“When I started my career, diversity (without the inclusion) was a topic of conversation in the legal and business worlds. Even though I worked just as hard as the other lawyers, I was often faced with reminders that I was (a) a woman and (b) Hispanic, which suggested to me that one of the reasons I was at the firm was to fulfill some statistic about diversity.” Adriana Estrada, Head of Strategy.
Today, diversity is no longer about the rote act of hiring from diverse backgrounds to fill a quota. The business case for diversity is clear and has proven out over time: ethnically diverse companies are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability, while gender diverse companies are 21% more likely to outperform companies in their sector.1 In an increasingly globalized and diverse world, diversity and inclusion are key competitive advantages.
With the United States on track to become ‘minority white’ by 2045, ethnic minority consumers are rising in number.2 The need for products, messaging, and, yes, people that represent diverse preferences will continue to grow. Inclusive teams are well-equipped to meet that need; an innate knowledge of different cultural viewpoints and perspectives simply cannot be replicated by research.
Beyond relevance, there is evidence that being in a cross-cultural environment can boost creativity.3 A multicultural team is better able to play off disparate new ideas and solutions that ultimately enable tremendous innovation.
As an agency, our role is to uncover relevant strategic insights, create captivating designs, and build transformative experiences that resonate with audiences from different backgrounds. Angela Wei, Milk Agency’s Managing Partner, believes that “… representation matters – not just at entry levels or middle management, but in executive leadership. How you recruit and hire is important, but more important is how you commit to creating cultural and infrastructure change in your organization.” We find that the act of ideation and creation with our diverse team and creative partners yields work that is far more original and reflective of the needs of today’s consumers.
We have seen this firsthand – last year, Milk Agency produced a library of visual assets for a Target fall campaign.
Its goal was to engage a young Gen Z audience on Instagram through “we see you” moments that reflect their diverse world in a way that addressed their needs and cultural interests.
Our approach felt emblematic of the shifting tides. We prioritized authenticity by ensuring both front-of-camera and behind-the-scenes diversity, with a minimum 50% BIPOC talent and crew. Why? When portraying people from multicultural backgrounds, to do so authentically is to have a team behind the camera that is sensitive to cultural nuances and understands the types of visual stereotypes to avoid. Only then would the images produced deeply and genuinely connect to our diverse audiences such that they may “feel seen.”
Behind the scenes, a lack of team diversity can create an echo chamber that leads to bad creative: things that fall flat or completely miss the mark. Take the Dove ad that showed a Black woman removing her shirt to reveal a White woman, implying that to be clean is to be White; or Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad debacle that trivialized the Black Lives Matter protests by playing off the iconic image of Leisha Evans taking a stand in Baton Rouge. More recently, the Richards Group is currently embroiled in an embarrassing public fall after its founder suggested a proposed ad campaign was “too Black” for Motel 6. These examples serve as cautionary tales in the creative industry; the bell tolls for the teams that stay homogenous.
In our business, creativity can be a mandate to show diversity. But in doing so, it necessitates cultivating inclusive and multicultural teams who can lend their culturally savvy gaze and sensitively weigh in on authentic points of view that help make the work great. One might even consider these guardrails for successful creative in the modern age.
Read more on our team’s thoughts on diversity: