A game changer since her arrival six years ago, Kumi will lead account and project management and continue to shape DC’s culture and client relationships.
Kumi Croom, Duncan Channon’s first Managing Director, will oversee the account and project management teams, and will continue to lead the company’s EDI efforts.
During her nearly six years at Duncan Channon, Kumi has served as a champion for equity and representation, reimagining the agency’s recruitment, retention and EDI consciousness by creating its EDI Group, which she has led since 2019. The group includes staffers who are passionate about driving change in the agency’s BIPOC talent recruitment and retention efforts, as well as its culture and ways of reflecting diverse perspectives. Croom operationalized a culturally sensitive approach to ensure representation in the agency’s creative work, and built a Black/African American Culture Practice. In addition she has led the roll out of EDI training programs for the agency.
She served as Group Account Director beginning in 2017, leading the California Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program account. In this role, she helped drive the work’s breakthrough success in changing perceptions about vaping and the use of flavored tobacco among the state’s multicultural residents. In the peak of the pandemic, she also assembled an integrated cross-agency team to win the California Department of Public Health business, and develop a campaign to build trust in COVID-19 vaccines.
“I’m honored to take on this role and look forward to working with a larger cross section of team members,” said Croom. “Being an independent shop allows us to make meaningful changes and take risks. I welcome the opportunity to join the partners in helping to sculpt the culture of the agency and add my ideas as we continue to grow.”
Covered California, the first and largest state health insurance marketplace in the country, has named San Francisco independent agency Duncan Channon its creative and media agency of record.
The five-year contract is worth around $400 million. Duncan Channon will be responsible for developing creative campaigns to convince Californians to sign up for Covered California healthcare plans, including driving behavioral change in viewers who believe healthcare isn’t right for them or too expensive for them to secure.
“It takes the whole agency, every type of talent we have, to think about a problem like this and work on this business, helping more of our fellow Californians have access to quality, comprehensive insurance. That was always very attractive,” Duncan Channon CCO Michael Lemme told Adweek.
“We put all of our energy, heart and talent into winning it, and we have been putting that into every moment of getting the best work that we can,” he added. “We are in a time when the ability to have insurance is harder for more people, with so many losing their jobs.”
The appointment follows a competitive review earlier this year between seven agencies, including incumbent Campbell Ewald, and concluded before the pandemic’s impact.
Covered California director of marketing Colleen Stevens cited Duncan Channon’s history of “strong creative and ads that can emotionally engage people,” which she explained were important points in convincing an audience that has used internal justifications for going without health insurance for years.
“Self-elimination is our biggest problem,” she said. “That’s why emotional engagement is so important. We have to override their predetermined thought processes.”
“Covered California is an organization that believes in the power of marketing. We think a big chunk of our success is due to marketing,” Stevens added. “We’re trying to change social norms and get people who don’t think this applies to them to investigate further.”
Stevens also stressed the importance of picking an agency with the ability to deliver messaging across California’s diverse population. Duncan Channon’s first campaign for Covered California features ads in multiple languages including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean, as well as English, she said.
The campaign’s process was shaped by the pandemic’s limitations, with the agency relying heavily on remote shoots, and both photo sessions and video production featuring real families—something Stevens said lent the effort a sense of intimacy.
The campaign debuts across several media channels on Nov. 9 and runs to Jan. 31. Stevens explained that the campaign was timed to the open enrollment period beginning on Nov. 1, but that the organization wanted to wait until after the election to avoid the message being drowned out.
“In terms of the political climate, we made a conscious decision not to do any messaging around the Supreme Court hearing the ACA case, the election and how the election might change things. Our commitment is to convince Californians that Covered California is strong, stable, has financial resources to make sure people will be covered, [and] that we have good, quality plans,” Stevens said. “On the other hand, California has taken a leadership position in adjusting to changes happening nationally to provide quality service and plans since the beginning.”
While none of the campaign’s messaging addresses the issue, the landmark legislation’s possible termination does lend the effort an added sense of urgency and importance.
“All we can really do is make this program as successful as it deserves to be,” Lemme said. “We’re going to make this program as successful as it can be for the sake of Californians, and to the degree that helps move a broader conversation, then that’s not just a nice thing but part of our intention.”
“Especially now, people are really glad to work on something that has a real tangible benefit and outcome for our neighbors, selves, state and maybe for the nation,” he added.
Every year, my husband and I join friends on a trip to the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. We go for the music. We go for the shopping. We go for the chance to not have passersby ask, “Hey, are they filming some kind of ’50’s movie around here?” when they see us gathered with our cuffed jeans and archaic hairdos. But one of our favorite reasons to go to Vegas are the strange museums.
This year, we made a stop at the Neon Boneyard, the field where old Las Vegas signs go to die. It was pretty amazing from a “I pretend I live in the past” perspective, but also from the perspective of a typography lover, because some of these signs are the very place where these typefaces were created (House Industries, I’m looking at you).