Marketing Briefing: Diversity execs sound off on the current state of DE&I in advertising – a work in progress

After more than two years of commitments and promises, yet another report from the 4A’s points out that the ad industry still has a ways to go in its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

However, chief diversity officers at U.S. agency holding companies say diversity stats are just a small part of what’s happening across the DE&I landscape. Ultimately, it is, and continues to be, a work in progress. 

The past June, the 4A’s released the 2023 Diversity in Agencies Survey Report, revealing that in 2021, 73% of agency leaders identified as white, as per industry reports. By 2022, that figure jumped to 90%. To the industry, those figures could point to advertising’s progress, or lack thereof, causing questions about the fizzling out of what was the DE&I fever pitch with wake of the murder of George Floyd in May, 2020.

“As an industry, we can do better as we recently saw in the findings of the 4A’s 2023 Diversity in Agencies survey,” Tahlisha Williams, the 4As evp of talent, equity and learning solutions, said in an emailed statement. “Now, more than ever, agencies must be intentional in defining and keeping their DEIB commitments. They also need to continue to track progress, so they don’t’ take their eye off the ball.”

But to diversity executives at major holding companies, including Havas, Publicis Groupe and Dentsu, diversity stats don’t tell the entire story. And two years isn’t enough time to overhaul an entire industry.

“There’s no way that things that have been systematically and historically embedded in our lives, in our subconscious and especially within our organizations would have been undone within two years in a global pandemic,” said Geraldine White, chief diversity officer of Publicis Groupe U.S. 

In the U.S., diversity within advertising has been a slow, uphill battle,

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