Black execs form nonprofit 600 & Rising, backed by the 4As, to hold ad industry accountable for racial equity
Last week, more than 600 Black advertising professionals put out a call to action to ad agency leaders to finally take real steps to end systemic racism in the industry. Now, their coalition has become an official organization, backed by the 4As.
Led by President Nathan Young, who also serves as a group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, and VP-Partnerships Bennett D. Bennett, principal at consultancy Aerialist, the nonprofit organization is called 600 & Rising—though already it boasts more than 1,100 members.
“There’s a lot of urgency in this moment,” says Young. “This is something we’ve observed in past situations, where a group has raised an issue about inequality in the ad industry, there’s a brief news cycle, agencies weather through the storm and it ends up being swept up under the rug. We’re forming to ensure that doesn’t happen, that there’s an independent body to hold the industry accountable.”
The group has been operating seemingly at hyperspeed since the letter came out a week ago. Young and Bennett applied for 600 & Rising's 501(c)(3) status in Delaware. Membership has nearly doubled, and 600 & Rising has formed a partnership with the 4As by which it will provide the organization with guidance on the important next steps agencies need to take to address systemic racism.
Together, they’ve already fielded a survey with Black agency execs that has led to insights on how to move from that letter to real action, formulated a draft methodology on standardizing agency diversity data reporting and set an aggressive 90-day timetable for enacting diversity and inclusion reforms across the industry.
Young says partnerships with groups like the 4As will be instrumental to 600 & Rising’s success. One of the key actions cited in its original letter, for example, was the importance of data and data transparency in terms of Black representation in the industry. “Data is critically important, but we recognize that we, as a new organization, don’t have the infrastructure in place to collect it properly,” Young says. “There are other organizations better suited to collecting and managing that, and our role is to help them do that more effectively.”
“The 4A’s has always been committed to supporting our agency members, and now we are doing so in a way that empowers the very people who need our support the most,” said Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A's, in a statement. “There is a lot of work to be done, and we are readily leveraging our platform to continue partnering with agency leaders and with the members of 600 & Rising in making their critical work a reality.”
As for 600 & Rising’s ultimate task, “We do not want to be the diversity police,” Young says. “We are not going to be collecting or auditing the data, but if there is a situation where there’s a system issue, or an individual issue, as an organization we are going to be capable of advocating on behalf of a member to find a fair and balanced solution.”