Adun Abiodun: Talking about inclusivity is good, but it needs to be followed by action

—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—

Adun Abiodun was drawn to the marketing industry because she was fascinated by the relationship between human behaviour and the allure of storytelling. Thinking back, she says, “I was inspired by how much influence this industry has on society at large.”

Today, as head of retail marketing, advertising and partnerships at Purolator Inc., Abiodun is turning that inspiration into action, as a driving force behind some of Purolator’s most successful campaigns.

When she was starting her career 17 years ago in Lagos, Nigeria—the world’s most populous Black city— Abiodun saw females in top leadership positions throughout the advertising industry. Having a network of women ad executives in senior positions at well-known global networks like WPP and Omnicom, she felt represented and inspired to become a leader herself.

“I learned from the best veterans, who were not always people of colour or a part of the BIPOC community,” Abiodun says. “They were kind enough to let me sit at the table. Now, it’s all about sharing and passing on that knowledge to new and emerging talent in the industry.”

Believing that the industry needs to go beyond merely talking about inclusivity and begin doing the work, Abiodun wants the hiring, retaining, promoting, and elevating of Black talent to improve.

“On both the agency and client side, there’s a lot of conversation around listening, speaking up, allyship, resource sharing—which is all great,” she says. “But what I don’t hear a lot about is accountability and measurement.”

Abiodun also points out that the newer generation of consumers are demanding brands be more inclusive, too. And for brands to survive and thrive, they’ll need to authentically show meaningful progress in this area.

Taking an active role in changing the industry for the better, Abiodun is a member of the CMA’s Diversity Council, and also supports the association’s mentoring initiatives, including guiding newcomers to Canada.

“It’s incredibly important that new Canadians are set up for success, especially those who are from the advertising industry or those looking to get into the industry,” she says. Not forgetting her roots, Abiodun continues to support the talent in Africa as well, through youth foundations and not-for-profit organizations. “For Black people to matter, Africa must matter,” she says.

For young Black talent looking to break into advertising, Abiodun encourages them to explore what opportunities exist in other markets as well.

“If you cannot break into a specific market, go travel and showcase your work elsewhere,” she says. “Your initial target market will come looking for you once you have a stellar portfolio and you’ve broadened your network and knowledge base.”

This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Erik dela Cruz, creative director at Midnight Circus, and a steering committee member of POCAM.