GSD&M is inviting advertising agencies to participate in a two-day, virtual matchmaking event that aims to give diverse vendors greater access to the advertising industry.
The Austin-based advertising agency, part of Omnicom Group, has championed vendor diversification for nearly two decades. Its first formal initiative to improve the representation of small, minority- and women-owned businesses was developed in 2004.
It has since evolved into an in-person and virtual Diverse P&rtner Summit, where vendors get one-on-one time with key decision makers. “The crux of the event is to bring awareness, knowledge and support [to diverse vendors],” said Max Rutherford, VP of vendor partner diversity at GSD&M.
But vendors continue to face challenges scaling their business beyond a handful of agency partners.
A survey of 106 diverse vendors within GSD&M’s database conducted in October found three-quarters (76%) face challenges being considered by advertising agencies. Around half said they receive few proposals (52%), have too few relationships with agencies (46%) or do not have the resources to respond to proposals (55%). The vast majority (79%) said they receive little to no feedback when they don’t win work, making it difficult to improve.
Part of the challenge is convincing agency leaders to “not always focus on our tried and true,” Rutherford told Campaign US in an interview. Too often diverse vendors are considered a “risk,” he said, when in reality, they will often go “above and beyond” what is required to protect their business and relationships.
In response, GSD&M has created a matchmaking event open to all agencies. Agencies will be presented with vendors that match their needs and interests through a ‘My Business Match’ platform, and offered the opportunity to schedule a 15-minute meeting over a two-day period starting Dec. 7.“We understand
that our reach as an agency—the number of jobs or productions that we have — only goes so far. Ultimately, our commitment to vendor supplier diversity is to help as many as we can get opportunities. So for us, there's no negative to inviting all agencies. This is an open call,” said Keisha Townsend Taitt, GSD&M’s chief inclusion officer.
The agency’s database includes 1,187 vendors across North America and represents a mix of production and specialist social media firms.
The virtual meetings form part of GSD&M’s 13th annual Diverse P&rtner Summit, which will include an in-person event at the agency’s Austin headquarters on Dec. 6.
GSD&M claims it has increased spend on diverse vendors by 57% over the past year since requiring all Request for Proposals (RFPs) it sends out for clients to include diverse vendors.