Agency Brief: Marketing exec Kai D. Wright says in open letter he's faced racism 'at every turn' of his career
Pressure continues to mount on companies, and agencies especially, to do better on the diversity, equity and inclusion front. Nathan Young, a group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, along with Bennett D. Bennett, who runs independent consultancy Aerialist, led the charge by writing an open letter to U.S. agencies outlining the list of actions they should take to achieve true equity for people of color in the industry.
Interpublic Group of Cos. CEO-Chairman Michael Roth became the first holding company leader to speak out about the letter, saying in a leaked internal memo that "as the signatories of the letter point out, change must accelerate and be sustainable." Roth pointed out several actions IPG would be taking to increase diversity and inclusion including by holding its own executives more accountable. He said CEOs' compensation going forward will be based on them achieving "various goals related to the hiring, promotions and representation of people of color and women." In the memo, he also shared for the first time IPG's minority makeup within its executive ranks. A chart showed that only 2.6 percent of IPG's senior executives and managers are black or African American; 5.5 percent are Asian; 84.9 percent are white; and 5.2 percent are Hispanic or Latinx.
Independent agency Giant Spoon also tweeted out a chart showing its makeup—11 percent of its total staff are black or African American; 8 percent are multiracial; 13 percent are Asian; 5 percent are Latinx; and 63 percent are white. Giant Spoon says all of its partners are white and only 25 percent are female.
Folks, keep listening and pushing for change.
Kai D. Wright, author, speaker, strategy advisor, partner at Ogilvy and Columbia University lecturer, opened a recent LinkedIn post with, “Are you OK?” Wright writes, “Those are three simple yet powerful words to extend to someone who may be experiencing distress; and many in the Black community are experiencing distress right now.” Wright penned an open letter, through which he explains how he has “encountered racism at every turn and micro-aggressions every day” while serving in his various professional roles. He details some advice on being a better ally to the black community including putting in the time to educate yourself on black history as well as giving seats at the table to black executives and doing more to champion diverse voices. Wright reminds readers in the letter that “if you run an agency, company, or organization, then this is your fight—be our ally and get us on stage virtually or physically so we can get the credit we deserve for steering culture and opportunities to provide different points of view that represent communities you and your clients profit from.” Wright also discusses how systemic racism has prevented black employees from moving up the ranks within companies, and demands businesses do better to recruit, develop and retain black talent.
“Sorry, but not sorry, this isn’t a message of hope; it’s a message to stay woke,” Wright writes. Listen to his message via the LinkedIn post below and read his letter here.
'Close the literacy gap'
The&Partnership created a campaign pro-bono for Literacy Partners—a nonprofit helping educate parents in New York who don’t have the means otherwise—that raises awareness for the 18 percent of New Yorkers who do not know how to read, nearly one in five New Yorkers. Through a PSA, the agency illustrates the social costs of not being able to read critical messages, which are even more important now during the pandemic when the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations are releasing information on how to safeguard from coronavirus. The&Partnership used a custom “broken” typeface in the video to show how messages look to people who struggle with reading. The PSA urges viewers to “help us fix the broken typeface” and “close the literacy gap” by donating to Literacy Partners. The film is narrated by a Literacy Partners student. The campaign also includes digital ads and a one day digital out-of-home activation in Times Square. The media was also handled pro-bono by m/SIX in coordination with Xaxis.
“The COVID-19 epidemic reveals the urgent need for universal literacy in our society—we can't afford for some members of our community not to be able to read basic public health information,” Anthony Tassi, CEO of Literacy Partners, says. “Their inability to do so has potentially fatal consequences for not only their families, but for everyone around them.”
This series is helping remote working parents entertain their kids
VidMob, a creative tech platform, launched a series that is helping working parents, including some at ad agencies, entertain their children while they remain at home during the pandemic. KidMob & Friends is a free series of kid-friendly virtual workshops run by VidMob employees (hopefully ones without children of their own). A week-long trial run of the workshop was carried out recently but VidMob says it plans to do more sessions this summer, knowing that many camp programs have been paused or canceled. During the first session, children did activities like crafting cards for the elderly, most of whom are still sheltering in place. VidMob says it wanted to provide some relief to working parents as “so many have been juggling work and family, struggling with the combination of homeschooling and keeping their little ones entertained throughout the day—every day.”
“Our kids are loving the KidMob & Friends workshops,” says Susannah Keller, executive VP and global business leader at BBDO. “It gives them a break in their day and lets them get creative with activities like greeting card design and joke-telling and gives them experiences beyond their norm like learning sign language and knot tying. It’s been one of their favorites during quarantine.”
WPP appoints new board member
WPP named Angela Ahrendts to its board as a non-executive director. Ahrendts most recently was senior VP, retail at Apple. She announced her departure from Apple in April 2019, saying she wanted to pursue new opportunities. Ahrendts joined Apple in May 2014 and oversaw global retail as well as spearheaded initiatives like Today at Apple, which allows customers to set up educational sessions at Apple's retail stores. Before Apple, Ahrendts served as the CEO of Burberry for eight years. Ahrendts was also a member of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council from 2010 to 2015; a member of the Oxford University Saïd Business School’s Global Leadership Council; a non-executive director on the Ralph Lauren and Airbnb boards; and sits on the boards of nonprofits Charity: Water and The HOW Institute for Society. Her appointment to WPP’s board is effective July 1.
“WPP is one of the world’s leading creative companies,” Ahrendts says. “[WPP CEO] Mark [Read] and his excellent leadership team have a strong sense of purpose and a strategy that values creative talent while embracing societal shifts and new technologies. I am so honored to support their ongoing development as a member of the WPP Board.”
MDC Partners appoints president to oversee integrated accounts
MDC Partners hired Julia Hammond as president of a new division that will oversee larger integrated client accounts across the holding company’s agencies. Hammond previously was leading business development and marketing across Deloitte Digital’s Heat. Her appointment follows MDC’s formation of agency networks. Most recently, MDC merged two of its public relations firms, KWT Global and HL Group, which are both part of its Doner Partner Network.
MDC has been restructuring various of its agencies into combined networks since Mark Penn took over as CEO and chairman of the holding company last year. The efforts saw the formation of Constellation, a collective spanning creative agencies 72andSunny and Crispin Porter Bogusky; digital brand and experience shop Instrument; strategy and design firm Redscout, and production shop Hecho Studios. There is also a Doner-led network, an Anomaly-led alliance and a media, data and tech network comprised of Gale, Allegory, Attention, EnPlay, Trade X Partners, Unique Influence, Assembly and Varick.
“As we work with more clients to build custom integrated solutions that marry data with creativity, we’re excited to bring on a business leader that can drive key partnerships across our global network,” Penn says.
MDC says Hammond will be organizing the new division over the coming months and detailing members of her team within the next 90 days. Prior to Heat, Hammond managed client engagement and new business at VMLY&R as executive director of North America. She also held the WPP Global Team Leader role for Tyson Foods. Hammond says “clients expect more from us” and “in this moment, we have an opportunity to put our diverse network of unmatched talent to work in innovative partnership models.”
Mother New York was named the creative agency of record for Dave & Buster’s. The agency says it will be responsible for delivering new national and regional marketing campaigns for the operator of entertainment and dining venues, as well as for enhancing tailored communications with the company's customers. Dave & Buster’s CEO Brian Jenkins comments, “As we continue to reopen more of our locations and bring fun back to the communities we serve, this partnership will enable us capitalize on technology upgrades, enhanced data analytics and digital marketing investments to drive deeper engagement with our guests.”
Marc USA, BFG and BLR|further, all independent agencies, have merged to form one new company called 9Rooftops. The name of the new agency is a nod to the founding number of offices, “and auspiciously has often been referred to as a symbol of wisdom, creativity and empathy,” the companies say. 9Rooftops has offices in New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Its clients include Honest Tea, Qdoba, Barilla, Conair Man, Turner Broadcasting, South Carolina Tourism, Bellin Health System, Carle Health, Glanbia, Coca-Cola and the Pennsylvania and Maryland state lotteries.
Mosaic, a North American integrated marketing agency, promoted Lee Esmond, a senior VP, expanding her leadership to include oversight over the shop’s U.S. shopper marketing team. She will continue leading Mosaic’s consumer packaged goods and retail experiential teams. Mosaic says the shift allows for the further integration of its U.S. business. Esmond will also be serving as a “key conduit” between Mosaic and parent company Acosta in her expanded role, according to the agency.
Mesh, an independent creative and strategic agency, expanded its presence in the southern U.S. with three new locations in Austin, Texas; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Lafayette, Louisiana. The agency remains headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mesh Chief Strategist Hector Gonzalez is leading the agency’s expansion in Chattanooga. Will Jenkins was hired from T3 as a director in Austin. Daniel Kedinger joined Mesh from BBR Creative as a principal and digital director in the Lafayette office.