POV (Perspective)
Production Leads In Addressing Diversity In The Ad Industry
  • Thursday, Jun. 10, 2021
Bill Duggan

In late May, ANA issued a new report, “The Growth of Supplier Diversity,” that contained important findings that will likely impact the production industry in the near future.

A supplier diversity program is a proactive business program which encourages the use of women-owned, ethnic/minority-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ-owned, disability-owned, and small businesses as suppliers. 

A key finding in the report is that the importance of supplier diversity for marketing/advertising has increased over the past year for 89 percent of respondents; that includes 58 percent for whom the importance increased significantly. Wow – what an increase!

Marketers are investing with diverse suppliers in categories including agencies, printing, research, media, and promotion.  But when asked, “What specific categories of diverse suppliers for marketing/advertising do you expect to spend more with in the next year?” production was at the very top of the list.


Kudos to the production industry, and its numerous resources.  Streetlights has been around since 1992.  FREE THE WORK and its predecessor, Free the Bid, since 2016. A newer initiative is Double the Line from AICP, which asks clients and agencies to double the role of production and postproduction positions on jobs to include diverse candidates.  Additional resources to increase diversity in production are BFFoundation, #BIDBLACK, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, the Commercial Directors Diversity Program, Girlgaze, Lights Camera Access!, ManifestWorks, and Vets2Set. 

The diversity issue has been in the trade press a lot lately. ANA has been proactive on this from many angles--our CMO Growth Council, Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), and work on supplier diversity.  The following are among the key imperatives outlined in the new ANA report, “The Growth of Supplier Diversity.”

  • A strong supplier diversity program helps ensure that a company’s suppliers reflect the communities it serves. Forty percent of the population is currently multicultural. More than half of births in the United States are now to multicultural women. A company’s media and creative supply chain (including production) should also reflect that diversity. 
  • The top challenge in supplier diversity for marketing/advertising is finding diverse suppliers. The ANA and the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM)have curated two resource lists: (a) Certified Diverse Suppliers and (b) Suppliers Serving Predominantly Multicultural and Diverse Audiences, Non-Minority Owned and/or Non-Minority Certified. Both are updated regularly with details here
  • Another key challenge in supplier diversity for marketing/advertising is providing visibility to opportunities to recommend diverse suppliers. It is generally the role of procurement to work with their internal stakeholders to identify opportunities to recommend diverse suppliers. Companies should minimally follow the “rule of one” — including at least one diverse supplier in every RFP, which is especially relevant in production. 
  • Some diverse-owned businesses are certified by organizations including the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); some are not. For some marketers, that certification may be a requirement for doing business. I heard one marketer say, “Certification authenticates that a supplier is who they say they are and removes the onus on the marketer to do that.” To maximize business opportunities, suppliers should be certified. At the same time, the industry should work together to help make the certification process easier (and less of a barrier) for suppliers. 
  • Supplier development plans are important. Supplier development plans are growth and/or improvement plans specific to a diverse supplier supporting a business, and may include financial, time, and/or mentoring investment by a company. Some marketers are even stepping up to help diverse suppliers become certified. It’s not enough to simply spend money with diverse suppliers. Rather, marketers should invest in the resources to help develop those suppliers to be successful.
  • Perhaps most importantly, marketers need to be open to doing business differently when working with some diverse suppliers. For example, they may need to add new people to their teams, invest more time in supplier relationships, relax payment terms, and look beyond conventional metrics. For the latter, be open to conversations with diverse suppliers on ways to evaluate a partnership. Marketers are encouraged to think beyond scale and reach for their supplier diversity programs and instead consider the importance of audience engagement and relevance. 

“The Growth of Supplier Diversity” is available as a resource to all here

Bill Duggan is group EVP of the ANA


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