Black, Indigenous and other people of colour from across the Canadian marketing industry are calling on the country’s agencies and clients to take measurable action against the “injustice and inequity” they face on a daily basis.
In an open letter to the industry entitled “Call for Equity,” the group says that the anti-racism statements and statements of support that have been issued in the wake of worldwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism don’t go far enough.
“For all the apparent progressiveness of our industry, there has been very little progress,” the letter says. “We face injustice and inequity every day, and each day we are asked to do all the real work to fight it.”
The letter, which began circulating on Monday afternoon, originated from People of Colour in Advertising, a new industry group formed earlier this year to represent and advocate for people of colour in Canada’s marketing industry. The LinkedIn group currently has 194 members.
“Call for equity” was spearheaded by a steering committee comprised of Alyssa Dominique (account supervisor at McCann Worldgroup Canada); Stephanie Small (creative operations manager/executive assistant at Taxi); Julian Franklin (president of Franklin Management Group), Justin Senior (director of sales and marketing at SAMA Advertising); Joshua Richards (director of creative technology, diversity and inclusion lead at John St.) and Gavin Barrett (co-founder and chief creative officer at Barrett and Welsh). Nitin Bagga, who heads up strategy at Barrett and Welsh, helped craft some of the language.
It is the first formal letter to come out of the Canadian industry in the wake of the massive global movement that has arisen following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last month.
“Call for equity” was inspired by the “A call for change” letter to the U.S. industry spearheaded by Nathan Young, a group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, and Bennett D. Bennett from independent consultancy Aerialist. Signatories to that letter include 600 Black professionals from agencies across the country.
Unlike the American letter, the Canadian letter calls on industry employers to publicly commit to the listed actions against systemic racism. It also provides additional steps specifically for marketers, including giving business only to agencies that successfully implement the outlined steps, and committing to including agencies that are Black, Indigenous or people of colour-owned on their roster, “recognizing that they disproportionately provide equitable employment” to professionals from those communities and demanding that agency teams serving on their business including a Black, Indigenous or people of colour professional.
The U.S. Association of National Advertisers and the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) also issued a joint letter describing racism as “an age-old virus that has infected America for four centuries” and pledging to “unflinchingly” examine the industry’s history and current practices to “shine a light on systemic and institutional biases that exist within the industry.”
U.K. associations and the heads of some of the country’s leading agencies also came together on a recent initiative called Creative Equals.
The Canadian letter contains 15 action steps that agencies and clients can take, including making a “specific, measurable and public commitment” to improving Black, Indigenous and people of colour representation at all levels of staffing, particularly senior and leadership positions (see the letter and all of the suggested actions below).
The letter urges Canadian agencies to track and publicly report workforce diversity data on an annual basis to create “accountability” for the industry, and provide extensive bias training to HR employees and all levels of management.
“We need justice, equity and inclusion,” the letter states. “We need the industry to look more like us. We need Black, Indigenous and people of colour (PoC) voices to be sought out and included in the creative process. We need Black, Indigenous and PoC professionals in senior and leadership positions.
“In a multicultural Canada where more than one in five Canadians is a member of a visible or racialized minority, we need to dismantle the industry’s oppressive monoculture that stifles the growth of Black, Indigenous and PoC professionals and restricts our ability to express our true selves.”
An open letter to Canadian Advertising and Marketing Industry Leaders
We acknowledge that many leaders in many organizations in our industry have made anti-racism statements and statements of support for racialized minorities and Indigenous peoples. But we need you to take a stand and not just make a statement.
For all the apparent progressiveness of our industry, there has been very little progress. We face injustice and inequity every day and each day we are asked to do all the real work to fight it.
We need that to change. We need justice, equity and inclusion. We need the industry to look more like us. We need Black, Indigenous and people of colour (PoC) voices to be sought out and included in the creative process. We need Black, Indigenous and PoC professionals in senior and leadership positions.
In a multicultural Canada where more than one in five Canadians is a member of a visible or racialized minority, we need to dismantle the industry’s oppressive monoculture that stifles the growth of Black, Indigenous and PoC professionals and restricts our ability to express our true selves.
We are asking all leaders in Canadian advertising and marketing to take the following actions to address the systemic racism in our industry:
1. Make a specific, measurable, and public commitment to improve Black, Indigenous and PoC representation at all levels of staffing, especially senior and leadership positions
2. Track and publicly report your workforce diversity data on an annual basis to create accountability for the industry
3. Audit company policies and culture to ensure the environment we work in is more equitable and inclusive to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives
4. Provide extensive bias training to HR employees and all levels of management, and ask your teams and leaders to get simple constructive human rights training and certification such as that provided by The Ontario Human Rights Commission at: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/learning/human-rights-101
5. Extend outreach to a more diverse representation of colleges, universities, and art schools
6. Expand residencies and internship programs to candidates with transferable skills who may not have taken a traditional educational path toward advertising and marketing
7. Create, fund, and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for Black, Indigenous and PoC employees
8. Invest in management and leadership training, as well as mentorship, sponsorship, and other career development programs for Black, Indigenous and PoC employees
9. Require all leaders to actively participate in company Diversity & Inclusion initiatives and tie success in those initiatives to bonus compensation.
10. Create a Diversity & Inclusion committee made up of Black, Indigenous and PoC employees to help shape diversity & inclusion policy and monitor its progress
11. Establish a diversity review panel to stem the spread of stereotypes in creative work and ensure offensive or culturally insensitive work is never published
12. Introduce a wage equity plan to ensure that women and Black, Indigenous and PoC are being compensated fairly
Only for clients, in addition to the above:
13. Reward only those agencies that successfully implement these demands, with your business
14. Commit to ensuring that you will include agencies that are Black-, Indigenous- or PoC-owned in your agency roster, recognizing that they disproportionately provide equitable employment to professionals from the Black, Indigenous and PoC communities
15. Demand that the agency teams serving on your business include Black, Indigenous or PoC professionals
We call upon you to make your commitment public by visiting https://linktr.ee/CallForEquity and selecting “Commit your organization to the Call for Equity”.
*Text adapted from the Open Letter created by Nathan Young and Bennett D. Bennett and signed by Black advertising professionals in the US.
Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash