How Diversity Efforts Can Boost the Economy

Big Agencies Can Meet Client Demand and Help Small Businesses

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Laurence Boschetto
Laurence Boschetto
The intense, ongoing scrutiny our industry has undergone for insufficient diversity and inclusion has been well-documented -- and warranted. Many of our country's so-called minority groups are rapidly growing, and by 2045 will be the majority. When we put them together, they represent a new mass market whose current buying power is over $2 trillion.

In today's ever-expanding global marketplace, for an advertising agency -- and the industry at large -- to effectively compete and prosper, its ranks must accurately reflect the world to which it caters.

But there's an even more salient and basic reason to champion diversity and inclusion: the chance to re-energize the economy by giving a much-needed boost to small businesses.

In the midst of an arduous economic recovery, our nation has witnessed the decimation of big-business behemoths one by one. But the demise of many large corporations has ushered in the emergence of many small businesses, making savvy entrepreneurs critical players in the new economy.

As history has shown, the most challenging times present the ripest opportunity -- and this truism extends to the engagement of our nation's small businesses. The old adage, "To whom much is given, much is expected" has greater resonance now, as larger, influential agencies have a responsibility to extend a hand and embrace small businesses.

In our industry alone, if every agency made a concerted effort to connect with and utilize small business -- many of which are minority and/or women-owned -- the impact would begin to have a ripple effect, ultimately pumping vital lifeblood into the economy as a whole.

Year after year, our clients are justifiably raising their expectations of what the agency needs to deliver on the diversity front -- clients such as Kraft, Census 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, MilkPEP, Merck, SC Johnson, and more. We're finding that approximately 20% of this year's request for propsals asked for information regarding our diversity and inclusion initiatives, including diverse spend.

DraftFCB has proactively addressed this issue through our focus on diverse supplier partnerships, and we have elevated our approach with marked results.

The agency has initiated the industry's first "in-house" supplier diversity conference program. By inviting representatives from minority and women-owned businesses to the agency, DraftFCB was able to pair suppliers with the actual decision-makers involved with purchasing their offering. The results of this purposeful direction have been tangible.

In 2008, despite a battered economy and an overall reduction in client spending, 28% of the agency's overall spending was with minority and women-owned businesses.

So far this year we have awarded work to diverse suppliers for our U.S. Census 2010 account, including Plum, subcontracted by DraftFCB to provide creative development, broadcast production and media planning and buying for multiple segments; IW Group, charged with handling creative development and media outreach to Asian audiences in 12 languages; and D ExpĆ³sito and Partners, which is overseeing media development for a significant piece of the Hispanic audience, to name just a few.

Diversity and inclusion need to be an elemental cultural belief and aspiration for any business. This means recognizing that every organization needs to take a firm stance, ensure a true depth of talent, and be inclusive of all -- regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical challenges, etc.

Diversity should -- and must -- matter because including the ideas, insights and perspectives from a broader talent and supplier pool allows agencies to offer clients a distinct, competitive advantage.

The mantra to "act locally, think globally" is all too applicable when considering the importance of supplier diversity. Those agencies which provide a revenue platform for small, deserving, diverse companies give a much-needed injection for a fragile economy in recovery.

Adopting this profitable, intelligent and conscientious business strategy means the industry -- and ultimately our country -- wins.

Laurence Boschetto is president-CEO of DraftFCB. At the 2009 Mosaic Awards he accepted an award on behalf of the agency for its successful efforts in broadening its partnerships with minority- and women-owned businesses.
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