio: You do not start with 10 empty chairs and then say 'I'm going to have the best five guys and the best female executives and just hire them.' You have people in place and you need to create change. We first analyzed the business strategy, then the capabilities we needed. We had to create capacity to put the right people in place. It took us 12 months to be able to identify the internal and external talent. I've been bothered by certain commentaries on Twitter where people question this, saying we focus too much on gender and diversity issues, what about capability? Capability is a given in all of this and the women I have working for me are the best, they just happen to be female.

Ad Age: How are you working toward more internal diversity with people of color?

Mr. Lucio: The single biggest opportunity around the world is female, so we decided to focus on that first. Within the U.S. and some countries we need to increase our representation of people of color and that will be our next phase.

Ad Age: How has the reaction been from the memo recipients?

Mr. Lucio: The reaction has been great. Sometimes our industry gets a bad rap, but my conversations were incredibly positive. They were excited and committed to respond to this memo the right way. People like BBDO were already making progress in this particular area.

Ad Age: Will agencies need to fulfill specific diversity quotas?

Mr. Lucio: They need to provide us a very detailed and specific plan to be delivered within 30 days. They know what I was able to achieve internally, which was 50%, so we are guiding them toward that reaction and giving them 12 months to implement it, which is how long it took me to achieve it.

Ad Age: Have you found that having less sameness and more variety can foster a company's success?

Mr. Lucio: You have to come to one of my meetings—the level of conversations, the richness of diverse points of view—it just makes it more fun. It makes it a more argumentative meeting, but that's how innovation and breakthrough ideas come along.

Ad Age: Do you think other marketers will implement similar requirements -- we've already seen it with General Mills, for example?

Mr. Lucio: I hope so, but I own my own destiny; I am responsible for what I can impact. The first thing we did was put our house in order, the second thing was invite those partners we have to do the same. It is right for our culture, it is right for society and right for my family as I am the father of five daughters.

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