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The Change Agents

John Osborn, Gina Christie, Peter Drakoulias
  • October 08 2012


John Osborn

President & Chief Executive Officer | BBDO, New York


“We cannot do what we do without diversity,” says John Osborn. Those are words that guide the head of BBDO’s flagship New York office, which has been a leader in diversity and inclusion since Osborn took over eight years ago, having been honored with multiple awards for its efforts.

When others were still talking about diversity issues, Osborn took action, creating the BBDO New York Diversity Council in 2006, hiring a fulltime director of supplier diversity in 2007 and ultimately changing the look—and fortunes—of the agency.

“John has been at the heart of BBDO’s transformation from a traditional old-line ad agency into a new and vibrant agency that leads in many areas around diversity and inclusion, and that more accurately represents their clients and brands,” says Steve Pacheco, director, advertising & marketing communications at FedEx, a BBDO client.

For the past two years, Osborn has also served as chair of Howard University’s Center for Excellence in Advertising (CEA). BBDO hires from CEA’s Lateral Movers program, supports the Visiting Professors program and provides numerous internship opportunities.

More than issues of race, ethnicity or gender, Osborn sees a culture of inclusion as being “about a diversity of experiences.” At the core of that mission is BBDO’s Diversity Council—a group of 15 from different backgrounds who have volunteered their time to, as he describes it, “take the pulse of the agency and are a catalyst for important conversations around diversity and inclusion.”

Osborn, the youngest president in BBDO’s history, says it all comes down to opportunity. “I just believe in giving people the opportunity to achieve their full potential. I’m just trying to live up to that standard. It’s all a work in progress, but we are going to keep after it.”


Gina Christie

SVP, Management Director | Saatchi & Saatchi


Gina Christie has the same goal inside and outside of work: help others develop their purpose. So when the Saatchi & Saatchi SVP and management director works on a campaign such as Olay’s “Challenge What’s Possible!,” she has words that she takes with her to The Young Women’s Leadership Network School (YWLN) of East Harlem.

Christie oversees Saatchi’s partnership with YWLN, a secondary school for predominantly low-income girls of color that has a 100 percent graduation and college attendance rate. “Our involvement with YWLN is one of the things I’m most proud of,” she says. “The idea is to offer inspiration to the girls and show them career paths. A lot of people of color are not exposed to the world of advertising.”

Recently, Christie and her fellow volunteers had a group of YWLN 11th graders shadow people within the agency. The goal: show them what a career in advertising would be like.

“The intention is to get them to work here one day, to get them into the Saatchi internship,” says the NYC native. One of the young women sent Christie a note saying she had “found her career” after her day at Saatchi.

Within Saatchi, Christie is an active member of the S&S Diversity Advisory Board and the Publicis WATER (Women for Advancement, Transformation, Empowerment and Renewal) Coalition that supports career development for women of color. “I’m really excited to be a part of those because they have the mission of changing the face of our industry,” she explains.

At Saatchi, the mantra is “be purpose driven.” “It’s something everyone here lives and breathes,” Christie says. “I get to live my purpose by helping inspire people in their everyday lives.”



Peter Drakoulias

Global Chief of Staff | Draftfcb


Peter Drakoulias describes himself as “a middle-class kid from Long Island who stumbled into the business of advertising,” but the chief of staff at Draftfcb and former partner at Deutsch realizes that not every young person has that opportunity.

That is what inspired him to found TORCH (Together Our Resources Can Help), a nonprofit organization that works with underserved New York City high school students to provide hands-on career training in advertising and media. Through the intensive mentoring program, students get help with everything from finding internships to applying to college.

“The idea is to show students new possibilities, and getting them on a career track is very important,” says Drakoulias. He wants them to find their passion, just as he did. TORCH graduate Quintin Rodriguez- Harrison, now 28, says he wouldn’t be where he is today—a producer at interactive agency Spongecell—if not for TORCH. “They found me at a young age and helped me understand what I wanted to do. They showed me how big the world is.”

While graduates of TORCH go to work in a variety of creative fields, “We may be a little ad centric,” Drakoulias admits. And that’s a good thing. “The advertising industry is supposed to be reflective of the real world, and it’s just not. It’s a business that has done a lot of good work, but has a lot of room for improvement if we want to be reflective of the new America.”

For Drakoulias, the most rewarding moments are when he overhears a TORCH ad agency intern drop terms like “TV spot,” “brand building” and “return on investment.” “It’s pretty cool to hear a 16-year-old talking like that.”