One Club's Diversity Initiative Takes Step Backward

The ad industry lives and dies by golden pencils, upholding the merits of an organization that tells you who is and who isn't worthy of greatness. This week, the One Club let go of Julius Dunn II, who moved to New York to run Adversity, the One Club's get-diverse-creatives-in-the-biz initiative — a move that will set the club back as a leader in that area.
Dunn, who was not immediately available for comment, just celebrated the end of his organization's first year as a partner with the One Club (he started and owns Adversity — which seeks to bring creative talent of diverse backgrounds into the business). The party was hosted at JWT, where that agency's diversity leader Singleton Beato sang Dunn's praises before a crowd of 200 plus advertising pros and diversity leaders. Our own Kiran Aditham was there, too.
The news came earlier this week, and already the One Club has pulled down a blog and information pages tied to Adversity. now points to the organization's education page. The effects of this move have already been felt by top industry creatives. Kash SreeECD at Pereira & O'Dell said "I thought that the adversity program was making huge strides in the right direction. Showing many people who had no idea what the business is about or how to get some accessibility to it. Julius was working tirelessly and selflessly towards that."
To clarify, One Club CEO Mary Warlick informs AgencySpy that the program is not going away, but the partnership with Adversity is ending, "because of financial reasons." Two support staff in the New York office were also let go, as was a full time staffer in the China office.
Adversity, which was founded by Dunn and two Creative Circus colleagues, has been successful in gaining industry recognition. Initiatives include educating youth about the business (after an event headed by Dunn applications to theCreative Circus in Atlanta went up by 200%), speaker and video series, columns on AdAge, seminars, panels, and discussions on career options. Howard University, the National Urban League, Nike brand Jordan, Best Buy, Deutsch, JWT, Omnicom, R/GA and many others had been working with Dunn to strengthen the cause.
Dunn also helped the One Club create a new award, The One Club|ADCOLOR Creative Award (a black pencil), which was presented for the first time to TBWA GCD Jimmy Smith at this year's AdColor awards. The award was meant to highlight creative talent specifically of diverse background for their efforts over the last year — and give it the One Club pencil cachet so the rest of the industry would respect it.
"This is all because of JD's determination and humility in serving as a conduit for change," said Omnicom's Chief Diversity Officer, Tiffany Warren. "His work will continue no matter where he is and I hope the industry continues to support his very important mission."
Warlick reiterated the non-profit's devotion to diversity initiatives, which will include career days, boot camps and continued support of agencies involved in similar efforts. But the organization's internal structure isn't reflective of their beliefs: of the 16 members of their directorial board, only one isn't caucasian — José Mollá of la comunidad. No African Americans, Asians et al, represent the industry.
Even worse may be the fact that there hasn't been an African American judge in the One Show for 15 years or that there isn't one single African American in their hall of fame.
The One Club's mission is "to champion and promote excellence in advertising and design in all its forms," an effort Warlick says is represented (most recently) by the feature length documentary "Art & Copy." Though she would not divulge how much the production cost, "we won't break even," she admitted, adding, "we don't break even on the show, either." We've heard the film cost upwards of $1 million — money that went to "reinforce our mission", said Warlick. Meanwhile, Dunn has packed his things and moved out.
A quick perusal of the cast list reinforces the need for people like Dunn: Lee ClowDan WiedenDavid Kennedy Phyllis K. RobinsonHal Riney,George LoisRich SilversteinJeff GoodbyMary WellsCliff Freeman andJim Durfee. The One Club isn't to be blamed for excluding anyone, per se — but as an industry it might be time to put aside million dollar movies about the art of advertising (however beautiful they may be) and focus on ensuring that the people who do this work are representative of the country we live in. And that's something you can bring to the party.
(note: we initially published this story at 12:00 p.m. EST, and it was up for about 30 seconds when we received an email from Mark Warlick. Prior to that, the story was written without her comments, so we pulled it down to ensure the One Club's side was reflected. We apologize for any concerns this may have caused.)
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