From its origin in Galveston, Texas in 1865, Juneteenth commemorates African American emancipation in the US. Why do you think it has taken so long for this day to become a holiday?
While tragic, looking at it through an academic angle Juneteenth is a case study of how effective institutional racism operates as a system of oppression. Throughout American history, Black people have been denied the truth and accuracy of the re-telling of their history. Carter G. Woodson, author of The Miseducation of the Negro, said it best: “When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do.” It makes sense that it took the murder of George Floyd and a resulting social justice movement to finally acknowledge Juneteenth as a national holiday—it can no longer be denied that systemic racism is alive and thriving today.
Will you be giving space to people who wish to celebrate? How does observing this day create more awareness?
We look at Juneteenth twofold: First and foremost, Juneteenth is a sacred holiday for the Black American diaspora and descendants of enslaved people. On the other hand, there is a responsibility to ensure that Juneteenth is grounded as a learning opportunity and reflection for non-Black Americans to sit with the legacy of enslavement within the United States. We encourage non-Black Americans to pay respect to Juneteenth by learning, volunteering, and committing their resources to dismantling white supremacy and eliminating systemic racism.
At Ogilvy, we are taking the day to honor Juneteenth by doing just that, through supporting nonprofits that help tackle these complex, pervasive relics of oppression through education, policy, advocacy, and access to quality healthcare and other direct services.
Equal opportunity starts at the grassroots level and the structure of the advertising industry makes it extremely challenging for BIPOC to enter, without the right network. Do you have any programs in place to make it possible for underserved communities to access the industry?
Ogilvy offers several programs to ensure that folks representing underserved communities can access the industry:
- The Associates Program is an 18 month rotational pipeline program for entry-level talent. The program goes back 15 years.
- MAIP x Summer Internship partnership: We work with 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program to source interns from underrepresented communities.
- The Ogilvy School of Creativity launched in 2020 to address this pipeline at the very beginning: introducing Black high school students to opportunities in the advertising industry. Through this program, high school students learned about creative career opportunities in the advertising industry. Through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), 9 students embarked on a journey where they were exposed to parts of the business and participated in an apprenticeship where they learned firsthand experience.
- Ogilvy sponsors two creatives at The One School, a portfolio school addressing the systemic bias in hiring and a lack of representation that prevents Black creatives from entering the field. Additionally, Ogilvy provides mentors to help create a network of supporting and guidance for the new generation.
Do you think our industry is progressing well enough towards greater diversity at the executive level?
We are in the early stages of it. We are acknowledging that there is a problem, but the reality is BIPOC folks are still denied access to the industry, especially at the more senior levels. This is indicative of an industry-wide issue, and more swift action needs to be taken.
In a 2020 report, the ANA Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing found that executives at major agencies, including WPP, were between 82-85% white. A further breakdown found that only 3% of 870 chief marketing officers were Black.
We are trying to challenge the operational mechanisms of that system. Radically changing our approach is the only way we’ll see more executives in the advertising industry. At our agency, it’s our job to have a pulse on the “culture.” But unfortunately, without authentic representation, we’re co-opting culture from BIPOC communities for mass consumption without context or homage.
It behooves agencies to ensure that that representation is in existence across the board—at the executive level as well as throughout the organization. This industry is shepherds of culture, and we own the responsibility to get it right. That means representation is a necessity for us, because some things you just have to live to know. We have a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction.