These Agency Leaders Want Their Talent Site to be Successful Enough to Put Them Out of Business

Diverse Creatives is free and meant to be shared with other platforms

Photo of Ron Lewis and Walter T. Geer III
Ron Lewis, vp and creative director at McCann Health (left) and Walter T. Geer III svp, group creative director at TBWA Worldhealth launched Diverse Creatives talent portal. Craig Geller

In the past couple of months, diversity in advertising moved quickly to the front of the line. With a focus and energy towards rapid change, the likes of 600 & Rising, We Are Rosie, The Gradient and C0ffe3 put a spotlight on diverse talent and how it can reshape the industry.

Adding to the mix is Diverse Creatives, a new talent site that launched today. Started by Ron Lewis, vp and creative director at McCann Health and Walter T. Geer III svp, group creative director at TBWA Worldhealth, the portal has a head start with an extensive roster of creative professionals of color.

Geer, who has a robust following on social media, started with a simple call on LinkedIn. Within a week, they collected the names and profiles of over 1,400 people using a simple Google Form. At present, about a 50/50 split between junior and senior talent is represented, with more weight on larger markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A key to the site is its simplicity. It has an easy-to-use interface where agencies and brands can search for roles, locations and specific names.

With a combined 35-plus years of industry experience, Lewis and Geer echoed familiar stories of being the only Black creative in the room, or the only Black person at work. Lewis has never had a creative partner of color, except for a four-month stretch, and Geer finally worked with a Black creative in 2015, 15 years into his career.

The duo found each other about a year ago and, according to Geer, was at a time when he was trying to find more talent of color in the industry. Crucially, though, he was seeking people to understand their experiences and how they dealt with the lack of representation industrywide, and Lewis noted a familiar story.

“We have sat at conference room tables, 20 deep, with clients and internal teams, and you can’t help but count,” said Lewis. “Every person of color does the count internally, asking, ‘Am I the only one here?’”

When Lewis reached out to Geer, he found out that he was working on a talent list. As the search for talent of color on LinkedIn continued, they both started finding many more people.

“To me, it debunks the myth that we don’t exist,” said Lewis.

Geer says that removing the friction between a recruiter, brand, agency and talent removes a crucial hurdle. It also takes away the excuse that people of color are hard to find.

“We’re trying to help make this as easy as possible for anyone that is actually looking for talent across the board,” he said.

Lewis noted that preliminary partnership discussions are ongoing with the 4A’s Foundation—which runs the MAIP program—and others, which constitutes a second step in growing the database while expanding its scope. While other platforms may have a limited roster of talent or charge for access, Geer says that the project isn’t about making money, and it has become an issue in discussions with possible partners.

“We’re moving slowly [on partnerships] because we want to make sure that the people that are involved are doing it for the right reasons,” said Geer. “We’ve had multiple conversations with people who say that we should make money off of this. And our answer every single time is ‘Absolutely not.’”

By taking financial gain out of consideration, both Geer and Lewis have a clear vision of maintaining a transparent approach to getting talent beyond the pipeline. They also have a more audacious goal as the site evolves over time.

“We hope that [because of its success] that talent thrives and that we go out of business within the next couple of years,” said Geer.

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.