PACO Collective recently celebrated our 15th birthday. It was an overwhelming day for me – to not only keep something you create alive but grow it from two guys working at a kitchen table into a thriving agency of over 40 people that’s weathered a once in a generation economic crisis and a once in a century pandemic in the process, is kind of a big deal and I’ll give myself a rare pat on the back that we’ve pulled it off.
But it’s also made me think a lot about why Pablo and I decided we needed to strike out on our own and work from that kitchen table. We wanted to create the kind of agency that we’d always wanted to work for. That meant a lot of things, but the most important one was, and is, inclusion. Way too often we’ve seen people’s voices get lost, whether because they were pushed to the side as preconceptions and stereotypes took over, or because they were never heard in the first place. And we were determined to do something about it.
I think it’s fantastic that so many agencies have come to put inclusion and representation closer to the core of their thinking over the last couple of years. That they’ve seen the time has come to shift from listening to action. To commit to change. To fight invisibility.
It’s a crucial question, and it leads to others. How is it we see tone deaf ads year after year after year? How is it that just last year over 600 Black creatives felt it necessary to write a letter about the lack of representation and accountability at agencies? How is it that an industry that prides itself on progressive and transgressive thinking could remain such an ocean of conformity for so long?
So as happy as I am to see change start, I’m not exactly convinced that the message has sunk in. I worry that DE&I will become an acronym devoid of real meaning, yet another square on advertising’s Buzzword Bingo card. And that should concern everyone. It feels like an “Oh $h!t, we don’t have inclusive representation” moment. Folks have been called out and now they’re reacting.
If inclusion is something you care about, it may be a good idea to work with an agency where it’s the core of our existence. There are many of us in this space – you just have to look. We are diverse by design – not because we felt obligated to be. Inclusion is who we are at PACO. It’s who we’ve been all along.