Adland is fast to react. A fortnight ago, POCC — a group we admire and are inspired by — called for an end to silence by agencies. Already underway were 200+ signatories on an open letter calling for action to be released in Campaign, ourselves included. By the end of that week, the letter had been dismissed as not enough.
Fast to react, slow to adapt?
Danielle Henderson spoke out against the transience of social media, of people putting up a blank square and then swiftly returning to recipe and facemask posts. Within marketing itself, the weird collision of brands and #BlackLivesMatter even reached our choice of tea. Here too lies a danger — that a box is ticked, an awards entry filled out whilst the world just moves on without foundational change. As one person said internally “It feels like everyone posted their black squares and that was enough for them!”.
Reflection is a must. Change is required.
We’ve experienced this first hand, our speed to sign the open letter enabled a moment of solidarity and agreement to act, but not properly reflect. Unclear what new actions we would take, we abstained from posting a black square. Our internal dialogue went like this: silence isn’t an option, but inauthentic bandwagoning isn’t either.
Turning towards sustainable action
In 2018, And Rising set-out a number of commitments as a newly formed B Corporation — a movement of companies that believe they must:
Be the change we want to see in the world, that all business be conducted as if people and place matter and that to do means acting on the understanding that we are dependent upon one another, responsible for each other and future generations.
Here, we recognise, revisit and own the commitments we made as a set of actions against racism specifically:
1. Continue to promote Black and Brown talent
We will keep diversity in the DNA of And Rising and seek to grow our ratios. We will continue to take a hard look at where we find our talent — beyond the ad schools and in the communities.
We will continue to support the development of young, underserved and hard-to-reach talent through existing and future partnerships.
We will continue to invest in, work for and promote our clients that positively impact the lives of non-white young people.
2. Being able to bring your ‘whole selves’ to work
We strive for an environment where people feel they can bring their whole selves — and their opinions — to work. The reality is that most business today still passively discourages this.
Partners will make sure that the way in which creative reviews work is protected and upheld. To eliminate as many of the blocks to candour as possible — fear of saying something stupid, being intimidated — whatever it is.
Giving people ‘agency within the agency’ is the lifeblood of our creative culture. When people can bring their whole selves to work, creativity is enhanced because the whole system is open to difference.
The process at the heart of the agency ensures that the agency is made up of different voices. Giving power to the individual voices within the agency and setting conditions where this meld can create transformative outcomes.
These commitments must be understood specifically through the lens of what people of colour experience as on-going racism, big and small. Keith A. Caver and Ancella B. Livers spell the ways in which white people and their colleagues of colour experience the workplace differently explains this comprehensively and will now form one of the required readings of our on-boarding process.
3. Representation in our work and creative output
We have measured non-white representation in our creative output in the past and will continue to do so as part of our impact reporting.
The underrepresentation of groups from BAME backgrounds in advertising causes a negative impact. So too can tokenism. There are pros and cons to applying positive discrimination in such matters — an open meritocracy, suited to the goals of any given campaign is the ideal. However, it is recognised that systemic (often unintentional) bias exists in organisations, creative departments and through the entire talent supply chain, to production companies and directors. These must be always taken into account as part of any decision making process.
We have to get this right — or we all fail. As such, we will support the use of anti-racism amendments to the industry-standard contract that tackles these issues head-on. These have been developed by Lief, capturing the thoughts of directors across the industry in the hope that “this powerful moment leads to hard commitments, and ensures it is not just performative”. Download shareable squares citing these amendments by clicking here.
Every employee is given the opportunity to take one week paid (in addition to holiday) to volunteer for the causes or initiatives they are passionate about.
We want to inspire another generation to speak up. We stand by our policy that gives employees paid time off to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience protests. They can if they wish complete protest training in advance, which we will offer at the company’s cost. If an And Rising employee is arrested during an act of nonviolent civil disobedience in support of an environmental or social justice issue And Rising will reimburse the full cost of legal and bail.
Building a sustained, changed future
It’s become clear that internally many are unaware of these commitments made, now revised. It is our duty not just to promote them, but live and breathe them. As such, these updated commitments will now form part of our employee handbook and will be measured as part of our B Corporation recertification.
The process of active change begins with ourselves — individually — living the advances we want to see. It links to the advances we want to create in the company, the industry, in business and in society at large. Then. Now. Forever.
And Rising condemns racism in all its forms and we stand in solidarity with everyone around the world doing the same.
Image credit: Mattia Faloretti