HP calls on marketing industry to unite on diversity

HP has been working with its agencies to improve the representation of women and minorities on its account but says it cannot solve the industry’s problems alone.

HP has seen big improvements in the representation of women and minorities both in its marketing teams and agencies over the past year, but says it now wants to work with the rest of the marketing industry to improve diversity across the board.

Speaking at Advertising Week New York today (26 September), HP’s CMO Antonio Lucio said that at its agencies, 61% of the people who work on its account around the world are now women, a 20 percentage point shift. In supervisory roles, 51% are now women where a year ago some of its agencies “started with zero”. And on senior creative, where its two lead agencies that produce 85% of its content started with zero, at least 40% are now female.

However, he admitted the needle on minorities “hasn’t moved as much as we want” and so that will be the focus for 2018.

“At HP Inc we wanted to have a company that reflected the priorities of the 21st Century,” he said. “In a company driven by innovation, we need diverse teams across the company. And within the marketing world we had an opportunity to really try to work within a group of people to create systemic change.

“We fundamentally believe the only way the industry can transform is when clients, agencies and production houses all transform at the same time and all operate to the same end game, which is having communications that reflect the priorities of the communities we serve.”

However, he went on to say that while HP is making progress, it needs scale and momentum for there to be change across the industry. To do that, he believes it requires “significant clients” to ask their agencies and production houses to diversify, institutional programmes of internships and that all marketers buy into gender bias principles.

“If we can [complete these three action] we can in a systemic way drive the changes and transformation that are required,” he added.

Verizon is another brand that has already made a start on this work. It has an internship programme dubbed Ad Fellows that gives graduates the opportunity to rotate across disciplines – from client-side marketing to media agencies, production houses and creative agencies. The first 20 people have just started the programme and it has a hiring target of 90%.

The idea came about, explained Verizon CMO Diego Scotti, because when the company was having conversations with its agency partners around diversity, it realised that everyone was doing something but none had enough scale to make a real difference.

“The biggest issue we had was scale,” he explained. “If we are all trying to do our own little thing we’ll never get the scale we need.

Verizon has also been working to improve the diversity of its agencies. It has set up an agency from scratch and it is 50% female, 50% male, 50% white and 50% BAME. That, said Scotti, “dispels the myth that exists that no talent is available”.

Unilever has also been doing a lot of work on diversity and in particular gender stereotypes. Its ‘Unstereotype Alliance’, which started out as its own internal project, now has the backing of a number of major advertisers including HP. And Aline Santos, VP of marketing, says only by joining together can the ad industry help to eliminate stereotypes and promote inclusivity.

“There are many ways that we can differentiate versus our competitors. [Banishing stereotypes] is not one of them,” she concluded.

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