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Celebrating Black History Month: A recap of AAF Omaha’s Panel Discussion ‘Crafting Campaigns Combating Racism’

On Feb. 11, some of us at SK tuned in to AAF Omaha’s virtual panel discussion about crafting campaigns combating racism. The conversations among the panelists ranged from their personal experiences in the advertising industry to how others in advertising and marketing professions can support diversity and inclusion efforts within their own lives, whether through work, personal relationships, family or friendships.

“Ultimately, inclusive advertising is understanding with empathy who your customers are, representing them accurately and, more importantly, recognizing whom you’re excluding in your marketing materials.” – AAF Omaha


Shonna Dorsey, Information Services Manager at Mutual of Omaha

Shonna Dorsey is a Nebraska native, tech advocate, trainer, mentor, volunteer, community builder, former business owner and currently serves as an Information Services Manager on the Talent Strategy team for Mutual of Omaha Insurance. 


– Fernanda Reutzel, Marketing Analyst Demand Generation at Physicians Mutual 

Krystel Becker, Communications Manager at Inclusive Communities

Devin Owens, Founder and CEO of Less the Agency  

Dan Gibson, Executive Creative Director with Archrival

We’re sharing takeaways from each panelist’s contributions below.

Fernanda Reutzel, Marketing Analyst Demand Generation at Physicians Mutual

  • Diversity is no longer just about race. It’s inclusive of each individual’s demographics, including their age and gender. 
  • We also need to pay attention to a second tier of inclusivity as well, including psychographics and different perspectives of people (whether they’re a millennial, first generation college graduate, sister, etc.).
  • It’s not about just looking inclusive, but making sure your brand also sounds inclusive through tone. 
    • Consider the context, be intentional with language used and be truthful and honest in presentation.
  • Companies who strive to excel in diversity and inclusion initiatives both in internal culture as well as through the ads created can do the following:
    • Have conversations internally and externally.
    • Hold brainstorming sessions.
    • Ask employees what their preferred terminology is.
    • Be aware of and sensitive to labels.
    • Avoid jargon and words that not everyone who sees the ads may understand.
  • Fernanda says that as we are becoming allies, it’s all about listening, asking questions, having those conversations and being authentic to our community.

⭐ Fernanda is part of the Greater Chamber of Omaha YP Council, which has a strong focus on D&I efforts in our community. To learn more, read through the stats and insights about Omaha’s workforce.

Krystel Becker, Communications Manager at Inclusive Communities

  • Recognize areas of need in D&I and work to create solutions to foster a more diverse culture in the company.
  • For us to talk about inclusive messaging, we need to start from how much power dialogue has and then ask ourselves “Who is missing from this conversation?” – then bring them in.
  • Focus on diversity in all areas of an organization, including hiring across creative teams to management teams.
  • Quote to remember:
    • “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance and equity is being on the party planning committee.”

⭐ Inclusive Communities offers a range of DEI programming for professionals and organizations. To learn more, check out their business programming brochure or learn about their other community, youth, business and advocacy programs.

Devin Owens, Founder and CEO of Less the Agency

  • Devin reiterated that it’s about looking and sounding inclusive but also about being inclusive through action. 
    • She continually strives to make sure her team is ethnically, racially and gender identity diverse so that when they tell stories via advertising, teams can pull from lived experiences. 
  • She pointed out that we’re seeing an increased use of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) – but when we look at the demographic that is using it, a lot of times it’s not African Americans.
    • This can be well-intentioned, but focus on leveraging lived experience or personal connection in order to know how to appropriately use words from this culture.
      • BIPOC help tell these stories and build brands.

⭐ Head on over to The Agency’s website to learn more about Devin and her team!

Dan Gibson, Executive Creative Director at Archrival

  • Dan shared that overall, he believes the advertising industry as a whole does a good job taking risks and ensuring diversity in the output, but it can border on tokenism in terms of what true diversity is.
  • When you only have a :15 spot, there are limited contexts to convey ideas and it can be tough to achieve true representation.
    • It’s best to have these ideas conceived and executed by those who are diverse. 
  • When hiring for more diversity, the first step is to check your job descriptions for bias.
  • Gen Z understands BS vs. authenticity.
    • They remember which brands really bring it vs. which ones are capitalizing on it or posting something to check a box.
      • That affects bottom line and brand affinity.

⭐  Keep an eye out for Archrival’s upcoming projects, like their coordinated efforts with The Bay – something Dan and his teams are excited about its potential in helping to reverse some of the problems the advertising and marketing industries have in engaging youth in under-served, under-represented communities. 

You can watch the diversity panel on AAF Omaha’s YouTube channel.