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We Can All Win: Words from ADCOLOR

Posted By Emily Hope, Thursday, September 28, 2017

By: Kendall Rouse, Account Executive, BBDO LA

The 11th annual ADCOLOR Conference and Awards were held in Hollywood, Sept. 16-19, 2017. Once just a dream for Tiffany R. Warren, Founder & President of ADCOLOR, the conference and awards reached a new level this year as it continues to bring together risers, changers, innovators, allies, and legends of very diverse backgrounds from multiple creative industries.

As a woman of color in the industry, the ADCOLOR conference was an extremely refreshing experience. I’m no stranger to the lack of diversity within agency walls, industry events and creative representation. ADCOLOR has been a change-agent in this conversation for years.

With a mission of rising up and reaching back, ADCOLOR champions diversity and inclusion in creative industries. Their goal is to create a community of diverse professionals who are here to support and celebrate one another. And with a theme this year of “Come Together”, the conference and awards did just that.

Here are some takeaways for us all to consider:

DIVERSITY is asking people to the party, but INCLUSION is inviting them to dance.

D&I initiatives typically end at “Diversity.” Companies look to reach quotas to appear to be a more diverse organization, not understanding you have to also engage diverse people in order to keep them.

Listen to them. Interact with them. Highlight them. And do it authentically. Diversity will never stick without inclusion.

Diversity is NOT generosity; it IS the very basis of decency.

ADCOLOR All-Star award recipient Jesse Williams summed this up best in his acceptance speech: 
“The use of the term ‘diversity’ is a distraction from decency. Diversity is marketed as labor-intensive ‘inclusion,’ as mandated corporate behavior, required action; an added burden, but for good, like a gift. But diversity is not generosity. Absent any self-reflection, diversity just becomes another sub-industry born of PR panic; a detour designed to distract from systematic exclusion. The truth is we don’t need anyone to hire a ‘diversity’ exec, assigned to hover toothlessly in the vicinity of decision makers. We need whole decision makers, who can do the entire job. We don’t need corporate culture going out of it’s way to begin including. It’s not about that. It’s about the ending of excluding.”

Be accountable.

We, in this industry, are indeed storytellers; we move cultural narratives. Its not “just advertising.” It never was. We have a responsibility to be accountable to how we represent people. This industry tends to deny the obvious truth for the comfortable lie. We have to address it. We have to understand where our own privileges lie and then challenge them in order to move the needle forward in the way most organizations outwardly say they would like to.

So it’s time to do the work. This is about the bottom-line. Slow down and make whole decisions, at all levels; understand culture and where it is moving to make the most impactful work for our agencies and clients.

The definition of culture is changing; intersectionality is real.

The industry, already years behind in attempting to address some of the errors made, is now taking a dated approach to the topic. It’s not as “black and white” as it used to be. What culture is has changed. The interconnected nature of communities has expanded in a way that we must acknowledge in the work we do. The first step is educating ourselves on context and being deliberate in understanding people. Let’s stop being reactive to the latest cultural trend, but rather proactive to know it’s already coming.

Recognize the Future Talent.

As a 2017 ADCOLOR FUTURE, I was apart of an extremely talented, selected, pool of diverse young professionals who represented creative industries across the nation. We are the future leaders of this industry. We are the risers and cultural change agents. We are apart of the group that organizations must engage. All it takes is acknowledgement to harness a young professional’s potential. Find us, engage us and allow us to lead conversations.

You are invited.

These types of awards, conferences and events are not just for people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and the many other marginalized communities. While we are here to highlight the amazing work coming from these creative communities and the issues that impact them, we are not here to just preach to the choir. We need real allies to join us in this. We need to “Come Together”. So please show up with us.

We are here.

And on that note, by showing up, you we realize we are here. The narrative we hear is that “we don’t know where to find diverse talent.” Yet, there we were.

Organizations must invest to meet us where we are. Send your company representation to meet diverse professionals who are already in the industry. Focus some of your outreach efforts at colleges or high schools where our youth are to ensure the pipeline coming in is one the represents the world we actually live in. See us and participate with us; this work can’t be done alone.

We can all win.

When we talk about things that solely focus on other communities or on organizational approaches that need correcting, there is usually a push back to spend dollars on it. But we have always been able to find resources when we made a commitment to doing it; and we have been able to do it at scale. D&I is no different.

Authenticity in the D&I space will only come from investing in and engaging it. We must challenge ourselves to create the level equity that is missing for marginalized communities in our industry. This can be a level playing field if we put the work behind it.

We must to ensure the door behind us is open, stays open and only wide. We can “Come Together” and we can all win.

For more information on ADCOLOR, visit To support ThinkLA's D.I.G. initiative, visit the DIG website.

Tags:  #ThinkDIG  ADCOLOR  DIG  Diversity  Kendall Rouse 

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