Keynote: A Rising Tide

by Joseph Mayernik, Creative Director, Roberts Communications

Carter Murray, the worldwide CEO of FCB, gave a keynote speech on gender equality and diversity at ADMERICA in New Orleans. His keynote speech offered options on what leaders and the industry can do to ensure that the strides we make to advance diversity and inclusion is a rising tide that really does lift all boats. 

Right away he addressed the white elephant in the room. “In front of you is a white, heterosexual male, frat boy from Duke University.” Carter proclaims in his thick British accent. He goes on to state that diversity is something close to his own heart both personally and professionally. Carter’s mother battled with gender bias her entire life. She spent her whole life trying to prove to her father that she could do well in business as good, or better than her brother.  Carter recalled a memory someone once told him, “I’ve never met a man braver or bolder than your mother.” A wonderful compliment indeed, but to get there it was far from easy. Behind closed doors Carter saw an incredibly respected businesswoman who brought true beauty into the world, and yet all her life she lived with the insecurity of never feeling recognized with value. She always felt she had to do better.

“It’s so wrong. And so f$@cking unfair,” Carter states. I agree.

Carter challenges us to look inside our own companies and ourselves and ask what we’re doing to break down the walls that prevent diversity and inclusion. Diversity in leadership makes for better business, makes for better companies, and in our business, makes for better creativity. However, diversity and inclusion must start with leadership, and the industry needs people who lead and inspire. It’s critical that the C-Suite leaders and agency elites model diversity and inclusion in every facet of the company. It sets the tone for the rest of the employees to follow suit.

Gina Grillio, from a 2015 article on, stated it nicely: “As an industry that exists to communicate with consumers of all backgrounds and walks of life, the advertising industry stands to benefit more than most by cultivating a highly diverse and inclusive environment that reflects the changing demographics around us.” Gina goes on to say,  “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 582,000 Americans employed in advertising and communications in 2014, less than half were women, 6.6% are black or African American, 5.7% are Asian and 10.5% are Hispanic.” These statistics may be from a few years ago, but the point Gina was making in 2014 still holds true today—We still have a lot of work to do to close the gap in diversity and inclusion within our industry.

Here during his keynote, Carter highlighted three avenues that are helping to close the gap: Year Up, Free The Bid, and recognizing Unconscious Bias.
Year Up: Year Up is a program that takes mostly African American students who can’t afford to go to college, and provides them with an education. Year Up also trains them in confidence, hones their communication skills and then provides job placement in large corporations. Year Up envisions a future in which every young adult will be able to reach his or her potential.  According to their website, their mission is to close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

Free The Bid: We all can to be a part of the solution to break that cycle of only male directors in Hollywood or in broadcast commercial shoots. This change is within our control. Free the Bid is a non-profit initiative advocating on behalf of women directors for equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the global advertising industry. In short, if your company needs to 3-bid a job to find a director, Free the Bid asks that at least one of the bids come from a female director. In the first six months of 2017, 95% of bids included a female director and 30% of the time a female director was chosen. Still not perfect, but it’s getting better.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias: Unconscious bias is a quick and often-inaccurate judgment of individuals or circumstances based on limited facts and our own life experiences. These judgments can give individuals and groups both unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in the workplace. Judgments like gender, skin color, or age, but also things like communication style or what someone does in their free time. There are some great online tools that can help educate and inform from outlets like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Unconscious bias is not intentional, but when we realize it is part of the lens through which we see the world, we can have a better understanding. In our everyday lives, when people don't fit our internalized expectations, it can be difficult recognizing their talents, motivations, and potential clearly.  In our everyday marketing agencies this unconscious bias can mean we interact with the team less effectively and the ideas for our clients are unconsciously not as good as the could be. When we are open to understanding how these biases influence our behavior, we can take action to create an inclusive culture within the halls of our agencies.  A culture where everyone contributes, creates and provides creative solutions that our clients love. 

About Joseph Mayernik
Posted: June 2017