Agencies are “the most egregious offenders” when it comes to straight white male syndrome, according to Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo Global Beverage Group, who laid into the industry for its lack of diversity at the AANA Reset conference in Sydney this week.
Jakeman, the outspoken PepsiCo exec, is passionate about improving diversity across the industry as a way to make the industry more innovative.
Outlining the scenario he has repeatedly faced as a marketer when agency teams are made up of a homogenous group of straight white men, Jakeman was touching on a topic he has publicly talked about before, and the impact the makeup of talent in teams has on a brand’s ability to be innovative and disruptive.
“I get in trouble for saying this but I will keep saying it; as a client, I am sick and tired, particularly as a client whose customer base is 85% women, why is it that every time I show up to an agency meeting I’m confronted by a sea of white, straight men? I don’t understand. I don’t get it,” he said.
“I don’t mean to dump on agencies,” he said, explaining that his background is in agency roles, “but I’m trying to give you some tough love. My plea to you, because agencies are the most egregious offenders of this, but also to clients, is make sure you’re thinking about diversity of your teams when you’re building your organisation to be disruptive.
“In most cases we are sourcing talent from largely the same pools we have for the last 50 years. We’re creating these homogenous groups of people. I’m here to tell you that innovation and disruption does not come from homogenous groups of people. Quite the opposite. They come from collections of people with different life experiences coming together with a different perspective on the world. Different ages, races, sexual orientations trying to solve a problem from a different standpoint.”
He related a tale about an agency that wanted to be on his Pepsi roster for a long time, and finally got a meeting only to blow it by bringing a team of white men, showing no diversity. The excuse they gave? “All the women are back at the office working on your business…”.
“I couldn’t believe it. When you Google me, you will see all the stuff I’ve talked about on diversity. I asked the question and they all started looking at their shoes,” he says.
He also outlined that he fired a recruiter who was unable to find a slate of candidates for a senior that was 50/50 men and women.
“You need to have strategy for this. It won’t happen on its own. I’m doing my best to drive diversity in the marketing organisation at PepsiCo to drive disruption … If you can’t address it at the source it won’t happen organically. This is a strong passion point for me because we cannot be disruptive … if it’s a bunch of the same type of people, with the same background, the same education, the same socioeconomic groups, same gender and same sexual orientation sitting around trying to solve a problem. I guarantee you.”
Speaking to AdNews on the sidelines of the event, Jakeman added that while he believes much more can, and should be done to accelerate getting greater diversity into agency and client teams, quotas are not the way to go.
General Malls in the US has gained some publicity in recent months for putting stringent demands on its agencies to have 50/50 gender split teams and more ethnic minorities and Verizon and HP have made similar demands.
Jakeman said: “The first thing I will say is I’m delighted that brand leaders like Diego Scotti at Verizon and Antonio Licciana at HP have led a lot of the conversation around changing the diversity issue in agencies. How we do it as clients, I think we can all have different approach. I think quotas have not historically solved problems in the past – but it has raised the consciousness of the issue almost immediately. But what I prefer is to work with the agency to get a talent base at the agency that mirrors my consumer and we have to work on that together.
“It won’t happen overnight. What I look for is real commitment to make progress, but however we get there, different clients will have different methods.”
When asked about the often-repeated response that there aren’t more senior women in creative roles because the talent simply doesn’t exist, he says he doesn’t buy that.
“I don’t agree with that … I hear that all the time but we’re not looking hard enough. In the creative ranks it is harder, but unless you make it a strategy it doesn’t happen organically. Unless you say ‘I want to hire more women, I want a 50% slate’, it won’t happen.
“It forces recruiters to go out and find up and coming talent. They may not be quite ready for the job but they’ll get there. My great friend Cindy Gallop has an amazing quote. She hates it when women say ‘I don’t want to get the job because I’m a woman.’ She says ‘look around at all the unqualified men that got there because they are a man – get over it.’ I quote Cindy Gallop directly with that.”
Australian agencies earlier this month banded together and launched The Agency Circle, an initiative designed to help agencies address the diversity issue and offer frameworks to change their business and attract, hire and retain a more diverse workforce. Led by chairwoman Michele O’Neill from VCCP, The Agency Circle is open to all agencies and backed by a founding group of 14 agencies.
Jakeman, an Australian who began his career at Clemenger, believes that marketers should be the voice of disruption within an organisation, creating innovative and disruptive content that grows their businesses. He believes there is often still too much reverence for TV ads and not enough disruptive thinking.
“If the marketing people in an organisation aren’t going to be responsible for the ideas, process and culture that enables a company to survive and thrive through disruption, then who is going to do that?’ he asks.
“It’s not all bad, but we still as an industry celebrate the 30-second television spot to a great degree. We’re built around the manufacture of the 30-second TV spot, despite the declining of television, despite the fact it is technically incapable of any kind of interaction – it’s a one-way media, still marketers cling to it, and agencies cling to a model where TV is at the centre of creative development. We are not moving fast enough to change that.”
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