Creating An Inclusive Environment: Q&A With BBDO's Storm Smith

November 5, 2019

By Bill Duggan

ANA

Storm Smith is an African-American art director at BBDO, and also happens to be deaf. Smith is a believer in the business opportunities that exist for accessibility and inclusion, and a passionate advocate who shines a positive light on critical societal issues.

Storm will be a speaker at the Association of National Advertisers Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. In advance of her session, the ANA’s group executive vice president, Bill Duggan, interviewed Smith.

 

Q. There are some 48 million people in the U.S. who suffer from hearing loss. How should marketers be thinking about these consumers?

Consumers spend more than 10 hours a day, on average, consuming media. More than half of businesses now invest in social media advertising for their brand and products.

Whether this is surprising or not, 73 percent of people with disabilities will leave a page [online and mobile] immediately if it is not accessible. That’s three out of four consumers. That’s a lot. And it can be a costly missed opportunity.

However, when marketers embed any form of accessibility feature in their work — like captions, for example … marketers will be able to enhance deeper brand appreciation, experience an increase in revenue and profit, and record a higher number of views.

 

Q. What more can marketers and agencies do to recruit more multicultural candidates to the industry?

In 2016, I attended an event called “LCA 2.0: Light! Camera! Access!,” which provides a forum for talent with disabilities to meet top leaders from large companies. At that particular event, which included representatives from BBDO and NBC, among others, I was representing Gallaudet University as a creative producer.

That was when I met BBDO’s director of diversity. We stayed in touch and before I knew it, I was recruited to work for BBDO as an art director as part of the agency’s Creative Residency, which offers multicultural professionals an introduction to advertising.

That changed my life. At the same time, it demonstrated to BBDO how they could discover talent in a nontraditional way. Today, I would like to think I have become valuable to the company, not just because of my capabilities, but as an example of how to create positive change as a deaf woman of color.

The point is that marketers can be creative by attending and participating in different types of events and spaces that attract multicultural and diverse candidates.

Talk to them. See their work for who they are and bring them on board. They can bring valuable perspectives and contribute in ways the company hasn’t yet realized.

For example, Eldar Yusupov, a copywriter with cerebral palsy at McCann in Israel, did just that and bought home the 2019 Cannes Lion Grand Prix for Health and Wellness for his IKEA work.

 

Q. How do you keep up with the industry?

I subscribe to the trades. But I also get valuable information from my colleagues and people I’ve networked with in the industry.

That’s where feedback comes up regarding topics such as multiculturalism, disability, inclusion and accessibility in the advertising industry.

This feedback helps me keep up with what’s going on and how we can enhance the narratives, representations, and solutions in storytelling for our consumers. Conversations do the trick that will help to implement the greater change.

This blog was originally shared on MediaPost.


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