HP isn't dropping its demands for diversity at its ad agencies -- and the new focus is minorities

Antonio LucioHPAntonio Lucio

Last September, HP Inc. cracked the whip on its ad agencies and issued them an ultimatum: move the needle on the number of women and minorities in the teams servicing the brand, or risk losing the business.

Today, the company said that women now make up 61% of its account teams and 51% of senior leadership at its global agencies, including BBDO, Fred & Farid, gyro, PHD and Edelman. But, only 8% of all employee growth across HP’s global agencies year-over-year was from minorities.

“Changing hearts and minds is hard, but creating systemic change that drives business is even harder,” Antonio Lucio, HP’s global chief marketing and communication officer, told Business Insider. “You need to reinvent management, change mindsets and have consistency of purpose.”

Since calling on its agencies to set up action plans to boost diversity last year, Lucio has led the charge in pushing them toward the agenda. But HP is far from alone. Other big advertisers, including Verizon and General Mills, have also been on the frontline, calling for changes in the ad business. Verizon recently launched its own diversity fellowship program.

Lucio said that diversity was a long-term objective for HP, not just for itself, but across the industry. To that end, the company also announced a series of new initiatives, aiming to increase the pipeline of talent from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the industry.

HP, for instance, is launching a diversity program with the industry’s biggest festival, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Similar to the Cannes See It Be It program, which provides mentorship and leadership sessions and networking opportunities for women creatives, HP’s program with Cannes will focus on providing similar opportunities to underrepresented and minority talent.

The company is also funding grants with industry organisations, including ADCOLOR and the 3% Conference. These grants are dedicated to supporting, nurturing and mentoring young professionals from underrepresented groups and diverse backgrounds. It will also continue to sponsor “Free the Bid,” and initiative guaranteeing women directors equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the global advertising industry.

“For us, this has always been as much a business imperative as a values issue,” said Lucio. “But our business and industry will not be transformed unless we go through a comprehensive platform of objectives.”

HP has also issued a fresh mandate to its agencies as far as underrepresented minorities are concerned. The brand has tasked its five global agencies to identify underrepresented groups by country, and set specific goals and plans to increase diverse creative talent across HP account and senior leadership roles.

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