Commercial Producers Launch Initiative To Increase Diversity Among Crews

The Association of Independent Commercial Producers has launched a diversity initiative to create more job opportunities for people of color in the advertising industry. AICP says the the program, dubbed “Double the Line,” is designed to “double up on key production and post-production roles, so clients can double down on creating more opportunities.”

“Many agencies and clients are reaching out to production and post-production companies asking how to add mandates to the bidding process to increase diversity among crew,” said the AICP, whose member companies account for 85% of all domestic commercials aired nationally. “We are asking clients and agencies to take the pledge to #doubletheline so that we can increase diversity and inclusion across all departments with an emphasis on leadership positions.”

According to AICP, several advertisers and ad agencies including the Ford Motor Company, the Deutsch ad agency, Wieden+Kennedy Portland, 72andSunny and the production consultancy firm APR have pledged their support for the initiative.

The campaign takes its name from the fact that on every commercial production, roles for the project are listed on individual lines in the budget with their associated costs. “On every job you are bidding,” the AICP told its members, “the agency and/or client will consult with the production and post-production company and based on potential candidates, costs, and opportunities, will agree to double the role of any single position on the bid. In doing so, they agree to cover the costs to hire a BIPOC candidate to work alongside the chosen role.

“Once the role is agreed upon, the final total of that budget line would be duplicated on a separate line item labeled ‘Double the Line.’ Production and post companies can make this ‘Double the Line’ line item cost plus and provide any required back up. In this way, the total amount invested is clear on every project and makes the monetary investment accountable and measurable.”

“After George Floyd’s murder and the growing awareness of Black Lives Matter, there was a genuine desire to address the lack of diversity in our advertising community,” said Ali Brown, president of the PrettyBird commercial firm, who came up with the idea. “Many clients and agency friends reached out to ask about adding more mandates to the bid specs, but I felt that wouldn’t make the sort of change that was needed fast enough. Finding a way to have a real investment in talent that extended across the call sheet would not only increase access and opportunity, but would tie in well to other initiatives AICP has taken on that were focused on entry level positions and directors. Double the Line seemed like a simple philosophy that could be adopted widely, or on a per job basis.”

Brown is a member of the AICP’s Equity & Inclusion Committee, which is chaired by Tabitha Mason-Elliott, who is head of production and a partner at Bark Bark, a commercial production company in Atlanta. After Brown shared the idea with the committee, she and Mason-Elliott got to work on implementation and building industry support.

“What I love about this idea is that it’s easy to implement, and there is buy-in from every part of the industry,” Mason-Elliott said. “Production and post companies have to invest time and effort to grow their network of freelancers, while brands and agencies have to invest money and initiative. We know that changing the demographics of our business is a multi-pronged approach, and we’re working on that, but this is a brilliant and quick way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.”

“In order to increase the diversity of crew at all levels of the process,” AICP said, “we have to acknowledge that a primary issue we face is access to our industry. We need to allow access to well-qualified crew from other arenas of production such as television, film, music videos and live theater. Our companies believe that access and exposure to our industry, with a financial buy-in for on the job training, can create a pathway for these individuals to quickly learn the language and nuances of the commercial business and help us all create a crew base that is sustainable and reflects our collective company goals.”

AICP says increasing diversity among crews can be accomplished even during the pandemic.

“With the pandemic taking a toll on our business everywhere and sadly, perhaps, all the Covid disruption is becoming a justification for not pushing diversity and inclusion. While staying mindful of Covid protocols, and keeping on set crew numbers to a minimum, we believe we can still safely achieve goals for the advancement of many individuals in a meaningful, sustainable way. We would note that the shoot days of a job are traditionally far less than the prep and wrap time and that the addition of one to three persons (who will be subject to the same safety protocols as all other crew members) will not affect overall crew safety.”

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