Agency Brief: Tony Hawk and 'Thank u, next'

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Credit: Sean T. Smith / @stsphotovideo

I'm fairly certain Ariana Grande doesn't plan her breakups and subsequent breakup anthems around Ad Age's conference schedule, but sometimes life works out that way.

The ponytailed crooner was, sadly, nowhere to be found at our Next conference this week where we covered everything from what's next in retail, mobility, company culture and even dance classes. But she seems to like the name.

At a panel I moderated on "changing white bro culture in Silicon Valley," Pipeline Angels' Natalia Oberti Noguera and GE Ventures' Dara Treseder spoke about ways organizations can become more hospitable to diversity and inclusion and break the cycles of people hiring and promoting and funding people who look like them — intentionally or unintentionally.

"No matter how much you lean in you are not going to get in the door if the door is closed," Oberti Noguera said. "Systems need to lean in, not just people."

Treseder also talked about making sure talent, once people are in the door, actually feel at home and have the ability to be promoted and reach the higher rungs of talent. "Do they feel like can be their full selves at work?" she said.

Another gem shared by Endeavor chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John, who spoke with editor Brian Braiker on Wednesday, on the subject of culture: "Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance."

Have a great weekend (and a great Thanksgiving) and read on for some agency news.

Pop news

SodaStream has its final taste test in its quest to find a new U.S. agency — finalists in the review include Mullen Lowe, Johannes Leonardo, Gut and Barton F. Graf. Agencies referred comment or could not be reached for comment. Avidan Strategies is conducting the review, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. Avidan referred comment to the client. SodaStream did not respond to requests for comment. The review is expected to conclude in December.

In the meantime, SodaStream keeps pulling punches on big beverage companies — despite the fact that it will soon be owned by one, as my colleague E.J. Schultz reported earlier this week. The home-soda making brand this week released a new spot that spoofs Coke's classic "Hilltop" ad.

A new grind

Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has another new role: agency co-founder. Hawk and three others founded D/CAL, a brand consultancy and creative agency with offices in Detroit and San Diego. His co-founders are Adam Wilson (whose prior work included director of brand marketing at Carhartt and roles at agencies including McGarryBowen); Jared Prindle (Tony Hawk Inc.'s first employee, who helped grow Hawk's production unit 900 Films); and Ryan Maconochie (20 years at agencies including Arc, Leo Burnett and Trisect). The agency aims to stand out with a blend of more traditional agency minds and creatives from outside that sphere.

"I've worked with many brands and their agencies over the years and even as a relative outsider looking in, I understand the challenges between clients and agencies," Hawk said in a statement. "Our approach is unique, with an emphasis on authenticity." That approach includes a cultural advisory board, overseen by Rick Williams (Burn Rubber) and Cathy Goodman (Skateistan, Tony Hawk Foundation). There's also, not surprisingly, an in-house partnership with Hawk's production company 900 Films. Clients include juice company Drought, massaging products maker HoMedics, the Tony Hawk Foundation and tech company CityBase.

(Omn)i, Robot

Omnicom Public Relations Group this week announced the launch of an "AI Impact Group" — a consultancy comprised of specialists from shops like FleishmanHilard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli to help clients deal with potential risks to brand reputation that arise with the introduction of artificial intelligence technologies. The group released new research from an "AI Risk Index" focused on the retail and manufacturing industries to quantify a brand's risk based on company positioning and perceptions of stakeholders from consumers to analysts. The industry least prepared for the impacts of AI? Retail, the study says.

On the move…

Scott Stedman has joined MDC Partners' Yes and Company as its chief strategy officer. He most recently opened a luxury hotel resort in Massachusetts called Tourists.

Sid Lee has hired Mariota Essery and Driscoll Reid as executive creative directors, leading all creative efforts for the agency's U.S. clients. Both spent the last year freelancing in the company's LA office.

Tweet of the week

Contributing: Jessica Wohl

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