Talking Diversity Targets with John Doe

by | Jun 24, 2020

Magin Trehella, Managing Director and Celine Khor, Head of Brand Experience, from John Doe discuss their pledges for increasing diversity within their business model, be this both internally and with the clients they work with. 

Since being set up in 2009, creative agency John Doe, has always focussed on youth culture, with brands like PlayStation and Adidas Originals being their founding clients.

As a current team of 12, Magin explains how, as a smaller agency, they are ‘more agile’ than bigger corporations and can ‘make change quite rapidly’. He discusses that as an agency who work mostly with culture driven brands, their specialisms have ‘shaped a lot of what they are doing’ regarding diversity.

He describes that they already have a 50/50 split of white and Black people, both in their team as a whole, and their leadership team.

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ‘the Blackout Tuesday’ campaign, John Doe pledged to make big changes in the way their agency operated.

Celine discusses how she ‘felt the power of the pause in the moment and the reprieve of the awful and heart-breaking news’ and felt they must respond and contribute to the conversation. But she mentioned that she quickly found that ‘others felt it was quite cynical, and that it seemed quite dangerous that people were jumping on this thing without outlining clear commitments and substantial pledges behind it.’ The ‘last thing we wanted to do was associate ourselves with something [the blackout] quite superficial, because that wasn’t the way we operate’.

Magin suggests they eventually decided to add to the conversation, but with something concrete. Their plan falls into four separate focus points.

  • Recruitment:
    • Recruitment agencies they work with have to be able to supply them with the demographic breakdown of their portfolio of candidates, and also be able to tell them what their strategy is to increase diversity in their portfolio.
    • They pledge to set up a specific internship programme specifically targeting Black talent.
    • All shortlists for roles at John Doe will have 33% Black representation in them.
  • Supply Chain
    • 33% representation of Black owned or black majority businesses.
  • Representation in Campaign
    • 33% of shortlists, creative collaborators, models etc. will be Black.
  • Unconscious Bias
    • They will be funding unconscious bias training for all members of their staff, new recruits and also when they onboard clients.

Magin explains that ‘we were resting on our laurels before this’ and that ‘it was really important to think about what we were doing, and what should come from this’.

It was easy to ask, ‘how do you create an inclusive environment? and then come to the answer that, well, we have one of those already. But we were not accountable. There was no strategy or thinking behind that.’ He explains that John Doe needed to ‘put a lot of what they were already doing, down on paper’.

Celine explains that ‘it is so important to have diversity of thought. If you cannot afford to change big parts of your business, there is so much more you can do at several points in your process, you can include diverse voices’.

‘We aren’t the oracles of racism and aren’t claiming to be. We are doing our best along the way. There may be things that we are claiming we can do that we find really challenging, but we will share those experiences really transparently and hope that those conversations will educate others along the way’.