In honor of i’mPART, The AD Club’s diversity campaign, we asked Jon Kaiser about the importance of diversity in our industry and why they feel compelled to help raise awareness about the benefits of a more diverse advertising world.
Why is diversity so crucial in our industry, especially in today’s world?
Diversity is crucial for a host of reasons, but utmost to me is that the inclusion of all people is critical to my success as a modern marketer and it is critical to our credibility, viability and vitality as an industry. Because what we have long viewed as the diverse or ‘multicultural’ audience is now the general market. To be successful creating and marketing relevant products and services to Americans, we need to understand, embrace and reflect the diversity of our country—not just diversity of gender or color, but of thought and experience as well.
As an industry, the numbers show that we are not reflective of the population, a problem that is amplified at the executive and board levels. We are an industry that should be leaders in diversity but we are simply not evolving quickly enough. We have to speed up the pace of change because homogeneity in marketing has become a terrible handicap.
How can we spread awareness further beyond this campaign?
Fortunately, many in our industry are well aware of this need to increase diversity, although they may not be well-versed in the research or numbers that support it. The key is to keep talking about the lack of diversity in order to raise awareness. We must continue to reach out to industry leaders of all levels and continue to champion the value of diversity in mainstream discussions. This is not a conversation that can happen from the sidelines.
Two changes that I think will help us along:
- The first is that the topic of diversity needs to hit the main stage in our industry. Many great events and conferences are already championing diversity in our industry (i’mPART, The 3% Conference, ADCOLOR, etc.). I believe that it is only a matter of time before the larger industry associations realize they need to ‘own’ the discussion before it begins to own them.
- The second change will be driven by client organizations. As they continue to become more diverse (which is happening now) they will begin to examine their agency partners and consider if those agencies reflect their own teams, their values or their consumers. And if their agencies don’t reflect that diversity, they will demand change…and they will demand it quickly.
The bottom line is that we need to keep talking about diversity and inclusion. Individual action will drive organizational action and organizational action will drive change across our industry. Eventually those that are lagging behind will have no choice but to catch-up.
Overall, what does The AD Club’s i’mPART diversity and inclusion initiative mean to you?
It is an opportunity to be of service to our industry in a meaningful way by focusing on one of the most important challenges we face. When I was approached to participate in The AD Club’s diversity and inclusion initiative, I said, “yes” before the question was even finished. It is the most important industry campaign that I can lend my passion and voice to. What is amazing to me is that everyone I speak to, even if they’re not directly involved with i’mPART yet, shares my passion. This makes me hopeful that we can help people understand that it is the time to act differently and start talking about the issue versus quietly wishing the industry would change.
What makes YOU diverse?
As a middle-aged white guy, I often ask myself what qualifies me to even open my mouth on the subject of diversity and inclusion. But we all have to take a stand on the matter if we are going to see (or be) change.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a community that valued diversity, and as a result, I tend to be uncomfortable in, and very cognizant of, its absence. I have had a diverse group of mentors and bosses in my career that have further validated the importance of inclusion in my professional life. And I have built teams that reflect those beliefs about the power of diversity. More than anything, I have a genuine excitement about being exposed to diversity of thought and experience (one of the reasons I enjoy the Global part of my job so much).
Quick story: 7 years ago, I was a “Big Brother” (Big Brothers Big Sisters) to a 13-year-old “Little,” Kevin. Kevin’s family was from the Dominican Republic and lived in Marin County, CA. I spent a lot of time at Kevin’s house and with his extended family. I was very often the only white guy/English-speaking person in the room and I cherished that feeling of being the ‘other’ in the room, the ‘minority’. They treated me like family.