As with many sectors of the economy, it’s not always easy for people of color to catch a big break in the ad industry or rise to the top.
But Hill Holliday hopes to buck that trend. The Boston ad agency just recruited Julianna Akuamoah (below) away from Allen & Gerritsen, another agency in town, to be Hill Holliday’s first senior vice president of diversity and talent management, to help with recruitment and retention. This is one of two big hires for the Interpublic Group subsidiary; Hill Holliday also just hired former Arnold chief financial officer Scott Feyler to be its CFO and chief operating officer.
Hill Holliday chief executive Karen Kaplan said she’s proud of the strides her agency has taken in hiring and promoting women. Women make up about two-thirds of the agency’s 600-person workforce, and about half of its leadership ranks. And she says the agency has made it clear that it offers a welcoming environment to LGBQT employees.
“[But] we’ve been less successful with people of color, particularly with African-Americans as an underrepresented group,” Kaplan says.
Toward that end, Kaplan says, she set a goal in early 2017 that 25 percent of the firm’s new hires would come from outside the ad industry. She says Hill Holliday would never reach its diversity target if it only recruits from within the industry. The 25 percent hiring goal has already been exceeded, Kaplan says.
Kaplan’s aim is twofold: to foster a more diverse workforce and also to ensure that people of color can see a career path within Hill Holliday. “It’s not just about having people here,” Kaplan says. “It’s also about giving them an equal voice.”
As an African-American woman, Akuamoah is looking forward to making a difference — not just at Hill Holliday but also in Boston’s corporate circles. She got her start in the staffing industry before joining A&G five years ago. She most recently was senior vice president of talent and operations there. In her new job, she’ll also work with Trilia, Hill Holliday’s media-planning affiliate.
“I know that our industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion [but] our industry is not alone in trying to tackle these types of challenges,” Akuamoah says. “My vision is to try to tackle it in the working world in the hope that as we start to build a more inclusive environment, people start to learn new behaviors that translate beyond the working world.”
Rooney: Don’t fear the robots
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce sees more robots in our future.
The chamber last week organized a field trip to Pittsburgh for business and civic leaders to learn more about the robotics cluster in the Steel City. The delegation visited the Pittsburgh chamber’s offices before heading to Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center. A wide range of Boston-area industries were represented, ranging from ad agency Allen & Gerritsen CEO Andrew Graff, to developer Dick Galvin, to UMass Boston’s Ed Lambert, to Mike Tamasi, president of Avon manufacturer AccuRounds.
One goal was to learn from Pittsburgh’s strengths in robotics — such as autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence — and consider whether those lessons could be translated in the Boston area. Greater Boston Chamber CEO Jim Rooney says he was impressed with what he saw, but still considers the Boston area’s robotics cluster to be more powerful than Pittsburgh’s.
One of the big takeaways: We shouldn’t fear the robots, or worry too much about the jobs they might displace. Instead, Rooney says Massachusetts would be better off ensuring that workers get robotics skills as these machines show up in seemingly every corner of our economy.
“This is a wave to be ridden on top of, and not churned up underneath,” Rooney says. “We have to get beyond the fear of displacement and focus on the opportunities.”
Boston Beer seeks marketing chief
Good thing Dave Burwick has a marketing background.
The Boston Beer Co. chief executive recently told his staff that he is hunting for a new chief marketing officer, now that Jon Potter is resigning from the company, as of Tuesday. (Potter’s last day in the office, according to a Burwick-penned memo, was July 17.)
Potter was recruited two years ago from wine-and-spirits company Moet Hennessy, although he never moved to Boston. Burwick says he continued to live in western Connecticut after taking the job with Boston Beer, and is leaving because he wanted to spend more time with his twin daughters before they graduate from high school.
While Burwick hunts for a new CMO, the marketing team will report to him. Burwick got his start in business in marketing, including in key jobs promoting Mountain Dew and Pepsi. He most recently ran Peet’s Coffee before Boston Beer founder Jim Koch recruited him to be CEO after Martin Roper retired earlier this year.
Potter’s departure comes at a time when Burwick and Koch are struggling to turn around sales for the company’s flagship beer brand, Sam Adams. Their company has enjoyed overall revenue growth lately. But it has been largely due to non-beer brands: Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard cider, and Truly Spiked & Sparkling. Burwick told analysts on Friday that Boston Beer is launching a new ad campaign to reinvigorate Sam Adams sales, and is ditching the recent “Fill Your Glass” campaign.
Burwick gave Potter props on his way out — both in an e-mail to the Globe and in a memo to staff. He cited Boston Beer’s new partnership with the Red Sox, and the revival of Angry Orchard sales with the launch of Angry Orchard Rose, as examples. “JP is a very talented marketer and we’ll miss his thinking and insights into the business,” Burwick says.