You’re Not Doing Truly Inclusive Work. You’re Just Saying You Are

lightbulb made of colorful threads

By Roberto Lastra, Co-founder/Chief Creative Officer, Lovers Not Haters

General market agencies keep calling us to ask if we’ll “white label” for them. So do Hispanic agencies. Our answer is NO.

We must confess, we “white labeled” when we started Lovers Not Haters. Mostly to get our foot in the door, hoping the situation would eventually change and turn into a true partnership. 99% of the time…it didn’t.

Sticking to Your Values May Cost You in the Short-Term, but Save You in Longer-Term

It’s been a long journey with a good deal of trial-and-error and a lot of partners. Some good and some bad. People I admired and worked with at La Crème de la Crème agencies reached out to give us an opportunity to “partner up.” But if and only if, we used their email address and said we were part of them.

Someone even once asked: “Is it cool if we use that language on your website about ‘not just from insights but from inside’ on our deck? It’s great, dude.”

Needless to say, we’ve had to walk away from partnerships, projects and clients more than a few times.

Sticking to your values will cost you money and industry friends. Not sticking to them will cost you your identity and your integrity. And without those two, you have nothing.

Some Brands Are Getting It Right — or at Least Honestly Attempting To

Thank God for brands like Google, Facebook, Lyft, Red Ventures, Vrbo and others who understand the importance of doing truly inclusive work or are at least trying. They’re the ones calling and giving us real opportunities. They’re the ones at the forefront of advancing equity and creating truly authentic environments and experiences.

To be honest, it’s not the ad industry that’s leading this necessary change. It’s brands who either want to do things right or feel the pressure from consumers and the government.

Why Haven’t All Brands Embraced True Inclusivity?

The main problem?

The old binary approach our industry refuses to leave behind:
Black vs. white.
English vs. Spanish.

Let’s be honest. It comes down to budgets. Hispanic agencies are still making up unnecessary insights to justify getting 30% of the budget. Meanwhile, general market agencies are telling their clients they can “do it all,” then quickly calling us or going to my LinkedIn profile to hire two Black, Asian or Hispanic creatives so they can do reactive work.

C’mon. If you truly champion inclusivity and diversity, don’t call me to offer a couple of thousand dollars to show up to your client meetings as your last-minute “charming bicultural.”

Transcreation sounds nicer than translation but it’s still reactive work. And doing work that leaves a specific audience behind because your agency can only speak to one of the two is not the right thing for the brand or the consumer. Or the country.

Use that same passion you bring forth when trying to sell clients that agency-version cut to convince your leadership team your truly inclusive work needs work.

Cultures have blended and the process inside ad agencies should reflect that. You know it. I know it. But most of you aren’t doing it. You’re just saying that you are.

The Bottom Line

So, let’s do it right. The cause is bigger than advertising.

Lovers Not Haters is happy to partner with you. But don’t hide your deficiencies in speaking to multicultural audiences by trying to hide us. We’ll bring our unique approach and our own email addresses and get to work.

Not from forced segmentations but from cultural integration. Not from ethnic background but from cultural identity. Not just from insights but from inside.

We’re ready for you. We’re not calling you out. We’re calling you in.

About the Author

Roberto has worked as a Copywriter, Creative Director and Consultant at agencies like Wieden + Kennedy, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, Fallon Worldwide, TBWA Chiat Day, and pretty much every major agency as a freelancer. Roberto co-founded Lovers Not Haters four years ago as a response to the binary approach in advertising. But what he really wants you to know is that he was born in a place called the “City of the Cold Eggs” because it’s so hot, everyone drives around with a can of Tecate beer in between their legs. And, that by age 24 he had been fired from about ten professional soccer teams. He also grinds his teeth when sleeping and he’s currently training for his 3rd full Ironman event and trying to figure out why.