Agency Brief: Strategy exec Gary Nix urges brands to back Black Lives Matter messages up with action
The past week has been tough as we confront head-on the systematic racism that plagues our country and, yes, this industry. Agencies, comprised of predominantly white staff, are under scrutiny to drive meaningful change through detailed plans of action.
One thing has become clear from all our reporting: The industry can't let the critical conversations that are finally occurring on race fizzle out. This isn’t the time to close doors but open them wide.
Don’t go forward with empty words
Gary J. Nix, a marketing strategy executive, shared some thoughts on brands that are “worried about their messaging” right now. As Ad Age has been documenting, there have been a slew of brands and agencies that have responded to the nationwide protests. But is it enough?
“Everyone is worried about their messaging,” Nix says in a video posted to LinkedIn. “Now here’s the thing that should be obvious: messaging without action means nothing.”
He goes on to criticize industry leaders for historically “dancing around" the issue of race instead of addressing it outright. Nix calls out the agencies and brands that have in the past tried to avoid conversations on race but assures that they “are coming” with or without their permission.
Watch the video, which Nix says will not be the last from him, below.
Weber Shandwick CEO tells staff, 'We must stand with the black community'
In a memo to staff on Thursday evening, Weber Shandwick President-CEO Gail Heimann solidified the Interpublic Group of Cos. firm’s commitment to the black community and increasing diversity within its own walls, “at every level.” She urged "every single one of us" to "pay attention to the brutal and unconscionable murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others" and to "stand with the black community." Weber Shandwick closed North American offices today "to process and participate in ways that feel right" the memo said, adding that the firm will be making donations to organizations working to reverse systemic racism including the National Urban League, Campaign Zero and Amnesty International.
Her memo in full:
I am writing to the global population of Weber Shandwick because every single of one of us – in every city and every country – must pay attention to the brutal and unconscionable murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others in the United States. We must stand with the black community. We must listen and absorb a reality that is shaped by a long history of acts of hate and lives lived in fear.
And we must change.
We must change the way we work – in meaningful and measurable ways – within Weber Shandwick. And we must use the power of our thinking and influence–and deploy resources– to help change the relentless pattern of systemic racism and intolerance in the United States and beyond. I am committed to do both. Beginning immediately. This week we listened; we opened a dialogue with our colleagues in North America about racism, discrimination and the persistent mistreatment of and violence against black people. Our colleagues bravely shared their own experiences and stories. We began a series of wrenching, emotional and important conversations that we will continue. For a very long time. Tomorrow our offices in North America – along with several others around the world – will take a day to pause, to process and participate in ways that feel right. Then, we start on the path to making change – by making commitments:
We are committed to increase the diversity of the Weber Shandwick population–at every level–and to truly shape a culture of equity and inclusion in our workforce– including professional development, training, mentorship, sponsorship and recruiting. We will hold ourselves accountable; we will set benchmarks and we will share our progress.
We are committed to shaping our future inclusively. We will create a cross-regional “action team” comprised of members of our current North America DEI committees and passionate colleagues. This team will have the authority and the resources to shape our policies and initiatives–to ensure that inclusion is at the center of how we operate–every day, everywhere.
We are committed to doing our part to make societal change. To start, we are allocating $1M in resources to work in partnership with organizations that fight against racial inequality and injustice. Our team will select an organization–or two–for which we can make the most significant difference. And we will make this work a priority for the firm.
We are committed to supporting people and organizations who are fighting against hate and for change.
Our firm will make a donation to the National Urban League and will join IPG in making donations to Campaign Zero and Amnesty International.
This is the beginning. There is much more to be done. And said. We will do more. And we will add ideas and detail. But we need to start now. Others–our own colleagues and pundits–have mentioned that it is critical that we not let this be a moment in time. Not let this be a brief chapter in history. Please join me in committing the thinking, the time, the energy–please join me in committing to do our part to start to change the course of history. The work we do to help, the role we play to get there could not be more important. Thank you in advance. And, as always, take care.
Muh-Tay-Zik/Hof-fer creates tool for finding missing children
For its second initiative in its Runaway Train 25 campaign for The National Center of Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Muh-Tay-Zik/Hof-fer developed a tool to help communities take direct action in finding missing children in their neighborhoods. The agency says the idea was born out of necessity since social distancing has made it challenging to carry out the traditional methods of searching for children. The tool, featured on the Runaway Train 25 website, allows users to personalize geo-targeted videos of missing children in their area and then to share those videos on social media. Since its launch in May 2019, the agency says Runaway Train 25 has helped recover more than 20 missing children. NCMEC also reports an increase of 60 percent in leads in the fight to bring missing children home since the initial video was released. Verizon is supporting the project by donating advertising space on its Yahoo and AOL mail sign-in pages to NCMEC.
“The ability to customize a music video about a kid in your neighborhood means that an entire community can rally their support behind the family and help increase the chances that more people will see that child’s face," Muh-Tay-Zik/Hof-fer Chief Creative Officer and co-Founder John Matejczyk says. "We are giving them the tools they need and the power they feel they so often lack in these difficult situations."
McCann Worldgroup names Bill Kolb chief operating officer
IPG’s McCann Worldgroup promoted Bill Kolb to chief operating officer from global president, diversified agencies, and chairman and CEO of Commonwealth//McCann. Kolb will now oversee business operations across McCann Worldgroup. IPG Chairman-CEO Michael Roth also notes that Kolb will “work closely” with Philippe Krakowsky, IPG’s chief operating officer, “who is driving the overall strategic portfolio review at the holding company level.”
“Bill’s long and successful history within McCann spans over two decades, and uniquely qualifies him to develop the Worldgroup model for the future, so that the company can continue to deliver on its vision of being the world’s top creatively-driven marketing services organization,” Roth says. “This will include a comprehensive review of the group’s structure and operations, as well as maintaining the critical focus on meeting the evolving needs of clients at the highest levels.”
People close to the matter say the appointment of Kolb in this role is part of IPG’s larger succession plan that will eventually see Krakowsky take the helm of the holding company from Roth. Kolb joined McCann Worldgroup in 2000 and has worked across agencies Momentum, MRM and McCann, holding various leadership roles including chief financial officer and CEO. He is also credited by IPG as being “instrumental in the inception and growth of Commonwealth//McCann,” which handles the global Chevrolet account, as well as the “expansion of MRM.”
“Having worked with all of our global agencies, I am lucky to know first-hand what an incredibly talented and creative group of people we have to help drive our clients’ success, their brand and their business growth,” Kolb says. “We are committed to continuously innovating and strengthening our offering, so that we can bring the best strategic, creative and business minds to our clients across all of our networks.”
Star-studded agency happy hours
Haddad & Partners, a creative agency in Connecticut, has been tapping into its staffers’ circle of celebrity friends to spruce up their virtual happy hours, which have been held every Thursday since the start of the pandemic. Celebrities who have crashed the agency’s happy hours include former NBA player Scott Burrell—now the men’s basketball head coach at Southern Connecticut State University—and singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Brian McKnight. CEO DJ Haddad says the happy hours “have been a highlight of the week.”
“One of our staffers knew Scott Burrell from UCONN so she reached out to see if he would be interested in joining us for a game of Virtual Beer Pong, and shockingly he said yes,” Haddad says. “That particular Happy Hour went on for about seven hours with people jumping on and off throughout the night. Even Scott jumped back on after he got his kids to bed and joined the late night crowd in a game of Evil Apples.”
Haddad adds that Burrell came back another week just to wish the agency’s head of operations a Happy Birthday. Haddad says Burrell was the one to then entice his friend McKnight to join a happy hour after hearing one of the agency’s employees had to postpone her wedding due to COVID-19.
“He graciously played us, and his friend Scott, at a quick round of Virtual Beer Pong and then pulled out his guitar to do a song from his latest album—it was surreal,” Haddad says.
Forsman & Bodenfors, a MDC Partners-owned creative collective, appointed Jill Ong to lead account management for its New York office. Ong will help lead agency accounts—which include Hyatt, iRobot, Seagrams 7 and YouTube—as well as focus on new business development. She spent the last nine years at Anomaly, working on brands like Converse, Sonos, YouTube, WW, Beats by Dre and Meals on Wheels. Ong is also credited with playing a critical role in opening Anomaly’s Shanghai office.
Channel Bakers, a global ad and marketing agency, named Tyler Speer as director of business development and sales operations for Great Britain, EU, the Middle East and Africa. Speer will be responsible for leading the development and growth of an international client roster while overseeing key staff expansion and technological innovation in the agency’s U.K. office, which opened in January. Speer previously was at Apple where he trained 80 percent of the tech giant’s staff worldwide on client relationship management, according to Channel Bakers.
Jacob Tyler Brand + Digital Agency, a San Diego branding and digital shop, hired Jeshua Stevens as an art director. Stevens will be situated at the center of the agency’s visual design team. He previously was working as a freelancer at agencies including Bulldog Drummond, Vitro Agency and Piston.