Our director of Purpose Practice, MJ Deery, has a byline in the latest Ad Age urging brands to move beyond token diversity to richer, more meaningful “normalization.” If you missed it, you can find a tidy summation here. Smart and important stuff. You’d be wise to check it out:
How Brands Can Normalize America’s New Normal
In advertising, we’ve certainly made strides in showing more inclusive imagery. But in my view, the next phase of equitable representation will have less to do with who brands show and more to do with the stories they tell. Winning brands must capture the compelling and complex realities of Americans, the majority who look, live, or love differently than the people we still most often see on screen.
Here are three takeaways from brands who are doing it right:
1. Embrace nuance.
Consider “The Talk” for example. The Emmy award-winning spot by P&G, widely celebrated for its empathetic portrayal of African American parenting struggles, actually received some criticism for the absence of men. The creative team held that they were aiming to depict mothers’ reckoning with systemic racism. But by leaving men out of the conversation, the brand unwittingly reinforced the absent father stereotype. So P&G enlisted the help of male African American creatives at Sunday Morning and set out to make things right. Their next spot, ‘The Look,” offers a nuanced view into insidious bias African American men face. P&G understood that in order to capture the truth of their audiences’ lives, they had to examine women’s and men’s experiences separately. In so doing, the brand delivered equitable representation not by telling one tale, but by exploring the complexity of the black experience.
2. Commit to more than marketing.
Brands are more willing than ever to surrender restrictive ideals of beauty for the sake of inclusion, from athletic apparel to toy manufacturers (yes, even Barbie). But none commits quite like Sephora. With “We Belong to Something Beautiful,” the brand takes inclusion to the next level, bringing viewers face to face with non-binary experiences across race, ability, body type, age, and transition. It’s equally impactful that Sephora anchors this striking imagery with the gender expansive, “They, She, He, Xe, We,” at a time when the Human Rights Campaign reminds us how deeply personal our names and pronouns are. The anthemic display make the brand’s world view clear: no matter your identity, there is beauty in the freedom of self-expression.
3. Innovate for inclusion.
Microsoft’s latest Super Bowl spot shows kids with a range of disabilities who, thanks to the adaptive technology, can experience the gratification of a level playing field. Microsoft’s campaign tagline, “When everybody plays, we all win,” drives home the brand’s commitment to inclusion from the product level on up. No surprise, Microsoft was rewarded for its social innovation. In a Super Bowl ad effectiveness rating, “We All Win” ran away with the top score in emotional impact and the controller won the top design prize at D&AD Festival.
No matter what business you operate, a percentage of your audience is black, brown, female, queer or many other things that are simply normal. It’s time we take audiences beyond merely seeing underrepresented populations to a place where we can actually consider their lives. Consumers trust brands that understand their complex realities, and are brave enough to use their platform to tell it like it is – like it really is.
DC’s thrilled to announce that Gary Stein joins us today as our first chief integration officer. He’s here to accelerate collaboration between our strategy, media and expanded creative team, which now includes experiential and influencer experts thanks to our recent acquisition of A2G. We think Gary says it best:
“The team here has this earnest, heartfelt belief that brands can show up for consumers – and our society – in a meaningful and authentic way. They’re not chasing shiny objects to sell more programs. They’re making major moves to help clients make a bigger impact on people, culture and commerce. DC is an ascendant independent agency with the talent, capabilities and desire to take the next leap. I want to be part of that.”
Gary joins DC after nearly five years at Eleven, most recently as associate partner and head of activation overseeing media, planning and data insights. His career includes nearly twenty years in strategy and work on clients such as Nike, Jim Beam and Google Cloud, including the Cannes Lion-winning ‘Know What your Data Knows’ campaign which featured the first-ever live TV spot created from real-time data during NCAA March Madness.
“We promise clients a holistic view on how creativity can move people’s emotions and actions – online and in real life,” said CEO Andy Berkenfield. “With Gary as our first chief integration officer, we’re ensuring that everything we do across paid, earned, shared and owned channels advances a singular creative vision that helps our clients grow.”
Cheers to that.
Today we’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of A2G, a widely recognized experiential and social influencer agency. The acquisition extends our reach to two new major markets, adds a robust suite of complementary services to our offering and brings us a powerful new partner.
Amy Cotteleer (she’s the stylish one on the right) founded her agency in 2005 and was a pioneer in the experiential and influencer space. The LA- and New York-based agency created experiences and campaigns with social and digital engagement built into their fabric — from Gap’s award-winning Be Bright campaign, to Nintendo’s Wii video challenge that delivered 900 million earned impressions, to Flo’s Rockin’ Rally for Progressive that engaged a quarter million bikers.
So why’d she sell to the likes of us? We’ll let our new partner tell it: “The last thing we wanted was to be absorbed by a big agency who just wanted to staple us to a long list of capabilities. DC implicitly understood that A2G has an established brand and reputation for a reason. We’re incredibly excited by the possibilities to do great things creatively as we grow together.”
And here’s what our CEO Andy said on behalf of the rest of us: “This move is about a shared vision to help clients succeed in the evolving world of integrated marketing. The days of simply buying attention are dead — and winning brands need to build relationships with consumers online and, ya know, IRL.”
Big thanks to our friends at McCracken Advisory Partners who acted as exclusive M&A advisor on the deal.
Citibank asked us to help launch their new Citi Double Cash card and were looking to boost awareness through social conversation. We enlisted the help of YouTube superstar devinsupertramp and created the #Incredouble campaign.
Our ECD John Kovacevich challenges whether Facebook’s “best practices” are really the best we can do. He is also aware that he uses lots of ironic quotation marks. Check them out below:
“Make the logo bigger.”
This piece of client feedback is such a cliché, it’s been an advertising meme for decades (even before we called them “memes.”) But in recent years, a new demand has taken its place: “Put the logo FIRST.”
The rise of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as the premier digital channels to deliver ads has created an army of “experts” on how to get the most out of the dollars you spend on these channels. Facebook’s sales army has said it so many times, it’s become gospel: “You need to make a ‘brand impression’ in the first 2 seconds of your ad.”
As a result, creative briefs regularly include the line, “Digital versions must include the logo at the top of the spot.” Except…maybe it’s not true?
Definitive facts. I’m sure we can figure something out.
For yesterday’s midterms, a big chunk of DCers added the title poll worker to their already sparkling resumes. Spearheaded by our own J. Moe who worked the polls in 2016, employees volunteered for training and were assigned to precincts across the Bay Area. The persuasive Ms. Moe even convinced the crotchety old partners to pay for the time off, striking a blow for democracy everywhere. And the fine folks at MediaPost were kind enough to cover the effort.
After arm-twisting, haranguing and even shedding the occasional tear, DC finally convinced the multi-talented John Kovacevich to join us full-time as executive creative director. John comes to us us after three years as one of the city’s most sought after freelance talents. Before he broke up with the agency world, John worked at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and FCB West. So how did we get this confirmed bachelor to tie the knot again? Better if we let him tell it: “5 Reasons I Hung Up My Freelance Shingle to Go Full Time.”