October 18, 2020
The murder of George Floyd this summer galvanized us to make more urgent steps towards our commitments to racial justice in our communities and our businesses. Earlier work to improve the inequities in the advertising industry, in particular, simply hasn’t gone far enough. Add to this dynamic the incredible disruption that COVID has wrecked and the momentum we all hope to make, the commitments we make towards improving the industry takes on an even more hefty challenge.
I took my own vows to change by committing to hiring Black and Brown leaders and professionals. In response to that public posting and in a truly wonderful moment, one of our BrandLab intern alumni, Melisa, reached out to me to say that she had really appreciated the positions I published but asked me point blank if I had actually done anything. It was a poignant moment, and one that took some bravery to ask.
So I’m sharing with you what I shared with her.
First and foremost, I would hire, hire, hire if I could. I love building community and culture — it’s my favorite part of my job. Unfortunately, there are so many dynamics out of my control right now that I can’t run the agency like I’m used to. 2020 for Ciceron has been, hmm…steady? I think that’s probably the best word. I would also add “unpredictable.” As such, I am having a difficult time making long term hiring decisions until I know a little better where my clients and the markets are heading. That’s not an excuse; it’s just a plain reality of running a business.
Introduce More Black and Brown Talent to the Team
What we have had the opportunity to do is hire freelancers, and in that regard, I am pleased that we have been able to introduce incredibly talented Black and Brown talent to the Ciceron team, to work side-by-side on critical projects and share the successes of great client work. I would love to hire them all full time if that unpredictability becomes less so. That’s the goal. For now, we are keeping people busy, both on staff and freelance, providing better access to new voices and talents.
Support Existing Black- and Brown-Owned Agencies and Freelancers
Starting a business or hanging your “single shingle” takes guts and belief. Black and Brown professionals took the leap, and we want to acknowledge their accomplishments by working with them, partnering with them, and providing some economic benefit to their success and survival. Certainly, we wish to grow our own diversity because it is the right thing to do, but we also believe that we can be allies to those who already not only represent communities of color but are leaders in their own rights.
Intense Training Through The BrandLab’s “Fearless Workshops” Program
We have been long-time supporters of The BrandLab, with interns coming aboard during the summer months to expose people of color to the world of advertising. Advertising is a notoriously white enterprise which is really a shame (scam?) since advertising often either reflects or creates culture. The amazing folks at the BrandLab have designed their Fearless Workshops that help prepare agencies to discover their own biases, their own opportunities, and their own behaviors and worldviews that may prevent them from being truly inclusive and celebratory of others. The program then works the agency through intense workshops to prepare ourselves to accomplish our goals. We are beginning this program this fall and will take us into 2021. I am grateful to have this opportunity.
Change will not happen overnight. My patience will be tested. But these are long-term, systemic changes that require hard work, and we’re prepared and working towards these goals actively and enthusiastically. Over the past several months, the Ciceron staff has been incredible in providing each other with reading materials and other resources to awaken their minds. People of color on staff have been willing to share their own experiences and provide their peers with a place to have dialogue in a trusted environment. Learning is a necessary first step in preparing for the future we all desire. We’re just a few steps ahead of where we were, but it’s progress, and for that I am thankful.