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MITX FutureX Summit - Summer 2020 Recap

Recapping MITX’s FutureX Summit


2020 continues to be a year unlike any other, forcing brands and companies to reexamine their own values and make sharp pivots in the face of public demands. To help make sense of it all, we joined the FutureX Summit to hear marketers, including AMP Agency’s VP of Strategy Greer Pearce, share how they are fostering creativity within remote teams, discuss how advertisers can improve their diversity efforts and cover what trends are on the horizon.

 

Keeping The Creativity At The Kitchen Table

Panel Participants:

-    Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy at AMP Agency

-    Liz Paqette, Director of Brand at Drizly

-    Dustin Devlin, Co-Founder/Creative Director at VAGRANTS

As advertisers, creativity is the foundation of great work. Many of us were drawn to the profession with the promise of a creative environment, impassioned and starry-eyed at the thought of brainstorm sessions backdropped by exposed brick and whiteboard illustrations. Those things are now a distant memory, but the demand for impactful campaigns is as pressing as ever. So how do we cultivate creativity in working environments that are so vastly different from the spaces that we signed up for? Here is what we heard:

Lean into Tech

To start, each speaker agreed that they are now leaning more heavily into tools like Slack, Google docs and video meetings to help foster connectivity between teammates. Greer noted, though, that it’s important to switch things up once video fatigue kicks in. For a change of scenery, she recommends picking up your cell, leaving your home and going on a “walking meeting”. 

Step Away

In fact, getting out of the house is one of the primary ways that Greer finds inspiration. “My space is utilitarian,” she explains, so her creativity is sparked by getting out of the workspace versus attempting to turn it into a creative hub. In the old world, we could happen upon inspiration unexpectedly: on the bus, grabbing lunch down the street, bumping into someone we haven’t seen in a while. Now, we have to be more deliberate about making those moments happen. Set time aside to step away from your working environment, Greer suggests. Your creative side will thank you for it.

Implement Workflow Optimizations  

Thinking positively, Greer also discussed the ways in which working remotely can benefit a company’s workflow. AMP has offices nationwide, and previously, each office held all-staff meetings for that region only. Now, those meetings have merged into one nationwide sync that creates a sense of unity across each region. In Greer’s words, going virtual serves as an “equalizer” across locations, departments and individuals because we’re all experiencing it together.

Reexamine Your Strategy

There are also examples of this “new normal” playing a beneficial role in strategic thinking. For an AMP client in the home storage industry, a marketing campaign was nearly ready to launch when the pandemic hit the mainstream. As countless other brands also experienced, this disruption rendered the original campaign obsolete and the approach needed to be reevaluated through the lens of this “new normal”. The final result was something even more impactful, featuring “real people” in their homes (one of the only ways to safely film content) and leaning into the deeply relatable desire to declutter one’s space during quarantine. 

Strategic thinking demands creativity, which Greer believes everyone should hone. “Just because your title doesn’t say ‘Creative’ doesn’t mean that you’re not creative,” she explains. Everyone in advertising, from producers to designers to strategists, needs to exercise their creative muscles in order to solve complex problems for brands.

That said, with inspiration playing hard-to-get these days, we might just need to look a little more closely for it.

 

Time for Action: How the Digital Marketing Community Can Work Together to Build a Diverse Workforce

Panel Participants:

-    Corean Canty, COO at Goodway Group

-    Melanie Liu, Video Producer at Digitas

-    Noor Naseer, Host/Producer, Adtech Unfiltered and Senior Director of Media Innovations + Technology at Centro

-    Jayme Washington, Founder & CEO at Washtone

Advertising is rooted in an acute understanding of the people that make up our society and creating campaigns that reflect their values. Because of this, advertisers play a crucial role in shaping the way society thinks and behaves. One major problem, though, is that the advertising industry has historically suffered from a lack of diversity in its workforce, with diverse candidates brushed off under the guise of limited talent in those spaces. So how do we break the cycle of non-diverse thinking in advertising?

The first step is education. Before diving in and standing for something you don’t fully understand, Noor explains that brands and individuals need to take a step back and map out their approach. Here are three steps that she recommends taking to foster diversity in the workplace:

Set Intentions 

At the risk of jumping on a bandwagon when diversity is mainstream in conversation, advertisers need to examine why they are interested in championing diversity in the first place. You’ll be better equipped to make an impact once you have a firm understanding of what you want to contribute to the diversity and inclusion conversation.

Turn to Existing Resources

A lot of work has already been done to promote diversity and inclusion, so in many cases, advertisers should turn to the experts instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Furthermore, Melanie explains that “It’s a marathon not a sprint”, and people who are new to the conversation should be okay with the fact that they won’t have an advanced vocabulary compared to those who have been involved in the conversation for years. To make a bigger impact, seek out experts and industry-specific resources.

Be Proactive

In terms of hiring diverse talent, the work doesn’t start with existing applicants. Companies should reach out to individuals as early as high school to spark interest in advertising. In doing so, they will help foster diverse talent from the start so that companies don’t get to the point where they are rejecting diverse applicants because they don’t have the right skills. Furthermore, Melanie explains that if you are telling yourself that there isn’t enough diverse talent out there, you aren’t looking hard enough. There are numerous organizations dedicated to fostering diversity in advertising, such as Bid Black and Free the Bid to name a few.

It’s easy to think about diversity as a pie chart, but companies “have to understand all of the variables”, Corean explains. The most important part of diversity in the workforce is diverse thought rather than just numbers, so companies need diversity in every department rather than just the organization as a whole. Finally, once diverse talent has been placed, leaders need to create an inclusive environment that encourages them to stay. The first step is here is awareness and ensuring that you can identify your own bias as well as bias within your team.

 

Brands and Social Justice

Panel Participant: Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research.

Historically, brands weren’t playing a public role in social justice and most would intentionally shy away from the topic. Clearly things have shifted dramatically, but what’s so different about 2020? Dipanjan Chatterjee tackles this question by examining the “three agents of change”:

A Different Type of Brand 

In the early 2000s, transactional brands like ExxonMobil and Citigroup were king. Now, relationship-driven brands like Apple and Facebook have taken the lead with campaigns and products that evoke emotion. As brands became more humanistic, consumers began to expect something greater than just function.

A Different Type of Consumer

In decades past, brands wouldn’t touch social justice with a ten-foot pole. Now, 60% of consumers expect brands to take a stance on racial justice – a percentage that increases when looking specifically at younger consumers. Based on this, brands will be under increased pressure to champion social justice as the younger generation assumes more buying power.  

A Different Type of Employee

It might not seem this way at first, but employees are more of a stakeholder than customers. That’s because as a brand, virtue signaling might fool your consumer, but it will not fool your employee. Individuals identify themselves with their employer more so than the type of soda they drink or credit card they use, so if an employer doesn't do the right thing those individuals are likely to move on. In fact, 39% of all job seekers have chosen not to pursue a job because of perceived lack of inclusion.

So, how should companies champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Dipanjan’s first piece of advice is to be honest. Most brands have skeletons in the closet, but if they don’t clear them out the brand cannot be credible. Clear the air, get involved, establish values and be true to them moving forward.

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