Since 2020’s racial reckoning, consumers and marketers alike have demanded real change in an industry that mainly pays lip service to diversity. Financial donations were pledged and promises were made by corporations but for true diversity, equity and inclusion change to take root, a top-down and sustained approach is required. 

BRIDGE, the first independent DEI trade organization, aims to provide the global marketing industry with the knowledge and resources to drive meaningful and measurable change in bridging the gaps that have created inequities for underrepresented communities in the workplace, workforce and marketplace.

Founded by former MMA global chief strategy officer Sheryl Daija, BRIDGE—an acronym for belonging, representation, inclusion, diversity and equity—offers its member companies proprietary research, storytelling workshops led by marketing academics from Brown University and Bentley University, events and more to identify and dismantle the structures in place that currently contribute to DEI gaps.

“It is both a business and moral imperative that we shift from talk to action to create an equitable culture in our industry. DEI should not simply be a line item in an operating agenda, it needs to permeate through all aspects of a business—from the C-Suite through product development to customer service—internally and externally,” said Daija.

The organization’s first research report, Voices of Inclusion, will create an industry assessment tool that organizations can use to uncover any management systems that prevent progress in DEI, as well as identify successful policies that can be applied to advance their BRIDGE agenda. BRIDGE is conducting the research for the tool in partnership with an academic team from Emory University, Indiana University and the University of Georgia.

Executives from Campbell’s, Discover, NBCUniversal, IBM and more have been announced as members of BRIDGE’s inaugural board of directors. The full list includes:

  • Jonita Wilson, chief diversity officer, Discover Financial (chair)
  • Christine Escribano, senior vice president, head of One Platform marketing, NBCUniversal Media (vice-chair)
  • Tish Archie Oliver, head of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Unilever
  • Trixie Ferguson Gray, president, The Newsette  
  • Louis Jones, ​​media and marketing consultant, BSO in residence, Brand Safety Institute
  • Rebecca Messina, senior advisor, McKinsey & Co.
  • Lukeisha Paul, head of diversity, equity and inclusion, GroupM
  • Yin Rani, chief executive officer and chief marketing officer, MilkPEP
  • Deidre Smalls-Landau, US chief marketing officer and executive vice president, global business equity, UMWW  
  • Randi Stipes, chief marketing officer, IBM Watson Advertising
  • Jon Suarez-Davis, senior vice president, marketing, strategy and innovation, Salesforce
  • Leslie Waller, vice president of marketing, Campbell’s

BRIDGE chair Jonita Wilson is the first-ever chief diversity officer and woman of color to chair a key marketing industry trade group.

Each company that joins BRIDGE can choose a BIPOC- or LGBTQIA2+-driven start-up to gain full access as a BRIDGE member.

A study Meta conducted in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media earlier this year found that almost two-thirds of US consumers expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising, but 53 percent said they don’t feel fully represented in online advertising today.

The study also found that campaigns on Facebook with more diverse representation tend to have higher ad recall compared with campaigns featuring a single traditional representation. These ads also had a greater brand lift.

“Our long-term goal is to create a comprehensive BRIDGE agenda for all companies and to subsequently certify against its implementation and measure its impact. We invite everyone to join us on this journey,” Daija said.