Campaign US 40 over 40: There Is An “I” In Team

By Chris Witherspoon, President & Chief Growth Officer

I’m a team guy. I played team sports growing up and in college, led a girls basketball club, and am obsessed with every Seattle sports team (Go Hawks!). That’s why being named to the 2021 Campaign US 40 over 40 is so uncomfortable for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive as hell and love winning things. However, when it comes to my career accomplishments, I’d be foolish to think I achieved them all independently. No, this isn’t a humblebrag. It’s just years of experiencing how the support of others fuels excellent individual efforts. Whether that be on a field or in business, the simple fact is that no team can maximize its potential without maximizing the strengths of individual members.

In my case, I’ve had the support of at least three outstanding teams that helped me receive this recognition in the industry: DNA, 600 & Rising, and BLAC Internship. Though all very different, the one commonality is there is a team of people aligned around a singular goal.

At DNA, we are driven to work with ambitious clients to create an impact that moves people, business, and culture forward. Generating this type of impact requires both creativity and commitment. And our talented team has shown both. Whether creating a video game to tap into the beer nerd culture or using AI technology to seek out and stop sex trafficking, I’m fortunate to work with individuals who want to leave a mark on the industry. Our recent AdAge Small Agency Award win is just one indicator of success in achieving our goal.

And speaking of leaving a mark on the industry, arguably, two other groups I get the privilege to work with are focused on doing just that. 600 & Rising is meeting the needs of Black talent and holding our industry accountable. What started as a letter has led to a movement for transparency, policy, and advocacy. In just a year, we’ve seen over 100 agencies release their diversity data and commit to changing the make-up of their agency. We’ve also had numerous agencies commit to the 12 Action Steps initially outlined in the letter from 600 Black professionals. Our efforts have just scratched the surface of what needs to be done, but it’s clear the events of 2020 were not just a moment in time.

BLAC (Building Leaders and Creators) Internship Program has also seen tremendous momentum over the last year. Last June, in the wake of the open letter to the industry, a small group of independent agencies came together for what was first just a discussion. “What can we do to increase diversity within our industry?” was the question we asked of each other. After many fantastic ideas, we decided to focus on getting more Black people into the advertising industry prepared to thrive and lead. However, we also realized it’s not about intent. It’s about impact. We needed to move beyond focusing on a pipeline. We had to nurture, create community, and change agency cultures when it came to Black talent. Our first inaugural class finished the program in July, with 80% of interns getting placed into advertising roles and 40+ agencies on a waiting list to get involved next year. It’s a solid first step, but just the beginning.

I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of the Campaign US 40 over 40. But as you can see, none of this would have been possible without an amazing team of people committed to doing impactful work. So thank you to all my teammates for your role in achieving this honor—and helping highlight the “I” in team.

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