By Carlye King, Senior Account Manager, Agencies at Xandr
In January 2020 Google first announced plans to overhaul the digital sector by removing third-party cookies from Chrome. Regardless of your opinions or expertise on the now-delayed transition there is one thing that is certain: as an industry we jumped into action. Brands wanted identity solutions in pitches, contextual providers competed for differentiation, tech stacks either rebuilt their infrastructure or raced to market with an alternative ID. It became clear that we can jump to action when needed.
So why has it taken so long to see any measurable change when it comes to progressive issues in our industry? It’s been over two years since we saw a massive shift in commitments to DE&I, largely initiated by the Black Lives Matter movement, and while we may have seen some focus on DE&I in the workplace, there is still much to be done in the wider industry. We often hear people say that true progress takes time, but I wonder if the real reason is simply the lack of economic pressure to change.
Take progressive issues centre stage
How do we fast forward development on these issues if the economic impact isn’t there? For starters we need to bring this topic to the main stage. There are so many advertising technology conferences that draw thousands of attendees, but these tend to focus on CTV, identity and other economic industry focuses. So what if diverse media investment opportunities were also on the centre stage? These panels could be used to highlight how companies are combating the great resignation of women, or feature agencies meeting their black-owned media investment goals. These topics are just as important as CTV and identity, yet often remain side-stage features. Putting these conversations centre stage creates an opportunity for a meeting of the minds. It creates a space for industry leaders and influencers to talk about DE&I and enables companies to work together on wider industry solutions.
Executive action is essential
As well as panels and events, changes need to come from the top. Executive leadership needs to take an active role when it comes to addressing challenges of DE&I in our industry, but they are arguably the hardest group to pull in due to the lack of economic motivation. That’s not to say there isn’t a desire to provide change at the top levels of our industry, but the business must come first. If that’s the case, we need to continue positioning DE&I challenges as business-critical.
One way is to centre DE&I as a core part of any business decision. While it’s great to see execs making a pledge or sponsoring an event, we need those same execs to take ownership and lead by example. Whether you’re a brand, agency, or tech partner, if you sit at an executive level, you have the power to enact change. Senior leaders can make sure a diverse group of people are in rooms where decisions are being made. HR leaders can ensure that individuals conducting interviews are just as diverse as the pool of applicants. Office administrators can make sure they are working with minority-owned businesses. If you find yourself in a room with only people who look like you, call it out and change it. The Women in the Workplace 2022 McKinsey report found that “only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of colour,” it’s not hard to imagine how often big decisions are being made in one-dimensional rooms.
Pledging change is just the start
While acknowledging that change is needed and pledging to change is a great first step, we need to see action. If there isn’t industry change or economic pressure forcing our hand, then we need to set our own deadlines and hold ourselves to account. It may seem overwhelming to start tackling these issues, especially when there is no one size fits all solution, but we need to recognise that uncomfortable feeling as temporary while the growth that it represents as transformational. If you don’t know where to start, bring in industry experts to consult, educate and grow DE&I practices internally. Allow those with the expertise to guide the way and give them the autonomy to do so. What we are undertaking is no small feat, to entirely transform how an industry operates and the challenges it prioritises, but as we saw with identity in 2020, we can accomplish an incredible amount together.