Changing the Ad Industry Vibe, One Diverse Team at a Time
Amber Wimmer joined Forsman & Bodenfors New York in January 2018 to lead and oversee the agency’s interactive production department. Wimmer came to the agency from Google and has held stints at The Barbarian Group, Droga5, TBWA\Chiat\Day, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Her career in integrated production has included a range of clients to include Absolut, Dean Foods, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Prudential, Toyota, Under Armour and Volkswagen, to name a few. Amber brings her passion for solving complex business needs in partnership with her endless pursuit of delivering on innovative creative executions. Most recently, she was elevated to Co-head of Integrated Production and led the production behind Grow Your Circle, a digital tool that allows ad agencies and commercial producers to find underrepresented talent.
When I started my career in advertising, I entered the industry at a time when interactive production was radically changing the way brands, films, and the media were telling stories. As a new kid in town, I was in a nonstop “make it happen” mode — working mad hours to support the larger team, while also building new experiences that had never been created before. It often felt like we were building the plane while flying it.
We committed to near-impossible goals, embracing adventures into the unknown and, hopefully, forging a path for others to follow. The work was badass, but like most exciting projects, it was a marathon. In the late night hours we often felt like we were out there on our own, but knowing that everyone was giving their all helped get through the most challenging of times. We were pushing boundaries and evaluating human behaviors, and taking them into consideration with every decision we made.
Like much of the advertising industry today, my personal goals of collaboration and inclusiveness were not the industry norm. Hierarchy reigned supreme, the boardroom was male-dominated, I knew underrepresented talent coming up behind me would face unique challenges in the industry. Throughout my life, I’ve always aimed to engage in a considerate, inclusive and supportive manner with those around me. In a professional sense, that means proactively looking for ways to include those who aren’t already in our workplaces or on our teams. Grow Your Circle, a digital tool that allows agencies and producers to find underrepresented talent from disciplines across all types of production is the latest expression of this necessary principle.
Transforming a Work Environment
My role as a producer is all about bringing people together and assembling the best teams to bring creative ideas to life. I’ve tried to keep sight of that dedication as I’ve advanced in my career. I continue to try new approaches, as it’s so important that everyone feels that they’re seen and valued. During meetings, I make a habit of asking the room for input and opinions to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. I remind my coworkers that I’m available to answer questions, offer support and explain how I came to a decision. I go beyond email and push for in-person collaboration.
I’ve found that all of these actions help to further cultivate a supportive vibe that can truly catch on over time. When you take a moment to listen and give people the opportunity to communicate together, project teams become closer and the work excels. But that sense of inclusion can only do so much good if you’re restricting yourself to the people currently working at your agency. Bringing in new voices and points of view should be baked into your hiring efforts and partner selections when you’re seeking talent for any project — otherwise, not only are you limiting creativity, you’re doing a disservice to the stories you’re putting out into the world.
Increasing Industry-Wide Diversity
We were inspired to create Grow Your Circle when we received a brief for a client’s for-good initiative aimed at aspiring female entrepreneurs around the world. Moved by the initiative, our mission was to run the entire production with only female entrepreneurs. When we found it incredibly challenging to reach that goal, we wanted to make a change by joining the efforts to further diversify the industry.
Grow Your Circle showcases a wide range of disciplines within the production industry including developers, editors, and animators, among others. More importantly, it gives access to many other underrepresented entrepreneurs, like those who identify as LGBTQ+, come from diverse backgrounds, or live with a disability. We soft launched the tool at the 2018 3% Conference last November, and it’s now open to the entire advertising and commercial production industries. So far, some of the world’s top advertising agencies and production companies are using the tool to build the types of teams that we know produce the most creative and authentic work.
Where We Go From Here
Working on this unique project has felt like the culmination of many years of prioritizing open and inclusive workplaces and working hard to bring people together to collaborate in imaginative and exciting ways.
I am proud of the contributions Forsman & Bodenfors has made to diversify our own workplace, and am excited by the opportunity to further expand our practices to our community. I truly believe that it’s possible for even one person to kick-start a culture of inclusivity. The responsibility for creating an inclusive environment lies with those who manage, mentor, recruit and hire. Learning the skills of inclusivity and giving access to underrepresented talent is just the beginning of the process.