HP on proving the business case for diversity in marketing

HP hopes its data-supported argument for diversity, the launch of a new mentor programme and the introduction of a diversity algorithm will help prove the business case for diversity.

HP is proving the business case for diversity in marketing, with new data showing its diversity schemes are having a positive impact.

The tech giant has compared the impact of ads created before and after the launch of its 2016 diversity initiative, with Brand Monitor showing a “significant” six-point increase in purchase intent and HP business drivers in just one year. Separate Marketing Mix Analysis, run by Nielsen, captured a 33% increase in revenue per impression.

Antonio Lucio, HP’s chief marketing and communications officer, explains the significance of the results: “Historically, intellectually and academically the case for diversity has been proven time and time again, but what we did not have was the business case for diversity in the context of marketing and advertising and that was the aim of this data.”

Lucio admits that proving a correlation has been “challenging” given the brand has been doing well in general, however. “All this is happening at a moment when our business is doing well so it was interesting to try to create an independent variable to prove the value of diversity,” he says. Nonetheless, he is adamant that despite not being able to establish a direct correlation: “We can say diversity has become one of the drivers in our business”.

More clients should try to build a business case for diversity so once and for all we can prove a data-supported argument as opposed to a conceptual one.

Antonio Lucio, HP

This is part of a sustained effort by HP to make its marketing more diverse, which has seen it increase the number of female directors working on its ads to 59% since 2016 and the creation an agency scorecard scheme to hold its agencies to account on diversity.

Lucio says: “In order to not just change our business but to change the industry we need a holistic and systemic change, which means it needs to be a comprehensive plan that takes care of clients, agencies and production houses.”

He hopes this data will encourage other businesses to follow suit. “I think more clients and agencies should publish their scorecards on diversity, more clients should try to build a business case for diversity so once and for all we can prove a data-supported argument as opposed to a conceptual one,” he says.

Lack of people of colour in senior roles

However, despite making great strides in diversity – notably exceeding targets on female representation with some agencies seeing a 50% increase – HP discovered it was still failing when it came to people of colour.

“Three of our five agencies fell short on people of colour in senior leadership roles and what we found was they needed to build an internal pipeline of experience to help them get particular roles,” Lucio explains.

To help improve diversity in senior roles, HP has developed a pilot scheme for racially and ethnically diverse talent in partnership with Cannes Lion dubbed #MoreLikeMe.

Karen Kahn, HP’s chief communications officer who spearheaded the #MoreLikeMe campaign, says: “Gender is the low hanging fruit, it’s where everybody is focused – it was our focus in year one – but we are not doing well enough for people of colour, in part because this is the harder area.”

“We thought, how can we turbocharge people of colour’s careers in that pivotal time, after five to 10 years experience, to help them fuel what’s in their pipeline?”

#MoreLikeMe’s aim is to identify high potential people of colour across HP’s five agencies, which will each select three candidates to take part in an educational programme at Cannes Lions in June, followed by a 12-month mentoring programme.

Each applicant was asked to showcase their portfolio and submit an essay on why diversity was important to them. Agencies gave their recommendations but it was ultimately HP who reviewed the entries and made the final cut. Facebook has also joined the scheme submitting three of its employees for the pilot, to take the total number up to 18.

Lucio talks passionately about some of the essays that have stuck with him: “One woman, whose father is African and mum is a white American, wrote in her application ‘diversity is something not only to be seen but more importantly it needs to be heard’ and said if she was selected she would expect to not only get a seat at the table but also a microphone.

Gender is the low hanging fruit, it’s where everybody is focused – it was our focus in year one – but we are not doing well enough for people of colour.

Karen Kahn, HP

“Another one was a guy from Columbia who said ‘diversity is not a box to be ticked but rather the context by which we tell our stories’ which is so incredible.”

HP has intentionally kept the group small as Kahn believes this way it will “have an authentic impact”, giving these few “a meaningful experience [so they can] come back as real instigators of change”.

“We want [participants] to go back to their agencies as ambassadors and activists and to take their time with the mentor scheme so they become part of this fantastic pipeline that we hope we are building,” she adds.

“We didn’t do it for the ripple in the industry, we did it because it was important on our own journey to become a more diverse organisation. We can’t change the world, we can only change who touches our business. It’s not a marketing programme, it’s a really honest initiative for everybody who touches us to ensure they can be the best they can.”

Further details of the programme will be announced at Cannes Lions by Lucio who will be joined by British Vogue editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, actress Thandie Newton and ADCOLOR founder, Tiffany R Warren.

Launching a diversity algorithm

In addition to measuring the impact of its diversity drive, HP is also launching an algorithm to measure diversity in partnership with The Female Quotient’s Girls’ Lounge. The algorithm will measure a variety of hard and soft metrics from the diversity in different roles to equal pay to eventually build a quantitative model that will give an inclusion index.

Lucio explains: “At the end of the day all the measurable progress that we are making for both women and people of colour will only be sustained with inclusion and that’s what we want to analyse.”

HP has long been a supporter of increasing diversity; it was the first sponsor of Free The Bid, an initiative to tackle the gender gap in the advertising industry, which has since seen been joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and Diageo.

Lucio says: “When we signed the bid we had not worked with any female directors on our campaigns. Today [12 months later] we have produced 53 global campaigns, and 59% of them went to female directors as a result of Free The Bid, which is incredible.”

Lucio is quick to give credit where it’s due and is always focused on the issue rather than heaping praise on himself or HP. “The pace of on diversity and inclusion needs to be accelerated but there are beautiful examples of people who are making a difference and Free The Bid is one of them and deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Lucio and Kahn are adamant diversity is something that shouldn’t just be talked about but acted on if there is to be real change for underrepresented groups.

“We’re not doing a favour to anyone, we’re not stealing empty chairs, we are just asking our agencies and ourselves to look harder for the talent that is already available in the market on both the female and people of colour front. This isn’t a charity, this isn’t a values issue, it’s a business imperative and the fact our numbers are beginning to look the way that they look proves that,” he says