Leo Burnett Tailor Made: Advancing Creative Brilliance Through Social Activism

Programs out of Leo Burnett Tailor Made support diverse creative talent in Brazil while setting an example for inclusivity standards in the global advertising community.

Leo Burnett Tailor Made prioritizes diverse talent to meet the needs of a quickly evolving marketplace. A majority of agency leadership is female; and through recruitment actions via affirmative policies, the percentage of Black talent increased double digits year over year at all levels of the agency.

Moreover, DE&I initiatives and programs by business resource groups (BRGs) are increasing representation in the advertising industry with the purpose of cultivating authentic and relatable connections among Leo Burnett’s audiences.

We sat down with Jef Martins, Creative Communications & Social Impact Director, to learn more about how the about the positive impacts of recruiting and retaining creative talent with meaningful representation that sets a standard for creative inclusivity in the advertising community.

Leo Burnett Tailor Made is at the forefront of programs that positively impact the lives of minorities, people with disabilities, and marginalized communities. What was the impetus behind creating the role of Social Impact Director at your office in Brazil?

I’ve worked on diversity and inclusion initiatives in the Brazilian advertising industry since 2017. When I came to Leo Burnett Tailor Made in 2021, our leadership understood that, in addition to our internal efforts, it was time to approach DE&I under a more strategic lens for the business. We needed to extend our initiatives into public commitments, projects with clients, monitoring and research, the supply chain, training and education, and our business partnerships.

As part of this effort, we realized the importance of promoting our own activities in this area to attract and retain talent and release work aligned to the evolution of society.

What are some of the most active business resource groups (BRGs) at Leo Burnett Tailor Made? What kind of work do they do, both internally and out in the community?

Currently, Leo Burnett Tailor Made has five Business Resource Groups (BRGs):

  • NÓS ACESSO (“Us Access”) is responsible for projects and discussions around the physical barriers that prevent professionals from accessing the advertising market. This group touches on everything from the prejudice against professionals over the age of 45 who suffer to stay or enter advertising agencies, to the stigmas that people with disabilities, neurodiversity, and those living with HIV/AIDS (or other chronic conditions) may face in their journey to arrive and thrive in the advertising industry.
  • NÓS MULHERES (“Us Women”) supports equity, balance, respect, and appreciation of the role of women in our society. This group covers issues related to motherhood and fatherhood, machismo, misogyny, and the inequality that women often suffer from in the professional sphere. We support the presence of men in these discussions and encourage their active participation in thinking about new ways to promote equality, combat toxic masculinity, and support women’s presence and leadership within the advertising industry.
  • NÓS ORGULHO (Us Pride) supports people who are proud of their sexual orientation, expression, and gender identity, while fighting against harmful stereotypes that promote violence and discrimination against the LGBTQIAPN+ community.
  • NÓS ORIGENS (Us Origins) focuses on promoting and supporting the racial and ethnic diversity of our employees. This group highlights anti-racist struggles while championing a culturally diverse community that has, historically, been depreciated and undervalued in our society.
  • PAPO PRETX is a collective BRG created by some of Leo Burnett Tailor Made’s Black team members, with the purpose of sharing life experiences of the group’s participants and reflecting on issues of race and being Black, both in our industry and society writ large.

When thinking back to the establishment of certain BRGs, what’s been one of the biggest obstacles/challenges to standing up these groups and driving tangible impact for the employees at Leo Burnett Tailor Made?

The process of organizing agendas and activities and balancing these things with our daily workload can often be challenging. Therefore, it was essential to create a department that is solely focused on planning and promoting DE&I programs in our office and community. Minorities and socially vulnerable communities shouldn’t be responsible for managing companies’ response to DE&I in the workplace—as this would create an emotional overload on professionals who deserve to simply feel safe and respected in the workplace.

Today, our BRGs guide the social activism agendas we support, while the Social Impact team is responsible for instituting these groups’ suggestions into workplace policies and measuring their impact on the business, the industry, and society in general.

Have you partnered with any other agencies to support your DE&I programs? If so, how has their influence supported Leo Burnett Tailor Made?

I believe that all DE&I and social impact work is collective responsibility, and we are constantly engaging outside players who can add to our experiences and improve how we show up for our people. We are part of a few business coalitions that support DE&I programs in the community, bringing together a more wholistic representation of our programs inside and outside of Leo Burnett’s purview.

Are there any accomplishments that you’re proudest of with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion? And why?

In 2022, we were the only communications agency in Brazil to be included in the Ethos/Época Negócios diversity and inclusion report, with a special mention to our actions related to race/ethnicity and the LGBTQIAPN+ community. This is a giant achievement, considering that the Social Impact team was instituted at Leo Burnett Tailor Made only a year and a half ago.

How has the Tailor Made program’s DE&I initiatives impacted the advancement of underrepresented demographics in the advertising industry? How might other Leo Burnett offices around the globe leverage these successes to impact their communities?

It’s our responsibility as a communications business to help break stereotypes and dismantle societal biases. When we employ people with varied life experiences, repertoires, races, and cultural origins on our teams and in the starring the ads we create, we’re showing how the advertising industry can accommodate everyone in an equitable manner and that we can leverage each person’s talent and contributions to support equity and business growth.

I think other Leo Burnett offices should find the most underrepresented groups in their specific business structure (from those we hire to those who receive our work) and design intentional and constant efforts to connect with organizations that perhaps weren’t on the radar before. It’s important to adequately prepare our teams and professionals for this work to ensure these programs are beneficial and cultural shock doesn’t push people apart instead of bringing them together.

This can only be accomplished through an on-going promotion of programs that drive sensibility, awareness, training, and education among our people.

Where do you see new opportunities to reach and possibly recruit talent, and how do you think the future of equity in the workplace is going to evolve over the next five years?

In Brazil, we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding people who live with physical and neurodiversity issues, particularly as generational issues are also becoming increasingly relevant.

Over the last five years, we’ve seen huge improvements in terms of the positive impact we’ve had on society. I believe that in the next five years we’ll continue this upward growth in DE&I advancement and metrics tracking, making it possible for us to rely on data to guide us on the right paths, and establish a more comprehensive and scalable DE&I system for other agencies to follow.