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Diversity: The Word Is Not Enough


Traecy Smith, Diversity Director at The One Club, on how adland needs to be more proactive to tackle diversity

Diversity: The Word Is Not Enough

For The One Club, finding and fostering creative talent from multicultural sources has always been the goal. Every year, The One Club helps people from diverse backgrounds unlock their creativity and break into the advertising world.

With a host of initiatives including The One Club Creative Boot Camps, Here Are All The Black People creative fairs, and the Young Ones festival, The One Club is making a real difference to the lives of young creatives, whilst also helping the industry itself tackle diversity head on.

For Traecy Smith, Diversity Director at The One Club, the forecast is positive. But to create a truly diverse advertising industry across both race and gender, adland needs to commit.

“Many in our industry are just paying lip service to the topic of diversity,” says Traecy. “But The One Club is honestly trying to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. We always aim to keep the topic of diversity in the media spotlight, but we are also addressing the problem directly by providing people from multicultural backgrounds the real opportunities they need and deserve.”

The One Club’s diversity initiatives have given hundreds of young students, graduates, and professionals new to the business the opportunity to showcase their creative talents in front of some of the biggest agencies and creative powerhouses in advertising.

The One Club’s Creative Boot Camps, for example, have been running since 2010 and test attendees’ creative talents by providing them with a challenging creative brief. During the four-day event, participants not only learn about the creative process at the core of advertising, but are also given the chance to create, present and pitch to a real client.

This baptism of fire forces those involved to be at the top of their game from the off, but, according to Traecy, the participants have created such incredible work on such a consistent basis that she is no longer surprised.

“The originality and creativity of the work our boot campers deliver is incredible. We’ve been running the Creative Boot Camps for so long now that I’m rarely surprised at how talented the participants are, but the skill levels and artistry on display always reassures me that achieving a truly diverse industry will benefit everyone.”

Since the first Creative Boot Camps in Atlanta and New York, The One Club has taken its program global. Spanning eight cities across three continents, the events have opened up the advertising industry to a whole new cross-section of talent. From Cape Town to Chicago, Los Angeles to London, The One Club is bringing together a diverse range of creative talent.

For Camille Yaptinchay, who attended the 2014 LA Creative Boot Camp before securing a role at 72andsunny, The One Club’s events are characterised by a feature essential to the growth of diversity – collaboration.

“What’s wonderful about the Creative Boot Camps is that they let everyone who applies participate. The entire experience is very challenging, but I learned a whole new level of collaboration through it all. Getting to the best ideas meant accepting every member of the team’s thoughts and opinions.”

Beyond the hugely successful Creative Boot Camps, The One Club also hosts the annual Here Are All The Black People (HAATBP) creative fair. The brainchild of industry veterans Jimmy Smith and Jeff Goodby, HAATBP was created to give real world solutions to a question that advertising and many other professions should be asking themselves – ‘where are all the black people?’

For Sonja Johnson, who won the live talent pitch contest in 2015 before landing a Junior Art Director role at Droga5, this was exactly the question she found herself pondering: “After applying to about 50 different agencies in California, only to be told that while my work was great my lack of experience made me too hard to hire, I was feeling truly defeated. One afternoon as I sat in my parents’ house thinking about this conundrum, I typed into my browser, ‘where are all the black creatives?’. I was shocked when it threw back a blog asking the same question. I read through one creative’s account of being black in advertising and saw myself in his story. At the end of the blog there were three suggestions for what a young black person could do, and one was the One Club’s Here Are All The Black People. The rest as they say, is history.”

With portfolio-building workshops, portfolio reviews and invaluable opportunities to network, interview and learn from some of the most respected creatives in the industry, all anchored around the immensely popular, if a little daunting, live talent pitch contest, the one-day HAATBP event has given many their first career break.  

Winners of the live talent pitch are guaranteed interviews with the HAATBP agency sponsors, and for Danielle McCoy, a two-time HAATBP attendee and 2013 live talent pitch winner, the event opened the door to an industry she never even considered, leading to her taking her first steps towards her current role as a Junior Designer at Wieden + Kennedy.

“I think the unique thing about the way HAATBP promotes diversity is that it doesn’t feel like some mandated agenda,” explains Danielle. “Often, when diversity gets discussed in the advertising stratosphere, to me, it can feel very hollow. There’s a genuineness about HAATBP that conveys a sincere desire to highlight multicultural emerging talent.” 

“From my experience as an attendee, as well as hearing about the experiences of my friends who have also attended, the consensus is that HAATBP feels like it was created with us in mind. I think The One Club has a unique understanding of how critical diversity is to the success of the industry, as well as a unique grasp of the needs of diverse and multicultural individuals.”

In order to create real diversity, adland must learn that actions speak louder than words. As Traecy comments: “Just talking about diversity isn’t enough; the industry must take real action to create real change. Having said that, I am an optimist and I see agencies implementing forward-thinking initiatives all the time. What drives The One Club, and should drive the entire industry, is making this innovative thinking standard rather than scarce.”

To tackle the issue of diversity, and many other issues for that matter, collaboration is the key, as Traecy concludes: “We’re very fortunate to have the support of The One Club Board of Directors, a collection of industry leaders who are dedicated to promoting diversity in our industry.  They have sponsored our programs over the years and provided our attendees with expert advice and job opportunities, including Glenn Cole, CCO at the ever supportive 72andSunny, and recently appointed Board member Mark Tutssel, Global CCO at Leo Burnett, which has supported our Creative Boot Camps for the past six years."


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The One Club for Creativity, Mon, 09 May 2016 15:36:54 GMT