Building the Future of Advertising at the 3% Conference

by | Nov 14, 2019

Cindy Gallop on the 3% Conference Main Stage 

It’s been a week since attending the 3% Conference, and I came away with a feeling of personal and professional integration. For the first time, I felt a sense of belonging in a space (advertising industry) that previously left me feeling disconnected, or tokenized at best.  Being an immigrant, a woman and advocate for equality and the liberation of marginalized people always felt like a clash with my career in advertising – I spent my career parking my full self, wearing a pleasant mask that was void of activism. Unsurprisingly, the most common themes of my career at agencies is that I was “too much.”  I’ve never been interested in status quo that doesn’t serve the needs of all, so when I reached a position of power at a recent agency role, I used my voice to bring up issues that have always bothered me; issues that have kept me from fully embracing the ad world. I fought for unconscious bias training. I fought for team brainstorms to include folks that represent the target demographic. I fought for hiring people of color while fighting against tokenism. I fought against sexual harassment.  And while I made headway, I burned out and took a year off thinking I would never go back and chose to put my energy into activism-related projects until recently when I joined the We Are Rosie revolution.

The vibe Kat Gordon and her team cultivated for the 3% Conference at Navy Pier was incredible. I felt the sensations of personal transformation. Finally, I was in the presence of fellow advocates for change and progress in the ad world. Finally, I was not the lone voice screaming into the void about how easy it can be to make things better if we just kept an open mind, embrace change and most importantly listen to the people. The conference is a rebel itself, born from the mind-boggling yet sadly unsurprising fact that 97% of adland’s creative directors were all men. 3% was started as a movement to call that out and push for equality.  

The topics of this year’s conference pulled no punches, each serving as a resounding call to action aimed to solve core issues that plague the people in our industry (sexism, ageism, racism, sizeism, tokenism…). Every presentation and panel was utterly raw – a celebration of identities and stories rarely featured on ad panels…  

Where else do we get to see a trans agency VP – Chris Bergeron of Cossette – on the main stage share her transition story while acknowledging the privilege she has in her position? “Hire more trans people. We don’t want to be tokens, we want to be symbols of hope for people like us.”   

Where else do we get to see a new LGBTQ-focused creative agency – Posture Media – on the main stage share their film elevating the narratives of the often misunderstood and rarely represented non-binary population? An agency that’s making its own rules like not stopping at representation in casting, but also enforcing it behind the camera & production crew. They’ve also intentionally created a culture that offers safety for employees with invisible disabilities: “Lights, offices and open floor plans can be detrimental for people with disabilities, so a flexible and remote option can be a great solution for all” – Winter Mendelson, CEO of Posture Media.  

Where else do we see a freelance creative director included in the nominations for emerging industry talent? 

Where else do we get to see a white male President & Managing Partner of a global agency – Derek Robson of Goodby Silverstein – share the agency’s honest story of reversing its recent financial peril by shifting the all-white male leadership team to 50/50 male/female split?   

Where else do we get to see a black mother/daughter duo – Desiree Adaway & Jordan Dinwiddie – dazzle the audience with their charming and hilarious presence while sharing their unfiltered & unapologetic 10 Lessons Learned? “I do not give my life force to folks that don’t want to change or continue to grow. If you don’t want to change, you will be irrelevant. You will be forgotten.” -Desiree Adaway 

I even had the privilege of participating in a panel to a packed house with fellow industry change-makers Andrea Diquez – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi NY, Jennifer Putnam – CCO of Allen & Gerritsen and Kirstin Hammerberg – Global VP of Sid Lee. We were prompted to share stories of how we accomplished the impossible through leadership. Hearing Jennifer’s story about approaching a pitch last year with all freelance creative talent while being met with some resistance felt so powerful because that kind of prototyping is the future of this industry. Challenging the status quo on how the work gets done is exactly the kind of energy I craved during my time at agencies. 

The resounding theme of the conference was humans. The 3% Insights team shared a key takeaway slide “Lead with a human focus”, accompanied by one of my favorite lines of the conference: 

 “When did humanity become a future trend?”

 Throughout the conference, my colleague Katie (our incredible Head of People Experiences at We Are Rosie) and I kept chatting about how We Are Rosie’s mission and model is a manifestation of these themes – a model that is centered around the people and making their lives better. Not by adding ping pong tables to the office, but by offering a better lifestyle, one that suits their needs and adds harmony to their lives.  

So, when the legendary Cindy Gallop took the stage to present her Keynote speech on the final day of the conference, we were awestruck and grateful to hear her call We Are Rosie the future of the advertising industry. Because the future is not about new technologies or innovation. The future is about the people who make it all possible. And when the people are taken care of and feel liberated to innovate, the work is better.  

Hearing Cindy validate our vision of the future of the industry felt powerful. We see it every day. We see former VPs and former C-Suite talent join our community –a  reminder that the issues facing our industry are inextricably linked to why so many people have chosen to leave for a better more flexible life. We see the lightbulb moment in each agency holding company we work with (yes, all five) as they realize the power of being able to supplement their core full time teams with a dream team of experts from our community. We see the power of offering our consultants weekly pay and health benefits, a shift to the freelance status quo. We see the change, and we are incredibly excited to be a part of building the future. 

The energy of the conference was unforgettable, I’m still invigorated one week later.  It’s a testament to the power of creating spaces that don’t exist, a testament to elevating often unheard voices, a testament to being inclusive vs just talking about it. For the folks doing the work of making change, it can often feel like an uphill battle in our day to day lives, but sharing space together felt uniquely powerful. I’m proud to be a part of the change our founder Stephanie Nadi Olson started at We Are Rosie. And I’m grateful to Kat Gordon and the 3% team for building a community for all of us change-makers to unite and feel seen and heard. 

While we all wait for the next 3% Conference, check out highlights from our 2019 conference experience!





welcome to a new way to work.