Engage Speakers Series: Q&A With Candace Kuss

Engage Speakers Series: Q&A With Candace Kuss

Candace Kuss was one of the speakers on for Socialbakers Engage, an online event that brought together thousands of marketers to learn from each other around the overall theme of The Value of Experience.

Speaking on the panel about diversity in marketing and advertising, Candace shared her insights as an advisory board member of Creative Equals, a non-profit consultancy that works to make inclusion a key part of business transformation. She also spent 12 years as the Director of Social Media at H+K Strategies, which allowed her to see up close the landscape of digital marketing and to be a part of its positive change.

Socialbakers caught up with Candace ahead of Engage to talk about the importance of representation in advertising, how Creative Equals tries to improve diversity in the workplace, and more.

Watch her presentation, the diversity panel discussion, and read her answers below:

Why is it important to have more diversity in brand campaigns?

Advertising influences culture. When it depicts outmoded stereotypes, these can be seen as social norms.

For decades, ads told the world that only women change a baby’s diaper or do the laundry. P&G shattered that stereotype with their Share The Load campaign in India. Seeing men do the laundry in a TV ad influences both adults and children to believe that sharing household chores is normal.

As another example, the obsession with youth by marketers who should know better is not just rude to the real demographic who actually buy the product, it has harmful ramifications, like the chronic ageism found in our industry. It is well documented that older citizens hold more wealth, but are ignored by most brands. Diversify your agency staff and these biases (unconscious or otherwise) will be defeated.

Discrimination of all kinds is real. But brands can truly make a difference. When we see the full diversity of our society reflected in the media everyday, it helps mutual respect and empathy become the social norm.

How does Creative Equals go about trying to achieve the goal of better representation in creative departments?

As a board member, I am so impressed with what Ali Hanan, the founder of Creative Equals, has accomplished. She created the Equality Standard, which gives companies a tangible set of measures to track D&I progress.

The audit process gives agency leaders real insight into the problem, based on hard data. Once the blind spots are uncovered, Creative Equals offers bespoke workshops and training to help agencies achieve creative diversity both in their teams and in the work they produce for clients.

Looking back at your overall experience, how has the perception of diversity in marketing changed over the years?

I think it used to be a tick box when casting talent or an insulting pinkification of a product. Superficial.

Now people are much more committed and putting real effort and resources into change programs. Enlightened companies are not just paying lip service or hiring a token D&I HR director; they are taking measurable action. They are part of a real societal shift for the better.

You were the director of social media at H+K Strategies for 12 years. Considering how much changed in the social media landscape during that time, do you have any predictions for what it will look like 12 years from now?

The web has always been social. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented it to facilitate information-sharing and collaboration between scientists.

People in marketing like to put things in boxes or neat categories, so the idea that digital platforms or social media should be a separate channel took hold. That was a mistake.

I see it more as an integrated part of human behavior. In 12 years, we won’t use the phrase ‘social media’ anymore, as all media will have social elements. And almost everything will be media. This is already happening, so it’s not really a prediction. 

In truth, no one can predict exactly what the future will look like. Just that there will be many new startups and products helping people communicate. Hopefully, diversity and inclusion will be baked into the design from the start.

Check out our other expert Q&As:

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