How is the industry driving tangible action using creativity?

Exploring the work of Citi, We Are All Human and We Are Pi

The current climate represents a golden opportunity to accelerate the kind of changes that have been mooted in boardrooms around the world for many years – but only if companies fully commit to making those changes a priority. Here, you’ll find examples of organisations using creativity to spread their message and impact change in their on-going work to advance gender equality, to stop anti-black casting and to support hispanic and minority communities. This determination to facilitate change in business, both internal and external, will prove inspirational to anyone still on the fence.

Action to advance diversity and gender equality in business

By Carla Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi

It is well-documented that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, bearing the brunt of layoffs while also taking on caregiving responsibilities for the sick, children and elderly. We have all seen the headlines or felt it personally. These factors create a risk that women will face setbacks in the workplace for years to come. Gender equality should remain a critical priority as we address the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. As with all aspects, our consumers’ future brand choices will be shaped by our actions today. Every company can, and should, use its resources to empower women and provide more opportunities, especially now.

In 2019, Citi was the first US company to publish its unadjusted or “raw” pay gap for women and US minorities. While the analysis revealed an ugly number, Citi is committed to closing the gap and has set goals to increase representation of women and US minorities in senior and higher-paying roles across the firm by the end of 2021.

In October 2019, coinciding with International Day of the Girl, we launched a multimedia advertising campaign called “The Moment”, which was inspired by Citi’s leadership and transparency around pay equity and equal representation. The creative featured the children of Citi colleagues and their reactions to learning about the gender pay gap for the first time in order to spark a broader conversation.

We felt it was important boys and girls participated in the conversation, because this issue will not go away if women are fighting the battle alone. These are just the early steps and we’re continuing to find creative ways to humanise sobering data, especially as it pertains to women’s recovery during this crisis. For Citi, it’s about internal and external support. Earlier this year, Citi enhanced our global parental leave policy to give all employees time off no matter how they are building their families. Encouraging everyone to use their paid leave is important to create a more level playing field at home and at work, and helps to address outdated stereotypes and norms. Externally, Citi is committed to procuring from women-owned businesses for our suppliers, especially from firms located in developing markets. The Citi Impact Fund, launched in January to make equity investments in "double bottom line" private sector companies, is empowering mission-driven, women and minority-owned enterprises.

Corporate leaders must go beyond conversations about the business and use their voices to show empathy and vulnerability while also providing working caregivers, especially women, flexibility. This pandemic is challenging us all but keeping our commitment to equality at the forefront will help us get through this and build a more equitable society.

Unifying communities through creativity

When the high profile launch of a new piece of work from NY-based non-profit We Are All Human was derailed by the Coronavirus in March, a swift, strategic decision was taken to adapt the idea.

The core message of We Are All Human’s long-planned Hispanic Star campaign – a call to both unify and recognise Hispanics across the US – remained intact, but a sense of urgency was woven into proceedings by honing in on the plight of Hispanic workers across the States as the pandemic intensified. Statistics clearly showed a group of people disproportionately affected by the virus and by shifting the focus to a Hispanic Response and Recovery Plan/Hispanic Star Month of Action, We Are All Human and their partners sought to bring together the whole Spanish-speaking community and galvanise support.

A multitude of creative forces combined to make the piece of work resonate, including a newly-recorded Spanish version of The Star-Spangled Banner, the creation of an instantly-recognisable Hispanic Star symbol, a powerful P&G-made film called Estamos Unidos produced by Alma and the formation of 12 Hispanic Star hubs across the US, each tasked with addressing specific regional needs. Relevant, easy-to-grasp, wide-reaching and backed up by local support, it cut through the noise – and was a reminder, as We Are All Human founder Claudia Romo Edelman told us during LIONS Live, that, “Creativity and brands have an incredible power not only to mobilise the hearts and minds of people, but actually to take communities out of the shadows and give them back their dignity.”

Before You Shoot Pledge

By Alex Bennett-Grant, Founder & CEO, WE ARE Pi

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder I, like many others in the marketing world, felt compelled to act. Yet, unlike the majority of industry voices searching for a way to ‘help’, on this occasion I knew exactly what I needed to do. As a black agency CEO, I had endured 20 years of not talking openly about the painful reality of adland’s dirty secret: anti-black casting.

From my experience, the seemingly non-strategic act of 'Casting' is a process which sees those in the room decide who gets to be represented in the stories of society we blast out into the world. To validate my personal feelings, I surveyed 500 people and learned that the industry is ready for change. 94% of respondents believe that "the ad industry needs to take action on racist decision-making in the casting process”. I turned the findings into ‘Before You Shoot’: a pledge to stop anti-black casting decisions. After presenting the pledge at LIONS Live, I got a huge response. Many agencies and individuals celebrated the bravery of speaking out and committed to the pledge. Two months later and I am looking back at a summer like no other. One where taking personal action and demanding change in the industry has led to me meeting others on a similar path of action.

Mia Powell from PRETTYBIRD and Margo Mars from Lief taught me about making POC production crew quota commitments.

Alli Maxwell and Rohan Blair-Mangat taught me about NY-based ‘Change The Lens’ and LA-based Sydni Chustz taught me about her ‘Bid Black’ initiative. Omena Ukeleghe welcomed me into her fledgling community, 'Creative Jam Sessions'. Now, I'm helping her expand across Europe. I talked to Oriel Davis-Lyons about the creation of One School for black creatives, then Trevor and Rania Robinson about ‘Create Not Hate’ in the UK. Now, I'm helping build Holland’s first marketing diversity programme. We launched the New Society Rules research platform, through which I met incredible people from outside advertising, like extreme sports legend Phil Young and adventurer Dwayne Fields. Both on the front line of changing the black experience in outdoor sport. And importantly, I have had honest conversations with clients who want to do more in the diversity space but admit they don't know where to start. From my rollercoaster journey, I have learned that tackling real problems starts with personal action. We are an industry of creative problem-solving, after all.