JWT Hosts Evening for Minority Creative Talent

Networking, Maintaining Community Important Part of Diversity Battle

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Carol Watson Carol Watson
When we talk about diversity (or lack thereof) in the ad industry, we tend to talk about an ad agency as if it were one thing. But the fact is the creative department has long been regarded as the area in most need of diversity and inclusion given its very function of creating communications that speak to an increasingly diverse consumer population.

The creative department has also been the one area that has historically been allowed the most freedom from corporate policy regarding hiring practices, career development and management training requirements. Yet, most of the heads of creative departments will be the first to tell you that the creative department is the most color-blind area in the agency: They claim to judge talent only by the work and, depending on the agency, by the awards. The cry of "We don't know where to find them" (them being copywriters and art directors who aren't white) is heard most loudly from the creative department.

For those of you toiling away in isolation at a creative agency thinking you are the only one of your kind, the event held at JWT last week sought to change that. Singleton Beato, director of human resources at JWT, initiated the event. (She is spearheading groundbreaking diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout the agency.) A few hundred creatives came out to attend the first JWT Multicultural Mixer for creatives of color in celebration of Creative Week NYC, hosted by Tangerine-Watson, and the One Club-Adversity program. It was not an awards show but simply a celebration and an opportunity to share and inspire others. Top creative talent from the major agencies in New York and beyond ( Martin Agency and the Richards Group were represented) came out to the event enthusiastic and excited to reconnect with colleagues and make new connections with others who looked like them in the industry. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the turnout as well as the caliber of talent.

The goal of the event was to mix, mingle and showcase the faces behind spots we watch every day. Creatives at every level, practicing their craft at both general-market and multicultural shops, shared some of their work. Among them: Ricardo Viramontes of Wieden & Kennedy; Danny Robinson of the Martin Agency; Desmond Hall of Global Hue; Terence Reynolds of the Richards Group; Lori Bullock of Grey Worldwide; Husani Barnwell of Global Hue; and Valisa Tate of Freelance.

(From l.) Kash Sree, Vann Graves and Jimmy Smith.
(From l.) Kash Sree, Vann Graves and Jimmy Smith.
Vann Graves, chief creative officer at Uniworld; Kash Sree, executive creative director at JWT; and Jimmy Smith, global creative director, TBWA/Chiat/Day shared their stories, challenges and passion as part of a panel moderated by VCU Brandcenter's Rick Boyko. The next generation of digital creative talent in attendance was anxious to soak up the insight, honesty and advice.

To round out the evening of creative expression, the event also featured photography from some great artists by night and account management and marketing guys by day: Stanley Lumax of Anomaly and Eric Henderson of Living Cities and formerly at Commonground Marketing in Chicago. Erin Patten was also on hand to promote his newly released book, "Under the Influence," about the impact of hip-hop culture on brands, sports and pop culture.

In an effort to move the needle on the diversity front, the JWT creative talent team was on hand to meet and greet talent. Online portfolios will be reviewed to uncover potential freelance and future hires.

Inspired, connected and passionate, everyone left begging for more events and more community. Even in this economic market, the event was a small but important ingredient in tackling that nagging problem of retention in the industry.

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