Diversity in the advertising industry requires agency collaboration

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The advertising industry works on the front lines of conversations about COVID-19, racial injustice and a presidential election that has created angst and uncertainty.

Therefore, we are responsible for ensuring that diversity is reflected not only in our internal teams, but also in those of our suppliers. But while more branded content includes a broader scope of gender identity, race, and sexual orientation, behind-the-scenes diversity is still lacking.

Expand Your Circle: The Backstory

To do our part at Forsman & Bodenfors, we have focused this year on changing our partner selection process to ensure we have more diversity. While we made progress in working with female directors, our production needs went beyond a single role and our diversity goals went beyond gender.

But finding underrepresented talent has proven difficult.

So we decided to create an online tool, called Expand your circle, which allowed us to discover diverse talents while providing access to underrepresented entrepreneurs. The platform offers a searchable database with filter menus that help us find the right talent based on expertise, location or specialty, as well as certification – for example, that it is a small women-owned business or a minority-owned business.

From competition to collaboration

After seeing how Grow Your Circle worked to expand our own talent pool, we made the platform available industry-wide. Since its soft launch in 2018, we’ve encouraged our competitors to use the tool to find diverse talent, allowing it to facilitate new relationships and onboard new voices beyond our agency.

More than 100 agencies now use the platform, from big creative shops like 72andSunny and Droga5 to independent production companies like Prettybird and WAX.

The advertising industry spends $20 billion on production each year. It is up to all of us to ensure that the money is distributed among as diverse a group as possible.

To advance

We hope to work with the industry to grow the database significantly year on year, as well as partner with other industry platforms that help find diverse talent, such as BidBlack and FREE THE WORK.

Industry-wide challenges can only be truly solved with industry-wide solutions. If there was ever an opportunity to come together as an industry, it’s now. Cultural issues are in the spotlight and employees are putting more pressure on employers to foster an open, diverse and equitable workplace.

When it comes to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, agencies need to put aside their competitive tensions to share inclusion tactics, formalize hiring strategies and solutions partnerships, and provide free and open access to diverse talent with competitors.

Kim Jose is head of integrated production and Amanda Schultz is executive integrated producer at Forsman & Bodenfors.

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