The 15th annual ADCOLOR Conference has wrapped after bringing together dozens of marketing executives, influencers, celebrities and musicians to talk about the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in advertising and entertainment.
Ahead of tonight’s ADCOLOR Awards, here are some of the big takeaways panelists and presenters drove home this year.
Speak up and take my money
The business case for organizational diversity has long been established. Companies that foster input and ideas from multiple viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences make more money. But too often, people in power—intentionally or not—choose a lose-lose scenario, leaving money on the table rather than stepping up with representation.
“It’s fascinating to me that this keeps happening, because don’t people want to make money? If for no other reason than my money spends, too,” said Lauren Anderson, co-head of content and programming for IMDb TV, in conversation with Andrea Pitter, founder of Pantora Bridal and winner of Season 2 of the Amazon Prime reality show “Making the Cut.” For years, Pitter had struggled to find bridal couture made for Black women, leading her to start her own label.
While overt discrimination is a staple of retail experiences for Black customers, sometimes discrimination stems from corporate blind spots, as when Procter & Gamble finally examined the accessibility of its packaging globally. Many items necessary for hygiene and health care were difficult or impossible for people with physical disabilities to use.
“We hadn’t intentionally tried to or even thought about consumers with disabilities,” said Sam Latif, company accessibility leader at P&G, who is blind. So in 2016 she devised challenges for company execs so they could experience their own products from the perspective of a person with a disability.
“When the penny-dropping moment happened, it really made them realize that, 'Wait a minute, there’s almost 1.3 billion back then, now 1.85 billion people in the world with a disability,'” she said. “These people have money to spend, they are our consumers, it’s a massive business building—and the right thing to do—opportunity for the company.”
Reasonable people can disagree
Too often, people of color and other historically excluded groups are viewed as a monolith. But interests and opinions differ, even among people who are largely on the same page. Marc Strachan, chairman of the ADCOLOR Advisory Board, called on people with privilege and power to be allies, while noting that some take issue with the term.
The next day, Desyree Dixon, keynote speaker and clinical social worker, took issue with the term. “An ally is sympathetic, an ally knows all the right things to say, but it often stops there,” she said, quoting Bettina Love, Professor of Education at the University of Georgia. Instead, “a co-conspirator puts skin in the game, they put themselves on the line, they use their privilege to make a difference.”
Redefine 'crossover appeal'
The culture of white, cisgender men has been normalized, cast as the baseline standard against which everything else is compared—and by definition becomes niche. The goal of marketers looking for the broadest appeal has been to find work by Black creators that can cross over, that is palatable to white audiences. This framing is a lie.
“White content was often thought of as crossover. It was presented in this context of ‘This is for everyone.’ Why isn’t this show that I make presented in that context?” said Eric Eddings, co-host of the For Colored Nerds podcast. “That opportunity of Blackness being in the center, what does that do for someone else to understand how they might relate to Black people?”
“Nothing is more crossover or more mainstream than Black culture,” added co-host Brittany Luse. “The culture that many non-Black people enjoy is shaped by Black culture. And I think that the way this country treats Black people is not in alignment with the way this country profits from and celebrates, to a certain extent, Black culture.”
It’s a point Beats by Dre presented poignantly last year.