PFV Video: Operationalizing Inclusion—Effecting Change From Within

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Believe it or not, dismantling and rebuilding unjust systems from the ground up is how true advocacy works.” – Rethinking Allyship in Ad Tech, Lynne d Johnson

I wrote that statement back in June, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and America’s racial reckoning. Just as everything was coming to a head—agencies, media companies, tech companies, all, were coming to grips with how unconscious bias was hindering their diversity and inclusion efforts.

What I was doing was giving the industry a charge, an opportunity to rise to the occasion and not just play performative politics—to put their money where their mouths were, so to speak. Diversity and inclusion is good for business after all.

I soon learned about two women—Melissa Bonnick, SVP, Client Results, Dentsu Aegis Network and Rachael McCombs, Sr. Director Ad and Media Operations, Digital Trends—effecting change within their organizations. So we invited them to have a discussion about it at PubForum Virtual on Aug. 26, 2020.

They talked about how the power dynamics between the front office and back office within ad ops and programmatic epitomizes the very challenges of diversity and inclusion within the digital publisher and agency worlds—and within society overall.

“We do all of the work on the backend and they get to get credit for it with the clients. It’s like cultural appropriation within ad tech,” said Bonnick. “That’s why I’m in programmatic. I wanted to show that I can be client-facing,” said Bonnick.

On making change, McCombs shared an experience in which her organization faced public criticism for its “white bro culture.” “We handled it with accountability and action,” she said. “What was encouraging was how quickly our organization responded…I’ve been watching that change happen in real-time—creating a plan, doing so with the input of minorities, making sure we have minority representation at the executive level, at the board level and doing that relatively quickly.”

Hear more from McCombs and Bonnick in the video.