Agency Brief: TBWA names new diversity chief for North America
While agencies continue their work to diversify their ranks, we saw several shops this week make big diversity, equity and inclusion appointments, a specialty role that’s still in sky-high demand despite the industry cutting back on hiring due to the pandemic, as Ad Age recently wrote.
Omnicom’s TBWA today appointed Aliah Berman as chief diversity officer of North America. She replaces Doug Melville, who has held that role for that past eight years and who TBWA says is leaving the agency network for a new, unspecified role. Berman joins TBWA from global experiential agency GMR Marketing, where she was head of diversity, equity and inclusion. In the new position, Berman will lead TBWA’s DE&I efforts in partnership with its North American offices and parent Omnicom.
“The work of diversity, equity and inclusion has never been more urgent,” Berman says. “The opportunity to work across this broader group of agencies to promote measurement and accountability and to serve as the subject matter expert with our leaders around the world is an opportunity I could not refuse.”
In another move, Dentsu’s Merkle tapped Kirt Morris as its first global chief equity officer. A 12-year veteran of the company, Morris has been advising Merkle’s diversity, equity and inclusion team and will now lead its efforts to create a more equal workforce across both the company as well as Dentsu’s customer experience management line of business. Morris has also been a member of Merkle’s data management group, overseeing end-to-end delivery.
Kansas City-based Barkley hired Adam Miller as its first director of diversity and inclusion. Miller is a Kansas State University graduate and Fulbright Scholar who comes to Barkley from the higher education world, where he was a postsecondary coach at Kauffman Scholars and director of the Green Fellowship program at Teach for America. At Barkley, he will be in charge of driving the agency’s four initiatives: diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
Finally, Rapp Worldwide elevated Global Communications VP Devin O’Loughlin to global chief diversity, equity, inclusion and communications officer. The creative agency says in this new role, O’Loughlin will ensure Rapp is upholding open dialogue and diversity and inclusion “on a global scale.”
“We’re working on fundamental, systemic change and that takes time,” Rapp Global CEO Marco Scognamiglio says. “There is no one solution and no immediate fix to the issues we’re facing. Having Devin at the forefront as our diversity ambassador and ally is a big step forward.”
Don’t kill your family
Three creatives want to remind you that, though you may have fantasized about killing your family during past holidays, this year you really can if you’re a COVID spreader. Tess Maguire, Logan Sheets and Kristina Bourdreau created a website that makes custom cards you can send to your loved ones to explain why you’re missing the festivities this year. Maguire is a copywriter and Sheets is an art director for Saatchi & Saatchi L.A. and Boudreau is a senior art director for Warner Bros. Music, though this is a pet project for them and none of their employers were involved.
“Don’t Kill Your Family” features darkly humorous cards that read, for example, “Dear Mom, You gave me the gift of life. This year, I’ll return the favor. Merry Christmas. I’m not coming home” and “Dear Uncle Leo, This year I won’t be home for the birth of baby Jesus. Because he came back from the dead and you won’t.” The cards are free to generate but the trio asks that users make a donation to the World Health Organization. The group is also accepting donations to themselves so they can buy beer.
“We were really tired of seeing COVID campaigns with the same, insincere messaging,” Maguire says. “So we wanted to break through the noise with some humor and levity. Second, we wanted to help people out. We know it's tough to have these types of conversations with your family, and we hope this project makes it a little easier. And keeps people safe at the same time.”
Solid results and smack talk
Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital continues to deliver impressive results despite the pandemic, which has crippled most other businesses and led to drastic revenue declines at rival agency holding companies. The “new age/new era” digital advertising and marketing company that houses MediaMonks and MightyHive reported a third-quarter revenue hike of 53% to £86.4 million ($113 million) and a 13% increase in like-for-like sales. The company said, year-to-date, billings were up 12% to £424 million ($556 million). S4 also notes it’s been hiring, with its workforce up 26% to 2,870 people at the end of the quarter.
"Given the return of activity to pre-COVID levels,” the company says it will return executive and non-executive directors’ compensations back to where they were before March, when they were cut by 50%, as well as return to “normal” recruitment, raises and promotional policies.
“The Board wants to thank all our people for their extraordinary efforts at this particularly difficult time and the efforts of all the front line workers who have protected us and kept us safe,” Sorrell, executive chairman of S4.
Earlier this week, the high-profile Sorrell in interviews with the Financial Times called on WPP CEO Mark Read, who succeeded him in 2018, to step down. Commenting on Read’s performance, Sorrell said that he “won’t last” because he had smothered key businesses, lost experienced staff (Read was criticized for making ageist remarks on an August earnings call) and sold assets that have since increased in value, FT writes. WPP’s largest shareholder came to Read’s defense, accusing Sorrell of trying to lodge a “disgusting” campaign to derail the company’s business, according to the Times. WPP declined comment.
Try this water, you might just hate it
Strategic media consultancy Exverus is introducing the U.S. to its naturally carbonated mineral water Borjami with a campaign from agency Battery. In a perhaps odd sales move, the campaign promotes Borjami—and its tagline, “Tastes like nature”—as an acquired taste that’s not for everyone. In the below ad, one person loves the water, another person not so much. The company says in the spot, “one out of two people” like its flavor. Borjami, though debuting for the first time to the U.S. market, actually has a 130-year history. It’s a naturally occurring sparkling water that is full of 60 minerals found in the “volcanic depths,” according to the company, of the country of Georgia. Like other sodium bicarbonate mineral waters, Borjami says it does not cool down before it reaches the surface.
“The bottled water market is literally flooded with confusing brands,” says Joe Sgro, creative director at Battery. “Which is why we wanted to create something as bold as the unique, fizzy taste of Borjomi itself.”
J-B Weld glues itself to Planet Propaganda
J-B Weld, the producer of epoxy and adhesive products, appointed Planet Propaganda as its new strategic and creative agency of record following a multi-agency review. The Madison, Wisconsin-based agency picks up lead responsibility across creative, brand strategy, social media and content development. It expects to debut a new brand campaign for the 51-year-old company sometime in 2021. J-B Weld has in recent years worked with TBWA/Chiat/Day New York, which was behind its Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” “The Founder”) ads. J-B Weld was bought back in 2008 by a group of private investors led by Chip Hanson, who now serves as chairman, CEO and president.
Hanson says the company chose Planet Propaganda for its successful work with Duluth Trading Co., for which it's communicated “their product benefits in a clever and memorable way. What really sealed the deal was learning more about their success growing brands in a way that drives immediate sales and also builds long-term brand awareness, affinity and value,” he says.
'The' is kicked out of the kitchen
The Media Kitchen has decided, in a year of drastic change, to simplify its brand by dropping “the” from its name and moving forward as just Media Kitchen. The reason? “Let’s face it, the word ‘the’ simply denotes one or more things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge,” the agency says. Congratulations, Media Kitchen, you just passed journalism school.
“After 19 years, this might be tough for some to get used to,” Media Kitchen CEO Barry Lowenthal says. “But with a brand and website refresh and an upcoming move to 1 World Trade Center, we felt the time was right.”
Founded in 2001, the agency describes itself as a full-service media planning and buying shop “with a strong digital core.” Its motto, displayed prominently on its revamped website to coincide with the name change reads: “Be Brave. Be Inventive. Defy Expectations.” Despite the pandemic, these are exciting times for Media Kitchen, which says it also won a string of new clients including Jack.org and BeThere.org, Getinge, Institute of Corporate Directors and Cargill's Black Gold.
Digital product agency Work & Co named two new partners: Narguess Noshirvani and Dawn Moses. Noshirvani, based out of Brooklyn, was promoted to partner of product management. She joined Work & Co four years ago and has been serving as group director. The agency says during her time there she’s led “complex projects” for clients like Celine and Equinox. Before Work & Co, she co-founded State x State, an e-commerce platform for food, shops and product recommendations.
Moses, who helps lead Work & Co’s Copenhagen office, was appointed partner of strategy. During her time with Work & Co, Moses is credited with “significantly” growing its relationship with Ikea, as well as the Copenhagen office, according to the agency. Before Work & Co, she spent time at Elephant, where she led product innovation work for Apple and Goldman Sachs.
“Announcing these well-deserved promotions enables us to maintain Work & Co’s hands-on model,” says Work & Co Product Management Partner Rachel Bogan. “We have more leaders to offer ongoing mentorship, keep strong connections across teams and also bring more consistency to the way we run projects across our regions, all which is even more important in the remote environment.”
iCrossing exec joins 'the biggest agency you've never heard of'
Chris Apostle, former chief media officer of iCrossing, has landed a new role as executive VP, managing partner of e-retail and Amazon for digital marketing and performance shop Labelium. Apostle—who also recently spent time at Havas and Ogilvy, R/GA and Sapient earlier in his career—is responsible for the management, growth and organizational development for the e-commerce business unit at Labelium, according to his LinkedIn profile. The 300-person Labelium works across 23 offices globally and houses more than 350 clients including L’Oreal, Lexmark, Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline. At iCrossing, Apostle says he created the e-retail unit “with a very heavy focus” on companies like Amazon and Alibaba. He describes Labelium as a “much more nimble organization” that has been able to “take information, data, technology as it’s emerging” and test and use it. In his new role, he’ll be focused on advancing “the extent and depth pf relationships within the marketplaces,” i.e. Amazon, Walmart, Target, eBay, Instacart, etc.
“I like to say Labelium is the biggest agency you’ve probably never heard of,” Apostle says. “I’m looking to change that pretty significantly.”