UK Ad Leaders Pen Open Letter Urging Industry To Take Action Against Racism

More than 200 UK advertising and media leaders have signed an open letter urging the industry to promote a racially just workplace, to call out and maintain an open dialogue about racism and be conscious of the trauma many black employees may be experiencing during this time of unrest.

The letter points to the latest IPA Agency Census, published in April, which revealed ethnic diversity at a leadership level has fallen fractionally year-on-year: in 2019, just 4.7 percent of C-suite executives were from an ethnic minority background, down from 5.5 percent in 2018.

To create and maintain “inclusive cultures sensitive to inequity and the pain of racism,” the signatories encourage the industry first empower leaders to drive representation by making inclusivity a core part of its strategic priorities, and thereafter transparently communicating these objectives. Leaders should also use their brand channels to acknowledge the escalating racism of the last few months and share relevant information backed by black-driven research.

Enabling employees to understand their privileges and biases and ensuring leaders widen their points of view must also become priorities.

Calling out racism whenever it’s encountered, the authors note, is everyone’s job, from the CEO to all staff. This requires creating safe spaces where frank conversations about racism can occur and using existing employee resource groups, such as WPP’s Roots and Publicis Group’s Embrace, or creating new ones.

The letter also implores leaders to check in with black employees and to promote and celebrate black talent as well as work with black-owned businesses and supply chains. Lastly, they caution leaders against creating advertising that funds white supremacy or racist content

Brands Rally Behind Blackout Tuesday, Though Some Fall Short

Two black women in music, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, recently staged a blackout, which was observed on June 2, in response to the nationwide protests that ensued after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. “The Show Must Be Paused” was created “in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard.” While its intended purpose was for major labels, who have for years profited from black artists, to disconnect from work and get educated about the country’s interminable racism issue, the initiative suffused non-music brands’ messaging across social media; countless accounts posted a blank black box, transforming the Instagram feed into endless darkness.

Upon sharing black boxes, however, many brands erroneously used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which is being used to help organizers and allies spread information needed to keep people informed, in replacement of the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday; thereby blocking information from being disseminated. 

Additionally, some argued that pausing all activity for a day, as encouraged by the organizers of “The Show Must Be Paused,” would counteract the very goal of protests, which is to bolster black voices and the ways which allies can support racial justice.

Many brands voiced their support on blackout day in the form of social media posts, letters from CEOs and donation pledges. In an analysis of the Fortune 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity, Klear found that in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, 31 percent of companies made a public statement against racism and in support of black communities.

Perhaps fearing they lack the appropriate past rhetoric to appear authentic in their support of Black Lives Matter, many brands chose to post one version or another of a black box, with or without supporting text; including the 49ers, Pandora Jewelry, Disney and Vans, to name a few. While others posted messages from their CEO, including Panera, Macy’s and Taco Bell.

SiriusXM and Pandora and Live Nation both announced their observance of Blackout Tuesday. And just before the day arrived, Spotify announced that it will continue to use the power of its platform to amplify black voices but that, “now is not the time for silence.”

Glossier pledged $500,000 in donations across organizations for the cause and an additional $500,000 in the form of grants to black-owned beauty businesses, with more details to come.

Facebook also pledged $10 million to efforts committed to ending racial injustice as it faces internal unrest; Facebook employees held a virtual walkout on June 1 in response to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s inaction on President Trump’s posts.

Peloton pledged both $500,000 to the legal defense fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and hosted a live “Speak Up Ride,” followed by a 10-minute “Breathe In, Speak Out” meditation.

Other brands took a more effective approach in their observance of Blackout Tuesday. ViacomCBS and its networks like Comedy Central and MTV aired a poignant eight-minute, 46-second, text-only video to commemorate the victims of police brutality. The words “I can’t breathe” repeatedly appear to the sound of nearly nine consecutive minutes of deep breathing. On June 1, ViacomCBS went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which marks the time in which Floyd was killed. ViacomCBS’ network Nickelodeon also announced a “declaration of kids’ rights”:

Ben & Jerry’s, which has an ethos rooted in acts of social justice, was also one such brand, posting this message:

Reebok was possibly the most forthright about the role it plays in Black Lives Matter; in a series of text-only Instagram posts, the brand acknowledged that without the black community, Reebok would not exist: “We are not asking you to buy our shoes. We are asking you to walk in someone else’s.”

A text-only video ad made Nike one of the first brands to make a statement about the protests, pre-blackout. Though Nike’s past campaigns reflect a commitment to social justice, some responded to the ad with criticism, citing Nike’s flawed labor practices and the lack of diversity in its own company.

The challenge that remains for brands is how to communicate support for Black Lives Matter without coming across as tone-deaf. Acknowledging that their success has been built on the borrowing of black culture and profiting from black consumers is undoubtedly the first step.

Delivering Value In A Pandemic With MetaCX President Jake Sorofman

During this 210th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Jake Sorofman, president of MetaCX.

Today, we talk about what it’s like to join a company and transition from CMO to president in a global pandemic. We talk about how Sorofman is thinking about company culture. We also discuss MetaCX’s founder and the overall vision of the company.

Sorofman describes how his role as chief marketing officer prepared him for his new role at MetaCX. Then he shares his perspective on creating company culture during a global pandemic. He says, “You need to be even more intentional. My feeling is that cultures don’t happen by accident.” He suggests leaning into the awkwardness of video conferencing and shares that they’re engaging their employees in a fun 100 Mile Challenge.

We learn more about MetaCX and why there may be no better time than now for them to launch, given their unique value proposition. Sorofman remarks on the opportunities that are available to us in this unique time. He says, “This is the time of transformation. This is the time of thinking about the things that you couldn’t get to when business was robust. It’s also a time of thinking about what it’s going to look like on the other side.” This interview reminds us of the importance of providing value no matter what the circumstances may be.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Why Jake joined MetaCX. 01:45
  • Jake’s relationship with MetaCX CEO Scott McCorkle. 03:25
  • How the CMO role prepared Jake to take on the additional responsibilities of president. 04:54
  • Company culture during the pandemic. 06:37
  • Learn about MetaCX and what the company is trying to achieve. 09:29
  • The MetaCX customer. 13:33
  • Jake’s top priority for this year. 14:23
  • Building a revenue pipeline during a pandemic. 16:45
  • Is there an experience in his past that defines who he is today? 22:39
  • What is the advice Jake would give to his younger self? 23:57
  • The most impactful purchase he has made in the last 6-12 months of $100 or less. 24:48
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Jake follows that he thinks other people should take notice of? 26:24
  • Jake’s take on the top opportunity and threat facing marketers today. 28:28

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe to the podcast:

Listen in iTunes (link:
Listen in Google Podcasts (link:
Listen in Spotify (Link: )

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Google Diversity Report Shows Little Progress Toward Racially Just Workplace

The percentage of black hires in the US grew from 4.8 percent in 2018 to 5.5 percent in 2019, a paltry 0.7 percent increase. That’s according to Google’s seventh consecutive diversity report, released in early May.

Google’s workforce representation for most underrepresented groups also saw only a minor uptick. For example, black and Latinx employees accounted for 9.6 percent of the US workforce in 2019, up from nine percent in 2018. The percentage of black employees in leadership roles was flat while the percentage of Latinx employees in leadership positions increased by just 0.4 percent.

A Spencer Stuart report released recently paints a slightly brighter picture for representation among chief marketing officers (CMOs); in 2019, of all new CMOs, 19 percent were from racially and/or ethnically diverse backgrounds, compared to zero in 2018.

Google did, however, see the largest increase in its hiring of black technical employees since its first report in 2014, albeit a small increase—0.7 percent.

Google’s representation of black employees may appear underactive, but this year’s findings are actually milestones; in addition to its hiring percentage of black technical employees being the largest in the US since Google started publishing diversity data, its hiring percentage of black non-tech employees in the US also saw the largest increase since 2015.

The company’s percentage of Latinx technical employees, on the other hand, grew by just 0.2 percent. Still, the amount of overall Latinx hires declined from 6.8 percent in 2018 to 6.6 percent in 2019.

Additional findings show little progress for women too. Female employees represented 33.2 percent of global hires in 2018, dipping to 32.5 percent in 2019. In the same time, the number of women hired for technical positions remained stagnant, at about 25.6 percent. Google hired more women for leadership roles though, up by 0.6 percent. 

Though the data show otherwise, Google has launched small initiatives in an effort to achieve gender parity. For example, job postings run through its bias removal tool resulted in an 11 percent increase in applications from women.

The report also includes attrition rates; in 2019, Latinx attrition in the US reached below the Google average while women continued to have an inferior attrition rate. Attrition grew significantly for black women while it was highest for Native Americans.

The percentage of Native American employees in leadership positions dropped by 0.2 percent.

Globally, women represented 40 percent of interns in tech roles, and blacks and Latinx represented 24 percent of US interns.

Google attributes its “recent progress” to equipping leaders with workforce data and managers who work closely with the company’s diversity experts to identity opportunities that align with its company-wide objective to “advance a diverse, accessible, and inclusive Google.”

Google admits it has work to do to increase underrepresented talent in its workforce, which is why it’s also collecting race and ethnicity data worldwide through a voluntary self ID campaign.

Nike’s ‘Don’t Do It’ Anti-Racism Ad Receives Mixed Reviews

Nike released a 60-second video spot urging people not to turn their backs on racism as nationwide protests decrying police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery erupted. In a play on its renowned slogan, Nike titled the video, “For once, Don’t Do It,” posting it across its social channels, with the hashtag #UntilWeAllWin.

The text-only video features seven pithy statements appearing in white text against a black backdrop, including “Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us” and “Don’t sit back and be silent.” The video ends with the call-to-action: “Let’s all be part of the change.”

Since Nike posted the video at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, May 29, on Twitter it has received 6.7 million views, 210,000 likes and 100,000 retweets. On Instagram, it’s been viewed nearly 14 million times.

In a statement, Nike told CNN, “We hope that by sharing this film we can serve as a catalyst to inspire action against a deep issue in our society and encourage people to help shape a better future.”

Nike has a long history of highlighting its stand on social issues. In 2017, it launched an equality campaign titled “EQUALITY,” to encourage people to speak out on causes important to Nike athletes and employees including diversity and inclusion. The campaign was accompanied by a monochrome film and a $5 million donation to organizations advancing equality across the US.

In 2018, Nike unveiled a two-minute video spot narrated by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to show its support of athletes who were protesting racial inequality and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

However, Nike’s most recent anti-racism ad has drawn mixed reviews, sparking criticism on social media. While the video received praise from some celebrities, like rapper Travis Scott, one user lambasted Nike for the lack of diversity at its company. For example, Cindy Gallop tweeted:

One user shared a video showing protesters looting Nike’s store, in response to which another user responded: “Believe in something, even if it means getting looted.”

Another user trashed Nike for its labor practices: “My head is about to explode from the irony of the fact that Nike uses literal slave labor. But hey it’s a problem outside America, so I guess it’s fine to ‘sit back and be silent’ about it.”