Graham Nolan’s PR consulting career in communications and reputation management has put him at some of the biggest, global agency networks in the world – from his start at Leo Burnett, through to senior communications positions at Starcom, Momentum and Grey. As the Founder and CEO of Lupine Creative, Kate Wolff serves as pack leader on all business – having stewarded impactful brands previously for Publicis Modem, DDB, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Omelet and RQ – and helping them tap into popular culture.
From Austin and LA respectively, Graham and Kate now co-chair Do The WeRQ, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group for equal opportunity and inclusion in the marketing industry.
Do The WeRQ’s website makes an impactful statement about the lack of openness and encouragement in the marketing industry. Why do you think that the LGBTQ+ community is marginalized in this way?
Kate: Because despite all of our cultural influence and community organization around equality, the LGBTQIA+ is part of the mass market but gets treated like a niche or special interest audience. We are 5.6% of the U.S. population – a number that is rapidly growing, as more people find the courage to self-report their queer identity. Yet somehow, we are not 5.6% of marketer budgets. We are not 5.6% of ad spend. We are not 5.6 percent of families in ads. As humans, we deserve respect. As a mass market, we deserve brand dollars. 5.6% of 329M people is roughly 18.3 million. Ohio’s population is 11.7M. If the queer community is a niche, then the full populations of Illinois and Minnesota combined would qualify as a niche.
So that’s where the marginalization: an outdated misconception around our community’s scale and power. Of course, marketers are learning the value of our spending power, and the spending power of allies who recognize support for our population. And our cultural influence will continue to be leading and fabulous. Vastly more openness is imminent.
Who is involved with you at WeRQ?
Graham: The community is founded by and welcomes professionals, freelancers, industry veterans and more – from across agencies, holding companies, independent shops, brands, digital platforms and beyond – to unite the industry’s queer advertising and marketing talent at unprecedented scale, now and in the long-term. Our Court of leaders includes amazing volunteers from companies like Omnicom, WPP, Publicis Media, Cossette, 1803 LLC and beyond. I’m personally an ad-sector PR consultant who works out of my living room in sweatpants, and I’m committed to change within the industry.
A funny realization as we got going was the lack of industry-wide efforts that actively welcome all manner of advertising talent, as much focus and discussion gravitates towards large agencies in major cities, and even then, focuses on the creatives in those sectors of the industry. So we’ve got two dimensions of diversity – personal and professional – that we’re trying to unite as a new, unified community. If you think you might belong, you definitely belong. And we’ve added our most active participants by connecting people with the efforts they most want to lead and support to make a difference that means something to them
Tell us about WeRQ’s activities – how are you opening up the discussion to bring about lasting acceptance and cultural change?
Kate: We launched with digital programming, which is continuing into this Pride season, and it serves two functions. First, it helps us share our mission, but second, it helps us continue to listen. We’re in such a nuanced community and a nuanced business, so listening is still high priority as we develop strategy for a committed presence to the industry. So our online discussions – archived here – are intentionally connective and provocative. The new batch is about to break, so we ask people to sign up to find out more. Also on the way: a newsletter. Data resources. An ERG support kit for ERGs. Small live events that lead to large live events in very fun cities.
You ask about personal discussion, and I have to mention: It starts with hand-raising, in many cases. We raised our flag to be seen, and then other people raise their hand and say, “I see you. So let’s talk.” And that’s what’s characterized our first year and made our in-development initiatives possible. If you think you and your company should be aligned with us, then it should be. Say hey to us, and we’ll talk about how. If you as a person want to build something for our community, build it with us and our support.
What kind of support or reception are you getting from within the industry?
Graham: The months before launch was just a lot of us talking with as many people as we could reach to ask, “So, what’s your experience as an LGBTQ+ person in this industry?” And we found a lot of uniform, shared challenges we thought we could tackle if we could gather in scale. Queer creativity is a powerful force to aggregate and then focus. So then, we start to tell people “We’re founding what we hope would be the LGBTQ+ parallel to ADCOLOR or The 3% Movement” and the almost universal response is “Wait. Does that not exist? HOW DO WE NOT HAVE THAT?”
That’s a beautiful response, in a way. Our creative industry lives for that kind of challenge. I love how John Patroulis at Grey describes a great creative idea: “Surprising but Feels Inevitable.” So like, people are surprised we didn’t exist yet, and then feel like something’s imminent, and then they want to help make sure it succeeds, and that’s a great chain reaction. You tell them the mission –to increase queer creativity, representation and share of voice in the advertising industry – and they say “how can I help?” And then they do, however they’re able to at the time. It’s cool, and the enthusiasm is glittery fuel that is moving us forward at an incredible pace.
Do The WeRQ’s next programming sessions will be announced shortly, via their Instagram and Twitter feeds (both @dothewerq). Website registrants will receive the premiere edition of their newsletter.