How 72andSunny Tackles Diversity

By Sedef Onar, Chief Talent Officer & Jim Moriarty, Director of Brand Citizenship, 72andSunny

Technology has fundamentally changed our global economy, including the world of advertising. But it hasn’t necessarily solved all of our problems. In advertising, we depend heavily on the so-called Creative Class: people whose jobs require idea-driven problem solving, including writers, designers, engineers, etc. In most aspects, our industry’s Creative Class resembles a modern workforce with one notable exception; It lacks the diversity seen in society. Less than half of the workers are women, 6.6 percent are African American, 5.7 percent are Asian and 10.5 percent are Hispanic.

Sedef Onar, Chief Talent Officer, 72andSunny
Sedef Onar, Chief Talent Officer, 72andSunny

For an industry that thrives on an abundance of disparate ideas that challenge the status quo, this lack of diversity presents a tremendous challenge. Technology may be compounding the problem. The digital age may be widening the divide between the “haves” and “have nots”—those who can gain entry into the Creative Class and those who cannot—by producing new careers that require extensive training and specific skillsets not easily accessible to everyone. Without access to the right tools, experiences and opportunities, the path to entry becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.

For all of us at 72andSunny, where we live or die by the ability to create, innovate and experiment, this issue is personal. Our goal is to affect change in this Creative Class by achieving a racial, gender and ethnic balance that reflects the world we live in.

Jim Moriarty, Director of Brand Citizenship, 72andSunny
Jim Moriarty, Director of Brand Citizenship, 72andSunny

Truly living up to this purpose is an ambitious goal, and we knew we had to start from within our four walls. We took a close look at our own global talent strategy to make sure it allowed more people to have access to our creative process, at every level. This level of ambition meant we had to both initiate new programs and invest more into existing ones, globally—across all of our offices.

In our Amsterdam office, where we already have 25 nationalities represented in a group of 125 employees. We expanded our three-month creative residency program called 72U, an initiative started by our Los Angeles office. 72U is designed to open people up to new ways of thinking, collaborating and tackling modern communication problems. It can involve participants from all walks of life, from Chinese diplomats to college dropouts. Since its inception, more than a third of past participants have become full-time employees.

Two years ago, our Los Angeles office started a partnership with Da Vinci, a group of charter high schools with student bodies that reflect the socioeconomic and ethnic diversity across the city’s 80 zip codes. Our goal was to give students opportunities to explore creative careers. Within the last year alone, we hosted boot camps and workshops and assisted the school’s staff in curriculum planning. We also mentored 35 Da Vinci students by pairing them with current employees, and employed eight student interns for 12 weeks.

For the last three years, we also have supported The One Club’s Inclusion and Diversity Program by hosting its Creative Bootcamp in Los Angeles, and have made five hires through it. We’re committed to being their partner for years to come.

At 72andSunny’s New York office, we initiated a partnership with Creative Art Works, an organization aimed at connecting youth employment with large-scale public art projects and have already worked with kids to create five large-scale murals in Harlem.

Diversity has become the North Star that guides our global talent strategy. Aside from being the right thing to do, investing in a diverse Creative Class is a strategic business decision that will make our company, and the entire industry, stronger by helping us all create more culturally relevant work and providing a workforce that accurately reflects the markets our brand partners are in.

When we invite, help and celebrate everyone in the creative process, we all win.

Hear more from Sedef Onar and Jim Moriarty at the 4A’s Talent 2030 Conference September 27 & 28 in New York City.