TBWA North America has a new chief diversity officer.
Aliah Berman is taking on the role following the departure of Doug Melville, who has served as the Omnicom-owned agency network’s chief diversity officer since 2012. He’s leaving for a role outside of the advertising industry, according to a person familiar with the move.
Berman joins from GMR Marketing, a global experiential agency within the TBWA collective, where she served as head of DEI for the past year. She will continue to lead DEI efforts for GMR Marketing as chief diversity officer of TBWA.
Troy Ruhanen, CEO of TBWA, said in a statement that the agency network is “grateful to Doug for his contributions” over the past eight years. TBWA’s website says that Melville’s supplier diversity efforts have resulted in more than $250 million in spend with businesses owned by women and people of color.
“Doug was one of the first chief diversity officers on Madison Avenue and has been a public advocate and champion of the importance of DE&I,” Ruhanen continued. “His work on supplier diversity has created positive economic impact for many and our supplier diversity platform One Sandbox will live on as his legacy.”
Melville found himself on the defense earlier this year when a Black History Month campaign he spearheaded for Barnes & Noble featuring classic book covers such as Frankenstein reimagined with Black protagonists faced criticism for not elevating authors of color instead. TBWA apologized, and Melville took to LinkedIn to discuss the rationale behind the concept, explaining that it was intended to encourage kids of color to read more and highlight the lack of diversity in the publishing industry.
Berman takes over from Melville at a time when agencies are increasingly investing in DEI. Many began to ramp up their efforts in this space following the Black Lives Matter protests that broke out in May after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Like most of advertising’s holding companies, Omnicom released its U.S. workforce diversity data this summer as part of a broader plan to “reach systemic equity” across the organization. Part of the plan involves hiring diversity directors for each agency and practice area within Omnicom.
As chief diversity officer of TBWA North America, Berman will be tasked with leading DEI efforts across the collective, which encompasses agencies including Designory, Juniper Park and Media Arts Lab. TBWA said each of its agencies in North America are hiring DEI leaders to work with Berman.
At GMR Marketing, Berman built a diversity recruitment strategy and DEI councils and committees, according to TBWA. Throughout her career, she has held a number of different roles, many of which were outside of the advertising industry. She is an attorney by trade.
“The work of diversity, equity and inclusion has never been more urgent,” Berman said in a statement. “The opportunity to work across this broader group of agencies to promote measurement and accountability and to serve as the subject matter expert with our leaders around the world is an opportunity I could not refuse.”