Raines International: The Approaching Wave: The Companies That Will Force Ad Agencies to Embrace Diversity

A discussion of race and gender has been taking place among advertising agency executives, and that discussion is being led by the brands they represent.

Several brands with a collective ad-spend in the billions of dollars are experimenting with ways to ensure accountability on diversity. General Mills, HP, & Verizon are leading a wave of forcing ad agencies to embrace diversity.  How well each company does may just change the agency culture more than the agencies themselves have been able to.

In August, General Mills, whose ad spend is over $700 million, announced that any ad agency seeking to represent its iconic food brands needs to have a diverse creative staff. Specifically, General Mills called for at least 50% women and 20% people of color on the creative team doing the work. Shortly after HP asked agencies working with HP to submit their plans for achieving a diverse workforce. Shortly after HP's announcement, Verizon made a similar request to their ad agencies. 

Thinking through Diversity & Inclusion is difficult, and tying it back to business goals is more difficult still.  If approached properly, the companies that invest the time and resources into having a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace can reap benefits for many years to come in terms of retention and even generating additional revenue.  General Mills, HP, and Verizon are the first to force advertisers to try a new approach to diversity. They will not be the last.

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