A year ago, HP announced a quest with our agencies to transform the advertising industry. We challenged partners to significantly increase the number of women and U.S. minorities in top creative and strategic roles on our accounts.
Admittedly, an announcement is just words — and, over the years, there have been too many promises from all corners of the business world to diversify without enough action. In 2016, we stated that the time for just talk is over. Today, we are publishing the first proof of our commitment and, more importantly, sharing our learnings and path forward.
Overall, our five global agencies made significant progress. They increased the participation of women, and all but one noticeably increased the number of women in senior leadership roles. Today, 61 percent of people working on our account and 51 percent of people in senior leadership roles are female. This is 5 percent and 4 percent ahead, respectively, of the agencies’ self-imposed targets.
While advancements have been made, particularly in the second half of 2017, work remains in increasing representation among U.S. minorities. Three out of five agencies saw a positive, upward trend in minority representation. However, minority representation was still below target for 60 percent of HP’s global agencies. Overall, 8 percent of all employee growth across HP’s global agencies year-over-year were minorities.
Besides announcing our progress, HP is updating the challenge for 2018 by asking agency partners to define specific underrepresented groups by country and set clear objectives, measurements and plans to increase diverse talent on HP business. We’re also proud to be working with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on a new program that will enable underrepresented talent to network and get a foot in the door of the creativity community.
The numbers, however, are only part of the story. Sharing our learnings is the most important and lasting contribution of our journey. These findings include:
Industry transformation requires a holistic and systemic approach.
To transform the industry, we need to simultaneously increase representation and improve inclusion in three sectors: clients, agencies and production houses with a focus on directors. If these three sectors do not move at the same time, we will not be able to deliver the type of work that our diverse audiences require.
Clients analyze data, identify audiences and write the briefs. Agencies generate the creative work to emotionally connect with customers. Directors bring that work to life through their unique interpretation. The process is an alchemistic combination of deep analytics and creativity. Having a diverse mindset included throughout the process will ensure we are connecting with our customers more effectively.
The key to transformation is client activation.
Clients drive the advertising industry. They own the paycheck and set priorities. A group of committed clients could change the industry overnight.
But clients cannot require from the agencies something that they themselves are not doing. So clients need to work on improving representation on their marketing teams while creating the inclusive environment necessary for sustainable results.
At HP, we started by working on our marketing and communications teams first. Today 50 percent of HP’s most senior roles are held by women; 70 percent of our leaders have had meaningful experiences outside the U.S. and 30 percent are other underrepresented groups. We waited to have our house in order before we invited agencies to participate in the process.
In retrospect, I believe that we could have accelerated change by moving client and agencies together. Each one committing to the other. Jointly setting plans and meeting to improve representation and inclusion.
Objectives and plans must be set by the agencies not by the client.
What gets measured gets done. No strategic initiative ever moved without objectives, specific plans of actions and measurement. Agencies need to have skin in this transformation game. They need to set and own their own numbers, develop their own plans and report back progress against these objectives.
Each of our agencies was able to set a stretch goal toward increasing the percentage of women and people of color working on our account. They were able to define their own plan of action. The results we reported are due to their commitment and hard work.
Accountability is everything.
Another key step in driving the numbers was the establishment of quarterly reviews.
In each quarterly meeting, we met agency CEOs individually to monitor progress. We discussed challenges and opportunities. They also shared the programs they created in order to increase diversity recruitment and inclusion. More than 15 of these programs were developed by the agencies.
The quarterly meeting was critical, as was CEO involvement. Both ensured that progress was being made. If what gets measured gets done, what gets reported becomes your bond.
Free the Bid was an amazing change catalyst for agencies and production houses.
Alma Ha’el‘s organization, Free the Bid, ensures that every RFP or “bid” for production includes at least one female director. In an industry driven by the momentum of the tried and true award-winning directors, 95 percent of which are men, this was an enormous step forward.
Additionally, their website now showcases more than 450 women directors, allowing agencies, production houses and clients the opportunity to review the reels of these outstanding women directors. The impact has been huge. Through Free the Bid, HP and our agencies have discovered extraordinary talent that has delivered impactful, business driving creative work.
HP will continue to fund Free the Bid’s efforts to give women director’s equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the global advertising industry.
To improve numbers of underrepresented minorities we need to strengthen our resources for qualified diverse candidates.
We did not make strong progress with U.S. minorities. We learned the hard way that neither external agencies nor our own internal recruitment teams had a meaningful pipeline of diverse candidates to fill our teams. It took several rounds of revisions to get to the right candidate profile. This was hard work and required commitment and focus from the top leaders. As we move forward, our companies will need to tap into different sources for talent identification like specialized agencies and universities with high diverse populations.
The time for action is now.
Transforming our industry requires a holistic and systemic approach. Clients should drive.
But agencies and production houses must do their part.
Transformation is definitely possible, but it requires commitment, focus and bold action.
The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.