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Recalibrating Cinco De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a day most Americans associate with two-for-one margaritas and bottomless salsa or maybe even with Mexican Independence. In reality, it’s the anniversary of a David vs. Goliath-esque battle that took place between Mexico and France in the 1860s. More than a century later, it was co-opted by alcohol marketers to sell booze to Spanish-speaking Americans. Quite the tenuous thread, considering that outside the state of Puebla–where the battle took place–it isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico. But this post isn’t intended to cancel Cinco de Mayo revelry; quite the opposite. With an Avocados from Mexico poll revealing that only 22% of Americans know what they’re actually raising their cervezas to every 5th of May, consider this a brief primer on how to celebrate a day of Mexican heritage, resilience, and pride respectfully, without the appropriation of a sombrero. As marketers ourselves, it’s the least we can do.    Picture it: Mexico, 1862.  What started as a naval invasion to secure debts owed by Mexico to European governments turned into a sly attempt by France to take over the country. Emperor Napoleon III–nephew of his namesake Napoleon Bonaparte–set his sights on claiming a French-backed stronghold in North America. But before his troops could invade Mexico City, they were remarkably defeated by Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza and his men in Puebla de Los Ángeles. Though Napoleon ultimately occupied the country until 1867, this battle remains a symbolic and historic moment of Mexican resilience and sovereignty with as few as 2,000 Mexican soldiers fighting off three times as many French ones. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Mexicans living in California–wary of France’s Confederate support–regaled their underdog countrymen’s victory over foreign powers with the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations stateside. Today, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place in Los Angeles, California.    From cultural pride to corporate gains   In the 20th century, Chicano activists embraced the holiday as an occasion to celebrate their broader Mexican heritage and fight for their civil rights. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is also said to have had a hand in raising its popularity through US-Latin American policy. But, as happens with most holidays, Cinco de Mayo’s origins were usurped by commercial interests. In the 1980s, beverage brands saw it as a prime opportunity to sell more beer and launched marketing campaigns to Spanish-speaking Americans. As Paste magazine put it, “An ethnically-themed holiday falling on a relatively blank calendar space between St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day, just as the weather is starting to warm up? Nothing could be more perfect.” The rest, they say, is history. Or rather, historical ambiguity?    Celebrating responsibly  Of course, supporting your favorite local Mexican restaurant or bar on Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful thing. But without the sobering context and history of a day that is typically anything but sober, it’s easy for Cinco de Mayo to simply be an excuse to throw back too many tequila shots at a chain restaurant wearing a stick-on mustache when it could be an opportunity to authentically immerse yourself in the culture. So, without further adieu, here are a few ways we recommend celebrating and a few that should be absolutely stricken from the itinerary. By now it should be obvious, but for those not of Mexican descent who may be unclear: trust your instincts and forgo dressing as a caricature of Mexican attire. That means no sombreros, no ponchos (called serape and jorongo in Spanish), and absolutely no fake mustaches. Embrace the culture without making a mockery of it. In this same vein–for marketers and everyday folks–don’t give English words a Spanish flair in an effort to rhyme or be cute. It’s not Cinco de Drinko.   Go ahead and sip on a freshly muddled margarita, an ice-cold tequila, or even a smoky mezcal, but refrain from getting sloppy at best or offensive at worst. Better still, talk to your bartender and ask to try a cocktail you haven’t had before like a paloma, michelada, or horchata. Beyond enjoying Mexican spirits or beers, it’s the perfect opportunity to eat delicious, authentic food. Seek out family-owned Mexican restaurants, food trucks, or ingredients you haven’t tried before, and avoid chains if you can. Take a Mexican cooking class taught by a Mexican or Mexican-American chef and learn how to make traditional recipes at home like mole poblano, a traditional sauce of Puebla. Read a book by a Mexican or Mexican-American author, watch a Mexican show on your streaming service of choice, or sing along to a playlist of Mexican musicians. Attend a Cinco de Mayo festival in your area to experience traditional music, dancing and dress, and activities for the whole family.  Tell your friends what you learned in this blog post! Or better yet, continue reading about the intersectionality of Mexican and American history.     AMP and Advantage Employees Weigh in on Cinco de Mayo  “In my family, Cinco de Mayo is usually combined with Mother’s Day and boxing fights. It’s a weekend of bonding, delicious food, and good times. However, I did grow up seeing it celebrated inappropriately by my peers. As an adult, I notice that there is more of an effort to explain what the day actually commemorates and how to celebrate appropriately. The comradery of this makes me more proud to be Mexican-American and even encourages me to celebrate my culture more with my family.”  - Destiny Velazquez, Engagement Strategist at AMP “Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that in Mexico we don't really celebrate. As Mexicans or Mexican-Americans in America, we cringe about [it] due to the insensitive depiction of our heritage and culture and seeing it narrowed down to maracas, sombreros, and culturally appropriated Americanized dishes that fail to represent the rich gastronomy that Mexico has to offer. As a result, as an ERG, we originally chose to bypass Cinco de Mayo as an occasion to celebrate or even acknowledge. But the more we thought about it, the more we thought about the need for us to be part of the solution. Cinco de Mayo will not go away, and we do not want it to go away. We want more people to embrace it and celebrate it appropriately. It is an opportunity to share our culture, tradition, and history, and it’s an opportunity to bring our communities closer together.”  - Gerado Orta, Co-Chair HOLA (Advantage’s LatinX ERG) and VP Strategic Planning at InMarketing Services    "Yo soy (I am) Peruana. In the town I grew up in [in] New Jersey, Cinco de Mayo was not something I saw celebrated or acknowledged; most of my friends were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or from South America. And because I am Peruvian, Cinco de Mayo was not part of my cultural upbringing. It wasn’t until I began working professionally in corporate America, that I was introduced to Cinco de Mayo. Frankly, it never felt right the way the holiday was presented, associated with tacos, margaritas, and sombreros. I have friends who are Mexican and saw the holiday as perpetuating stereotypes about Mexican culture. I did my research and learned more about the origins and significance of the holiday – something, unfortunately, missed when talking about Cinco de Mayo. If you want to celebrate or partake in another communities’ cultural traditions or celebrations, learn about [them] first. Sometimes people confuse dressing in a certain way or imitating another cultures’ traditions as appreciation, [when] what they are doing is appropriating another culture. This can be off-putting or seen as disrespectful by individuals in the other community.  Even if the intent was meant to be positive, “I was just trying to celebrate x culture,”  what’s important to remember is the impact it can have on another community. The best advice I can give [is] showing appreciation for another culture starts with educating yourself first on what’s acceptable and what’s not before taking any action. And if you make a mistake, which is bound to happen (I mean we are human), acknowledge it, learn from it, and don’t do it again." - Giannina Seaman, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Advantage Solutions

Katelyn Crowley, VP Talent Acquisition Chats With Authority Magazine

“In a world where there are so many people shouting, I want to hear from the silent observer.”                                                                                                                       - Katelyn Crowley, Vice President Talent Management & Organizational Performance, AMP Agency and Advantage Solutions Katelyn Crowley leads AMP’s human resources department, as well as many other agencies in the Advantage network. The post-pandemic job market is a fierce one, and she has taken this time to increase her knowledge and create and implement talent acquisition strategies that can thrive in the current competitive landscape. Katelyn shared her insights with Authority Magazine in their latest article. Read the full article here.

Cori Geiger - AMP Agency Employee Spotlight

“Loneliness isn’t the same as aloneness. You are lonely when you are living an unfulfilled life, as opposed to experiencing being alone, that teaches you peace and tranquility. My soul is full”                                                                                                      - Cori Geiger, Senior Project Manager, currently driving around the USA in her van as a solo female traveler   The pandemic left many unemployed, and pushed us to revert back into our consciousness to become more aware of what truly matters in our lives; what adds value. Being a remote-first company, AMP believes in enabling our employees to work with passion, but never to lose the inspirations that push them to be their individual best selves. Working remotely has allowed so many employees to achieve life-long goals of living in their dream cities, or spending time with family. For our very first employee spotlight, we’d like you all to meet Cori Geiger, who is taking full advantage of living life to her fullest, all while exceeding in her professional career here at AMP.    When the pandemic hit, Cori Geiger, 29, was faced with a life-changing experience when she lost her job and had to move back in with her mother. Fast forward to October 2021, she built a van from scratch and has traveled to more than 25 states with her dogs, Ellie and Roo, and is crushing it as a full time senior project manager at AMP Agency. She has over 45,000 followers on social media glued to her travel diaries every day.   We sat down with Cori and had the most wholesome conversation: Was the #vanlife ever a possibility for you? How did you come to the decision that this is how you want to live your life? C: It was never a thing. I worked in events for a while and got laid off after covid hit. Soon after, I had to move in with my mom at 29 years old, I honestly felt like a failure. I lost everything I built up to that point. The five months that followed were crucial to my psychological reset, I had been hustling my whole adult life and never paused to take a break- It was almost as if I had a clean slate and I saw it as an opportunity. This time gave me the brainspace I needed to slow down and really think about what I truly value in life. A big win for me was getting hired by AMP who just decided to go fully remote, it was like a wake up call. The idea really came from a Youtube series on tiny houses and living the minimalist life, so I was always intrigued by living small! And then when I discovered #vanlife it all clicked that this just made sense for my life.   So, how did you start the project? Where did you start? Did you build the van yourself? C: It was definitely a process- I was trusting the process mostly. I bought the van in January 2021, and it took me over 8 months to fully build it. With my full-time job, I spent most of my time after work and on the weekends on the van. I had to use resources on the internet and extensive research to bring the van to life, so alongside all the building, I was learning so much about the whole process. Almost as if I was building my life back together from scratch, by myself. In September 2021 the van was complete and I hit the road on Labor Day weekend.  Check out the final product in this Youtube video.   Talk to us about the plan you had in mind- any maps or travel itineraries? C: I did have a plan for the east coast, and ended up driving faster to avoid the climate conditions that brutal winter weather New England is hit with every year. When living the van-life, you have a loose plan, butit’s very interchangeable and a lot of it is made up on the fly, going with the flow.    Were you scared initially?  C: Being a solo female traveler, I was scared for the first few months getting into the van. I had to get past the mental aspect of being afraid, and traveling and working full-time. There is real actual fear when you feel in danger, and then there is anxiety and worrying about the “what ifs” - those are very different and after time you learn to calm down the anxious fear. Just like anything, the more you practice the more comfortable you get. There’s a stigma around solo female travelers and how unsafe it is to be alone, but from my first hand experience, I feel very safe the majority of the time.    About work… How did you get yourself focused, given you being on the road 24/7? C: At first it does feel like you’re on vacation, and I was definitely in vacation mode. But then it hits you.. This is your life and your home. So just like you would get settled in a new home, I also got settled in the van as my home and started creating daily routines that helped me stay focused and productive.    Talk to us about your experience with strangers while on the road C: So funny story… once during traveling I got my van stuck (badly), and some strangers offered to help me. It took two whole hours out of their day and about 4-5 kind strangers stopped what they were doing to help me. Being on the road, I got out of the negative spin that “the world is a terrible space.” Energy is everything, your energy attracts the energy you give off.    Being a solo-traveler, how do you treat loneliness?  C: Well, loneliness and aloneness are two very separate things. Just because I am alone in a van doesn’t mean that I’m lonely. I feel super fulfilled every day, in my aloneness. I wake up everyday excited for the possibilities, and am proud of my life so I don’t ever have time to sit around and feel lonely because I am just so happy with each new day.    That’s beautiful, how about your two little furry travel companions? C: Yes! I’ve had Ellie for two years, and just adopted Roo while I was still on the road. I sensed  that Ellie might need a furry friend while on the road, and there came Roo. Now they are best buddies and I can tell Ellie is enjoying the road a lot more with her buddy and Roo is the absolute sweetest pup!   What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to the one reading this? C: If you have a goal and it seems really hard and out of reach, take those baby steps, just take that one step forward, no matter how small or big. You have to trust your gut and follow it’s calling. This is my message to you: GO FOR IT! --- This brings our employee spotlight of the month to an end. We are amazed at the life that Cori has built for herself, all while excelling in her career as a senior project manager here at AMP Agency. Oftentimes we get to hear people doing all these cool things, but the stories behind those humans are what enable others to take risks and bring more value to their lives. While what Cori is doing has its fair share of struggles, the reward is nourishing her soul. She has taught us that with a set goal in mind, the willingness to learn and quite literally build your life back up with your bare hands, you have a chance of living your dream life too. Cori’s travel diaries and life inspire us daily. We are lucky to have her as an employee, but more importantly, we are lucky to have her as a human of AMP. Stay shining and stay growing, Cori.    Be sure to follow her travel escapades on social media: Instagram: @cori.ontheroad TikTok: @cori.ontheroad Van Life Resources + Links: https://beacons.ai/coriontheroad      

15 Of The Best Podcasts For 2022

2022: THE YEAR OF THE PODCAST It's hard to find someone who isn't plugged into at least one podcast. And the numbers support that. Podcast listeners have been steadily climbing, increasing by around 20 million each year. And according to Statista, forecasters are projecting podcast listeners will surpass 160 million in 2023. This rise in podcast listening is a significant opportunity for advertisers to reach listeners through the voices they know and trust. So we decided to look within, probing AMPers to share their all-time favorite podcasts. If you're in need of fresh, easy listening material or simply want to dive into the world of podcasts, here's a lineup of AMP's top picks of 2022:  The A-List Podcast: Origin stories about how some of your favorite ad campaigns came to life and how the people that made them got to making them.  This American Life: A weekly podcast around the American experience. Each week they choose a theme and gather different stories around that theme. What AMPers are saying: Love the storytelling. Sometimes delightful, and sometimes devastating. They always tell diverse and unique stories, doing their due diligence to research and interview a range of memorable characters.  The Experiment: A show about people navigating our country's contradictions. Hosted by the Atlantic.  What AMPers are saying: Love their unbiased and bite-sized deep dives into different fascinating and relevant topics about our ever-evolving country Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness: Curious about everything under the sun? JVN chats with experts in their respective fields to create awareness about topics that we may not have ever thought of digging into.  What AMPers are saying: Super open-minded and interesting topics from pop culture, animals, history, and events that have shaped the world as we know it.  HBR Ideacast: A weekly podcast featuring the leading thinkers in business and management. What AMPers are saying: I like how it's a quick podcast that covers some innovative ideas that often challenge the norms in modern business.  Hidden Brain: A conversation about life's hidden patterns. What AMPers are saying: I like the interesting psychological insights, plus they can be relevant to our work in marketing.  The Huberman Lab: Stanford professor and neurobiologist Andrew Huberman discusses science and science-based tools for everyday life.  What AMPers are saying: I like how they explain how different parts of the nervous system affect our bodies and everyday life and provide tips to improve things like sleep, skill learning, and more in a digestible format.  In Search of Hope Podcast: Inspiring interviews with people from all walks of life that endured and overcame hardships. The host, Ugo, and the people he interviews shed light on specific topics that can bring insight and hope to people that need it during dark times. What AMPers are saying: I like hearing how others go through things and hold their heads up high. It's helpful when I think I'm alone in hardships, and it's very open-minded and explorative. Ugo's also a great orator and storyteller! LORE: Frightening history on some good ol' folklore. What AMPers are saying: All the spooks are great for long car rides. Constantly on the edge of my seat. National Park After Dark: Their tagline is "A podcast for the morbid outdoor enthusiast," but it's more than that. It's terrific storytelling about crazy things that have happened in National Parks, and it's also educational, with a lot of great historical and safety content.  What AMPers are saying: Some of the episodes are pretty dark, but overall I've learned so much about nature, indigenous communities, animals, etc. It's such an interesting listen! The Secret Room: Interviews with guests about the deepest and darkest secrets they keep.  Smartless: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes interview surprise celebrities guests. Hilarity ensues.   What AMPers are saying: The dynamic between the hosts is very entertaining, and they get great guests. Song Exploder: A podcast where musicians take apart their songs and, piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. What AMPers are saying: Learning different musicians' creative processes and how they think and play is fascinating. Stuff You Should Know: Josh and Chuck, two writers from How Stuff Works, cover a different topic each episode. If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Niño, true crime, or Rosa Parks, then look no further.  What AMPers are saying: You learn something new each episode, and the hosts have a knack for making complicated ideas easy to understand. Even the most random topics (history of the ballpoint pen) are interesting. The hosts have great chemistry and banter.  Unlocking Us with Brené Brown: Brené Brown is a researcher and storyteller who's spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. While many things remain uncertain, one thing is for sure, we love Podcasts here at AMP. Stay tuned for more of what AMPers are listening to in the coming future.  

Size Inclusivity Isn’t Just For Fashion Brands

Size inclusivity is one of the hottest topics in today’s fashion industry. From creator trends on TikTok to full-blown brand transformations — like Old Navy’s Bodequality campaign — this idea is popping up all over the fashion world. While there is a clear connection between fashion and size inclusivity, this is a conversation that brands in all industries can and should be engaging in. Read on to learn how and why size inclusivity has become important to many fashion brands, as well as how non-fashion brands and their customers can benefit from incorporating size-inclusive strategies, tactics and creative.   A revolution in the fashion industry There’s been a revolution in the fashion industry over the last 15-20 years. In the early 2000s, many retailers offered clothing sizes only up to L or occasionally XL, and the plus-size stores that existed (e.g. Lane Bryant and Torrid) were few and far between. This was back before “body positivity” and “real beauty” became buzz words, back when it was rare to see models over a size 0. Fast forward to today and size inclusivity is woven into the fabric of many fashion brands. Budget-friendly brands like Target and high-end fashion brands like Christian Siriano have evolved their clothing lines to include more sizing options for consumers. The global plus-size clothing market is worth $178 billion, while the US market is worth $24 billion, according to Vogue Business.  When it comes to size representation in advertising and marketing, fashion brands are embracing diversity more than ever. Two brands we admire in this space are Thinx (check out their Instagram channel for inspiration) and Aerie (shoutout to the #AerieREAL campaign). It’s important to note that size inclusion in the fashion industry has traditionally focused primarily on cisgender women, although some brands like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty — which spotlights plus-size male models — have started to change that. We’re excited to see how brands will evolve to better represent people of all sizes and genders.   What happened in the past few decades to bring size inclusivity to the forefront of fashion?  Much of the work being done today to promote size inclusivity has its roots in the Fat Acceptance Movement, which began in the late 1960s. Since then, an increasing number of people have been advocating for size inclusion. Size inclusivity is also part of a larger movement for more diverse representation of bodies that intersects with race, sex, disability, gender, and more. Social media has rapidly propelled the movement for inclusivity. A 2016 article from Adweek sheds light on this point: “On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, women who have for so long felt ignored by mainstream fashion are finally able to have a voice. They're sharing body-positive selfies and hashtags, following plus-size bloggers like GabiFresh and Nicolette Mason (whose massive audiences have led to magazine columns and designer partnerships) and letting brands know exactly what they think.” Social media has helped publicize the desire for representation and has given consumers an interactive platform they can use to ask brands for it directly. In addition to advocacy and social pressure from consumers, many fashion brands have begun to engage with size inclusivity because of the financial benefits. In a 2018 interview with Elle, famed fashion designer Christian Siriano said that adding plus sizes to his line tripled his business. And as previously mentioned, the US market for plus-size clothing is worth $24 billion.  But the rising popularity of size inclusivity in fashion goes deeper than advocacy, social media or even finance. Size inclusivity is powerful because it resonates with a universal human truth: People want to feel like they belong. As co-founder of Body Confidence Canada said in a BBC interview, “Being able to walk into a store and find your size makes customers feel they are seen.” Feeling seen is a powerful emotional response. It’s the kind of thing that can positively impact someone’s personal life and their purchasing decisions. From this perspective, size inclusivity is a win-win.   All brands should care about size inclusivity  If you don’t work with or own a fashion brand, you may at this point be wondering how size inclusivity applies to your brand. Clearly, there’s a connection between fashion and size. Clothing items are almost always differentiated by this characteristic. But what if you sell a product or service that’s less clearly related, or appears to be completely unrelated? Should size inclusivity still factor into your marketing strategy? Yes. The reality is that people of all sizes drive cars, wear perfume and buy houses. People of all sizes travel the world and go to concerts. Someone who wears a size 0 is no more or less likely to need glasses than someone who wears a size 24. Muscle mass doesn’t determine your taste in toothbrushes. So, why is there such a small range in the bodies we see in advertisements for these products?   Addressing popular arguments against size inclusivity Argument 1: Showing bigger people in the media promotes poor health and glorifies obesity. In an article about a Sports Illustrated fashion show that included plus-size models, BBC News quoted Dr. Brad Frankum, president of the Australian Medical Association in New South Wales, saying: “If we send very overweight or obese people down the catwalk modelling clothes, what it is saying, in a way, is that we are celebrating obesity. I think that is dangerous because we know it is a dangerous health condition.” This argument is erroneous for several reasons. First, it’s impossible to determine someone’s physical health by looking at their size alone. Size does not tell us how often a person works out or what their diet, blood pressure, etc. is. Second, this argument fails to take into account healthy reasons for weight gain. Someone might gain weight as the result of switching between antidepressants or trying to work on an eating disorder. Some disabilities are also associated with weight gain, and that’s certainly not a good reason to exclude someone from representation. Third, while there is no strong evidence to support the idea that representing larger bodies is “dangerous,” there is ample evidence to show that size stigma has harmful effects. Examples can be found here: “Eating Disorders and Social Media Prove Difficult to Untangle” from The New York Times “Weight stigma study in the U.S. and 5 other nations shows the worldwide problem of such prejudice” from The Washington Post “The Impact of Weight Stigma on our Mental Health” from Center for Discovery Eating Disorder Treatment   Argument 2: It’s not fine to be fat. This language is taken word for word from the headline of a 2018 opinion piece from The Guardian. Journalist Lizzie Cernik writes: “…as we move away from the skinny goals of the mid-2000s and embrace different shapes and sizes, one group of campaigners has taken things a step too far. Fronted by plus-sized models and social media influencers, the fat acceptance movement aims to normalise obesity, letting everyone know that it’s fine to be fat.” Who gets to decide which bodies are “fine” and “not fine”? Cernik presents being fat as a moral failing. This ignores the reality that size varies for so many different reasons. It’s also body shaming, which never feels good to the person being shamed, and has proven negative health side effects, like increased rates of depression and anxiety. As advertisers and marketers, is this the attitude we want to show towards our current and potential customers? We think not. But let’s remove emotion from the equation for a moment. Consider the average American consumer. What do they look like? The CDC states that 73.6% of adults ages 20 and up are “overweight, including obesity.” If we do not include overweight and/or obese individuals in our marketing and advertising, we are excluding almost three-quarters of American adults from representation. This does not seem like good business sense. Argument 3: Beauty matters and straying from beauty norms in a brand’s marketing will negatively impact the perceived attractiveness of its products. We agree that beauty is often important in advertising and marketing, and we also believe that beauty takes countless shapes, forms and sizes. Only viewing beauty through societal norms is limiting. Additionally, beauty trends and perceptions are changing all the time. Renaissance paintings portray very different body ideals from magazine covers. These days, “thick” figures are popularly seen as attractive. Dad bods are celebrated. Un-Photoshopped belly rolls are lauded. Size inclusivity is in.   Argument 4: My customers don’t care about size inclusivity. Tennis legend Billie Jean King said, “You have to see it to be it.” If people can’t see themselves in our campaigns, if they can’t relate to the people we show using our products and services, how are they supposed to connect with our brand? And if they don’t connect with our brand, why would they want to buy what we’re selling? More and more consumers are looking for authenticity and connection, and diverse representation is one way to achieve this. Here are some things your brand can do to get involved with size inclusivity, no matter which industry it is in: Use size inclusive stock imagery and footage. Intentionally search for images that include people of varying sizes. Check out AllGo for free plus-size stock photos. AllGo also offers inclusive design consulting services. Work with models of all different sizes. Unsure where to look? L'Officiel has a great list of inclusive modelling agencies. IMG models recently created a division called Brawn that represents plus-size male models. You might also consider scouting models on social media by searching popular hashtags like #SizeInclusive and #InclusiveFashion. Partner with influencers who reflect a range of sizes. Again, using relevant social media hashtags can help with your search. Consider talking about size inclusivity on social media (if it feels on brand and authentic). If your brand has a good track record of being size inclusive with its products, services or representation, consider sharing why it matters to your brand on social media. Another way to join the conversation is to kindly but firmly shut down body shaming when you see it in the comments on your social posts. Stay on top of size-inclusive trends across industries. Don’t be afraid to look to other brands for inspiration! While the fashion industry is a great place to start, there are also brands in other industries putting out great size-inclusive work (shout out to Sephora). Avoid body shaming and weight-related jokes in your campaigns. No matter what your intentions are, body shaming and jokes about size are almost guaranteed to offend someone. And since the majority of Americans are now considered overweight, as previously mentioned, you could end up offending a lot of someones. Think about how you can make your workplace more size inclusive. This might look like offering more sizes for company clothing or choosing office furniture that accommodates higher weight limits.  In the past few years, many brands have made efforts to increase representation in their marketing and advertising campaigns, but few outside of the fashion industry have made size inclusivity a priority in these efforts. Can your brand help lead the way?

Lessons from Dr. Pooja Lakshmin on Burnout & Boundaries

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum. It was inspiring to hear so many accomplished women share their knowledge and experiences with us. As a young female professional, early on in the grand scheme of my career, it was refreshing to hear about a topic nearly everyone is impacted by but few speak about: burnout. The session, poetically called The Betrayal of Burnout, was led by Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and author specializing in women’s mental health.   Burnout is a word that feels all too familiar to many of us — especially in this past year and a half during the pandemic, where it’s been challenging to separate work life from home life when they are taking place in the same space. Dr. Lakshmin poignantly suggested the term ‘burnout’ itself exonerates a system that does not do enough to support mental health, working parents, or child care. According to Dr. Lakshmin, the most frequent response to an individual expressing burnout is “Are you going to therapy?”, or “Are you doing self-care?”. This, she claims, places the burden of responsibility onto the person, and not onto a system that is evidently flawed. Faux self-care practices like yoga, meditation and spa retreats will not solve the problems that come with burnout. Those are privileged solutions that many people do not have access to, and oftentimes are not long-term solutions. The only thing that worked for her was learning how to say no and setting proper boundaries. Below are a few important lessons that Dr. Lakshmin shared to help women set boundaries in their professional lives. The outcome? Increases in quality of work and client satisfaction are just a few of the benefits that stem from women in the workplace setting boundaries and avoiding burnout. No one is going to make the choices for you and your best interest — you must make those for yourself.  As women, Dr. Lakshmin says, we tend to put ourselves last. She warns that getting into a “martyr mode” comes with a cost. In order to truly prioritize your mental health, you need to make space for yourself. Whether it’s setting your Slack status to “Away” to take that midday walk that gives you a mental reprieve, or declining to take on a new project that would strain your already tight bandwidth  — these are the decisions we can make for our own mental health that help make us more focused while we are working and more easily unplug when we aren’t. Communicate your priorities to the people in your life.  Dr. Lakshmin encourages women to decide what your values are in your current season of life. Different seasons bring different priorities. Some seasons, she suggests, are for prioritizing your family, and some are for your professional work. You can communicate those to the people in your life. For example, if it’s important to you to have dinner with your family, then let your colleagues and clients know that you’ll be offline at 6pm. Setting those expectations creates clear boundaries your team and clients can respect. Sharing these priorities also humanizes us and can encourage our team and clients to do the same, creating a more empathetic workplace for all.  Feeling guilt does not mean you’re making the wrong choice.  Dr. Lakshmin recognizes that sometimes when we set boundaries as women, we feel a sense of guilt for putting ourselves first. In a society that conditions women to be the caretakers, this is an all too common reaction. She instead offers to think of your guilt as a faulty check engine light: just because you feel guilty does not mean something is wrong or that you’re making the wrong choice. Reframe it as building up your muscle to tolerate self-care.  Most importantly, Dr. Lakshmin reiterates, when you’re feeling burnt out, try to remind yourself this is a systemic issue. This is not something that we as women are creating for ourselves; instead, we are simply reacting to it. We must remember self-care is a verb, not a noun, and the real work is internal. We need to get our feelings out in a trusted space whether that’s with our partner, mentor, or friend. Holding those feelings inside will only work against us. Just like Dr. Lakshmin, when you take the risk to advocate for what you need and want in the workplace, you're empowering the women that are coming behind you as well as making yourself a better employee and partner to your clients. 

Takeaways from The 2021 Women's Leadership Forum

AMP Attends the Ad Club Women’s Leadership Forum     On the eve of AMP’s quarterly mental health office closure, a group of AMP’s female associates virtually gathered to attend The Women’s Leadership Forum (2021) hosted by the Ad Club. The tagline of this year’s event, Nevertheless, She Persisted, was a foreshadowing of the primary theme throughout each session: persistence. By extension, this stands out as a reflection of an AMP core value: growth.    Fighting Invisibility     Gender and ethnicity also served as contextual backdrops for the stories told within each session. Award-winning author Gish Jen discussed her experience of becoming a novelist as an Asian American woman and the outside responses this frequently evoked. Being questioned as to why she wasn’t writing stories set in China was a common occurrence for Jen, and she explained that experiences like these often leave Asian Americans feeling invisible. However, instead of playing the role of a “professional victim”, as Jen puts it, she chose to stand her ground. Her decided response was: “Do Asians write about these topics? They do now.”    Making Intentional Choices    This notion of choice recurred throughout several sessions, with speakers explaining that having intentional responses to negative situations has profoundly shaped their journeys. Former NWHL Player & Pro Scout Blake Bolden owns that her successes have always come from the choices that she’s made. Growing up as a Black female, she had to rely largely on herself to make these choices as the sport lacked other Black females whom she could look up to. Now, Bolden is able to be that role model for other young women. “When you decide to wake up an choose to be better every single day, you’re not just making in an impact on yourself, but you could also be making an impact on someone else,” she noted while retelling the story of meeting a young Black girl who’d been inspired by Holden to play hockey. It was then that Holden realized she wasn’t just playing for herself, she was also playing for the people that she inspires. “You always have an option to choose,” she says.    Being Kind To Yourself    That said, getting better every day doesn’t mean working around-the-clock and ignoring burnout. To visual artist Nancy Floyd, giving herself permission to reflect and reset has allowed her to rediscover her passion for artistic endeavors that she’s become disinterred in. “Take baby steps,” she advises. “You don’t want to work out? Drive to the gym, and if you still don’t want to work out, drive home.” While she certainly isn’t a procrastinator, self-forgiveness and kind inner talk live at the center of Floyd’s creative process.    Staying The Course    During another session led by Wendy Ong, U.S. President of TaP Music & TaP records, listeners learned about her unconventional journey from a small apartment in Singapore to leading record labels and discovering top talent in the U.S. After moving to the U.S. with her then-husband, Ong did everything she could to land a job in the music industry, including blindly knocking on doors at record companies in NYC. After finally breaking into the scene, Ong experienced several years of success before a particularly disheartening experience at a label that left her wanting to quit the industry and return to Singapore. With the encouragement of her parents, she decided to keep marching towards her dreams. Now, as the President of a major U.S. record label, paving the way for other young women in the industry has become one of her primary passions. Noting that she wouldn’t want others to face the same struggles, she goes out of her way to “dust off the path for others so they can start their journey a little easier”.    Becoming Unstoppable  Each of these women come from vastly different backgrounds. Unwaveringly though, throughout their stories we are met first with persistence and then with growth. We quickly learn that when determination is combined with intentional choices, self-forgiveness and the understanding that actions can lead to positive change for not just the person taking action but others who look up to them as well, we become unstoppable.

What Women Want from Brands, Advertising, and Marketing in 2021

This Women’s History Month, AMP explored what women today want from brands, advertisers, and marketers. Since there are approximately 3.9 billion women in the world — each with their own unique personalities, backgrounds, and desires — we’ve narrowed the focus of this article to three desires that stood out to us during our research. We’ve also included insights from women we interviewed who have worked in the advertising and marketing industry. (Their names have been removed for privacy.) We don’t claim to speak on behalf of all women, but instead aim to highlight some of the desires and expectations for brands & the industry that many women have expressed in recent years. Women Want More Diverse and Intersectional Representation Over the past decade, there have been some incredible pushes towards more diverse representation of women in advertising — from The National Lottery’s uplifting & inclusive “This Girl Can” campaign to this amazing photo of Black transqueer lesbian model Jari Jones popping open a bottle of champagne in front of her larger-than-life Calvin Klein ad. Most of the women we spoke to in the industry mentioned that they’ve seen more diverse representation in recent years: more interracial couples, more body sizes in the fashion world, more stay-at-home dads, and fewer blatantly sexist ads. Still, only 29% of American women believe they are accurately represented in advertising, according to a recent study by data intelligence company Morning Consult. (The same study found that 44% of American men believe women are accurately represented.) As advertisers and marketers, a crucial step in developing a strategy plan is studying our consumers and learning about their wants, needs, and habits. So why does the industry continue to miss the mark with female representation? Perhaps it has something to do with the word “and.” Because a consumer is never just a woman. Maybe she’s a woman and bisexual and Latinx and a stepmom and really into Maseratis and perfume. When we look at female representation, we must consider intersectionality and what other identities might matter to female consumers. Let’s say our consumer identifies as a lesbian. According to a 2019 survey of 2,000 adults in the UK by GAY TIMES and Karmarama, 72% of LGBTQ respondents think the way they’re represented in advertising is tokenistic.  Let’s say she has a disability. The Calgary Society for Persons with Disabilities (CSPD) reported in 2019 that only 3% of characters on North American television have disabilities and of these, 95% are played by able-bodied actors. (This statistic inspired their moving “Visibility for Disability” campaign.) Let’s say she’s a mom. A 2019 report from the brand Motherly with almost 6,500 survey respondents found that 85% of millennial moms don’t feel like society does a good job of understanding and supporting them. Let’s say she’s a woman of color. A 2019 study on the representation of Black women and girls in Hollywood found that Black females and other females of color are more likely to be portrayed partially/fully nude than white females — in films and on TV. The same study found that white female TV characters are more likely to have a job (89.6%) compared to Black female characters (70.5%) and other female characters of color (58.8%). (This study was conducted by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and focused on family films and TV.) How might it feel to see characters who look like her repeatedly oversexualized and underemployed? Even if a woman feels her “womanness” — or whatever you want to call it — is well-represented, maybe she doesn’t feel like her other identities are well-represented. Maybe the commercials, print ads, and radio spots she encounters are not adding up to how she sees herself as a whole woman person.   Women Don’t Want to Be Superheroes (At Least Not All the Time) The brilliant author Carmen Maria Machado wrote, “We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented as much as our heroism, because when we refuse wrongdoing as a possibility for a group of people, we refuse their humanity.” Our messy complexities are part of what make us human. And it turns out, a lot of women want to see more of this messiness, and less of the fully put together superwoman archetype we’ve been served again and again in past decades. One ad that leans into this attitude superbly is Frida Mom’s “Stream of Lactation” commercial, which highlights the highs and lows of breastfeeding with an authentic, stream-of-conscious voiceover. One woman in the industry we interviewed said: I LOVE the new Frida commercial about breastfeeding. While watching the commercial, I felt seen and understood. I saw myself and thought "Wow, that's exactly what I do" or "Yes, that happened to me." Women want to see other women that they identify with, and that's the best (and most ethical) way to sell your product. For years, women were served razor ads featuring models with shaved skin and pad ads featuring that notorious blue liquid. Marketers made shaving and menstruation seem like a walk in the park. But then came “Blood Normal” and Billie. “Blood Normal” by hygiene company Libresse broke ground as the first campaign to show actual period blood. Billie similarly changed the game by creating the first razor campaign for women featuring actual body hair. And people loved it. “Blood Normal” won the coveted Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix at Cannes and Billie has grown to be a successful brand with 278k followers on Instagram. By portraying women in nontraditional but relatable ways, brands like Libresse and Billie have managed to both diversify female representation and gain a loyal following of customers.   Women Want Brands to Play a Role In the Conversation on Social Issues and Gender In the era of social media, brand accountability, and virtual boycotts, we are seeing more women putting pressure on brands to speak up on social issues. When the Black Lives Matter protests surged in spring 2020, numerous brands spoke out on the topic of racial justice. But for many internet users, these efforts — many of which took the form of social media posts — didn’t go far enough. Examples of real comments posted on one popular fashion brand’s 2020 posts: “If you just posted a square, you’re performative!” “What steps have you implemented to date?” “So this was a lie.” “I’m so sad to hear all this and will no longer support [brand name]. I’ve been a diehard fan for so long. I will never stand for a brand that would allow, at any capacity, racial profiling.” This brand has over 4 million followers on Instagram. And it’s just one of many brands we saw called out in 2020 for their social media responses to current events. We’re also hearing women say they want brands to contribute more directly to the conversation on gender. A women who works in the industry told us: I want to see more men wondering what detergent to use and more women thinking about what kind of cool car to drive. In my own relationship, my husband is very concerned about dishwasher liquid (really) and I want to drive a slick fast car on an open road. Life is changing, roles are changing, and all I'm asking is to see that reflected. Big brands especially have so much power to normalize and destigmatize. Another important step in joining this conversation is amplifying female voices at brands and agencies. It’s not just about hiring more women, but also promoting them to management and leadership positions. When The 3% Movement was founded in 2012, only 3% of all US Creative Directors were women. The organization has since helped push that number to 29% today — an amazing increase, but still not close to 50%. Promoting women to leadership positions adds diverse perspectives to our teams and brings more female insights into how women want to be represented.   How To Give Women What They Want There are so many ways organizations can tailor their branding, advertising, and marketing efforts to better address the desires and expectations of women. They can engage with the conversation on social issues and gender, complexify female roles in their campaigns, and offer more diverse and intersectional representations of women across the board. They can also enrich their internal teams by hiring women, and promoting them to leadership roles. The goal isn’t for every brand to try and address all the desires of every woman on the planet, but to make efforts day by day where you can. For example, if parents make up a large percentage of your target audience, you might consider how to bring intersectional, complex representations of moms to your ads. Think of where it makes sense to engage authentically with your customers. Insights from Women Who Work in the Industry To get a better idea of how the marketing and advertising industry is currently addressing female wants and expectations from the inside, we interviewed some of the women we know. The responses below come from people who have worked as interns, freelancers, and full-timers — at agencies and in-house — with experience ranging from 3-10+ years in the industry. Q: What do you want from the ads and marketing tactics you see in the world? A: “I would like to see more representation throughout ad campaigns. It would be nice to see people who look like me and the people around me, and not just the same famous people.” “I've seen companies attempt to be more socially aware (or "woke," if you will) but sometimes it backfires. I want advertisers to stop trying so hard in their marketing tactics or do a better job of reading the room.” “I always respond to authenticity, self-awareness and especially humor — the Ok Cupid "DTF” campaign is a great example. As a consumer, I do not respond well to feeling shamed or condescended to.” “I want to see all types of women doing all types of things. I also would love for brands to call out censorship, double-standards, or gender roadblocks in their ads directly.”   Q: What are your expectations for the campaigns you yourself put out in the world?   A: “To cast women in unexpected roles. Conversely, to not only show moms as caretakers and nurturers.” “I do my best to make people think about the thing we're advertising in a new way, whether that means showing them a way our product can add something new and positive to their lives, or just causing them to stop and laugh at an interesting image or headline. I also feel a pretty heavy responsibility not to add to any of the toxic stereotypes or standards that we're all — but especially women — constantly bombarded with.” “What an incredible responsibility we play as women in the biz. It's frustrating to see the same narrative about the same woman over and over. And it's a true challenge to bend that narrative into one that's more truthful of our experiences. But it's a fight worth fighting, and I think having women in leadership roles in advertising is greatly improving this issue.”   Q: How are women portrayed in advertising? Do you predict this changing in the upcoming year?   A: “Over the past ten or twenty years, we've gone from a total proliferation of the same cookie-cutter image to the slow, incremental appearance of more diverse, ‘real’ images of women. As we've seen more and more brands jump on that bandwagon, I can't help but feel a little cynical. Pop feminism and ‘girl power’ have become just another sales tool... it's still so much about making women feel like they need things to be fully realized. It's just gone from, ‘Buy this product and you'll be beautiful’ to, ‘Buy this product and you'll be empowered.’” “My wife and I have both been hyper-aware of the significant increase of interracial couples featured in ads, which is very exciting. For 2021, I'd love to see more of this, and a lot more queer women of all races, ages, body shapes, and ethnicities. I have seen lesbian couples here and there, but I haven't seen many lesbian parents.” “I think there's still an absence of women who are 40+ in the advertising I see. Middle age isn't what it used to be and it would be great to see the modern, mature woman portrayed more in advertising that is not related to medications.” “One thing I hope would change is the Instagram fad of everyone looking like a Kardashian. Influencers are such a huge part of advertising, and we know how harmful those unrealistic depictions of beauty can be.” “For the most part women have been either hyper-sexualized or seen as arm-candy to sell a product. There are more conversations and actions happening in recent years to represent women in less hyper-sexualized roles. On the other hand, I do not have a problem with women being portrayed sexually. Especially in fashion and art. I think there has to be care in not being over-sexualized, where the woman then becomes an object of desire.”   Q: Do you feel satisfied with how you see women represented in advertising today?   A: “Satisfied would sound like there is not room for improvement. I think it’s much better than it was 10 years ago and hope it keeps evolving.” “One thing that bothers me about the way Black women are represented in advertising today is that there is still a bias toward light-skinned Black women or women who look mixed race. Obviously this is an old issue, but it still persists and needs to change.” “I think so… It is encouraging to see women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and identities in ads these days… depicted as funny, strong, silly, beautiful, smart, and all of the ways you can be depicted. However, I do think we still need to come up with more ways to flip the script.” “I don’t know if I’m satisfied with how women are represented in advertising yet. I think having more women in advertising and higher positions would change the outcome of some campaigns. There can’t be representation properly done without real women’s voices.” Q: How does it feel to be a woman working in this industry? A: “I’ve been fortunate to work in an environment where I haven’t felt treated differently for being a woman.” “A lot of days I don't think about it too much, but it probably informs everything I do.” “There’s always room for improvement. There's no better time to be a woman in history than today, and hopefully thirty years down the line, a woman will say the same thing. We should always be striving for better.”

Celebrate Holi with AMP Agency

Each spring, people all over the world celebrate Holi. Known as “the festival of colors,” this ancient Hindu festival signifies the triumph of good over evil. A popular Holi tradition is the throwing of gulal (colorful powder) at friends, family, and even strangers. We sent our AMPers gulal so we could share the joy of Holi together — even while we’re far apart. Check out the video!   Happy Holi, everyone!

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

Today, March 8th, marks the annual International Women’s Day where we globally celebrate the achievements and successes of  women everywhere.  In recognition of today and Women’s History Month, we’ve asked five women from our agency to join us for Voices AMPlified, an ongoing panel series designed to spark discussion and highlight notable moments throughout the year.  This month, our panel is centered around what it means to be women in the advertising and marketing industry. To kick things off, we’ve asked them to answer the question: “What would you tell your younger self?” Check out what they had to say:  Katelyn Crowley, VP of Talent & Strategic Operations “There are a lot of great things about being an adult — like setting our own bedtime. But perhaps most importantly, with age comes the wisdom and perspective we only wish we had when we were younger. If I could give my younger-self advice, I would say: Invest in finding and building partnerships with people who cheer you on and cheer you up.  I’m fortunate enough to have a close-circle of incredible women who always have my back and push me to be better. I also married a man who treats me as an equal partner. I will never regret stopping the hustle to tune in, spend time and connect with these people. Also, remember to wear sunscreen!” Rosetta Lane, SR. Producer “I would tell my younger self that your job does not define who you are, and that more often than not, people remember what you do less than how you do it. The answer is not always to hustle harder, but to instead cherish the present, find daily ways to grow in and out work, and save room for yourself to rest. Burnout is real, don’t wait until someone gives you a break (you’ll be waiting a long time!), take what you need to stay balanced. Above all else, have patience, you can’t rush the wisdom that comes with experience.” Kiki Takakura-Merquise, VP, Digital Transformation “Notes to a younger self - Loneliness is temporal and it will always be back; get comfortable with silence and learn to be your own friend.  - It is normal to be angry but do not let it blind you; use it to focus and create clarity to find a better path.  - Never eat bananas before checking on a beehive; seriously, don’t do it.” Surina Sud, Consumer Research Associate Strategist “If I could give advice to my younger self today, I would tell her not be afraid of anything. I’d tell her to speak up, take risks, and believe in herself because she can do anything. I’d remind her to do what makes her laugh, do what she loves, to not fear of what people think – and to be proud of who she is.” Samantha Thu, Media Director “Now that I’ve finally figured out what I want and what makes me happy, I would tell my younger self to not worry about what others are doing and focus on my own path, whether that was personal, professional or just in general.  I used to put so much undue stress on myself to chase the next promotion, compare my career path with others, and to move onto the next thing.  I wish I had stopped to take a breath and just enjoy the moment, soak it in and not always be looking one step ahead.  The true achievement was personal growth and development into the confident and experienced individual I am today, commanding all of my decisions without hesitation, self-doubt and question.  When I finally slowed down a few years ago and made this realization, my quality of life - mentally, emotionally and physically - was far greater than I could have imagined and any continued growth has really presented itself in a more natural progression, at times when I’m truly ready for it.” To learn more about International Women’s Day, check out this website.

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