Ad Age and Meta present The List 2022
Ad Age and Meta's group of advertising, marketing and media insiders begins its fourth year, building on its DE&I mentorship program for diverse professionals.
A recent McKinsey & Co. study that found 41% of employees who have recently quit their jobs cite lack of career development or advancement opportunities as the reason for their decision. In fact, this is the No. 1 reason people are leaving their jobs, even more so than inadequate compensation and work-life balance. And research shows that this problem is particularly prevalent for employees from underrepresented backgrounds.
The List—a select group of marketing, advertising and media leaders assembled by Ad Age in partnership with Meta—has been working toward addressing underrepresentation and work-life balance in the industry since its inception in 2019. In 2021, The List set out to further the 2020 List’s mission to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in senior leadership up to and including the C-suite. Most notably, the 2021 class launched its pilot mentorship program Generation Next, focused on diverse advertising and marketing professionals with three to five years of experience—because this was the cohort that studies had consistently revealed were most in danger of leaving the industry due to lack of advancement opportunities.
The List created Generation Next in collaboration with the diversity organizations Management Leadership for Tomorrow and the Asian American Advertising Federation. Mentees of diverse backgrounds from MLT and the 3AF were paired with List mentors. The List 2022's mission: growing Generation Next.
Introducing The List 2022
On July 19 in New York, for the first time since February 2020, the incoming class of The List had its inaugural meeting the old-fashioned way: in person. In addition to the 30 or so attendees at the Meta Partnership Center in Hudson Yards, more than a dozen List members joined virtually. Similar to The List's gathering in Cannes, representatives from all three previous List classes—who have volunteered to rejoin The List as Generation Next mentors—were present.
Representatives from The List 2022 included Elicia Azali, chief marketing officer, American Family Insurance; Gonzalo Del Fa, president, GroupM Multicultural; Wiliam Esparza, founder and CEO, Hyphenated; Jackie Gagne, senior VP, multicultural marketing, Warner Bros. Discovery; Ahmad Islam, founder and CEO, Ten35; Soyoung Kang, CMO, Eos; Isaac Mizrahi, CEO, Alma; Jen Passaniti, head of production, Highdive; Ryan Robertson, senior VP, marketing, Group Black; Randy Romero, Social Media Director, GSD&M; Sheereen Russell, senior VP, ad sales and inclusive content monetization strategy, Warner Bros. Discovery; Mo Said, founder and creative director, Mojo Supermarket; Tiitania Tran, copywriter, Wieden + Kennedy Portland; Bonnie Wan, head of brand strategy, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Melanie Washington, senior VP, Media Link; and Kai D. Wright, author and Columbia University lecturer.
Joining the incoming class were List 2021 members Whitney Headen, CEO, 19th & Park; Jovan Martin, U.S. head of beauty and personal care media, Unilever; Carmen Rodriguez, chief client officer, Gut; List 2020 members E. Garrett Bewkes IV, publisher, National Review; Lauren Franklin, founder and CEO, Summerjax; Shannon Jones, co-founder, Verb; Harry Román-Torres, chief brand strategy officer and managing director, Droga5; Krystle Watler, head of creative agency partnerships, North America, TikTok; and List 2019 members Catherine Davis, consultant and advisor, Think.First, and Meredith Guerriero, chief operating officer, Klover.
Also in attendance were partners and friends of The List such as Indrajit Majumdar, Zee Entertainment head of content, marketing and brand partnerships for North America and Latin America and president of the 3AF; Sylvia Zhou, global industry strategy and partnerships lead, Meta; Alena Chiang, global marketing solutions industry manager, Meta; and Tiana Idoni-Koppel, global marketing lead, Meta Blueprint—as well as Generation Next mentees Glenys Fernandez, senior manager, brand marketing, Atwell Suites, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Rafiat Kasumu, product marketing intern at Instagram.
The meeting was hosted by Ad Age President and Editor-in-Chief Dan Peres and Meta Global Director of Industry and Community Marketing Shauna Sweeney. Peres kicked things off by sharing his personal connection with being both mentor and mentee during his career.
“Years ago, there was someone I’d call on for advice," Peres recalled. "He’d push me in different directions and was an amazing sounding board. Years later, while I was having lunch with him, I asked ‘How come even when I wasn't working for you, you were always there?' He said ‘Because I'm invested in you.’ It was an amazing thing to hear. Now as I work with people in journalism, I understand what it means to be invested in someone. If there’s anything I can say about the mentor-mentee relationship, it’s you need to make the investment. You need to show up. You have to put in the time."
Sweeney clarified the unique talent comprising The List—as well as the unique opportunity such a gathering presented.
“This is the group that changes and transforms business, has an incredible capacity to tell stories, and has huge platforms to spread poweful messages," Sweeney said. "What happens when you focus that on really changing someone's life—one individual's life? What magic can come from that we have yet to see.”
The List 2019, 2020 and 2021: The road so far
The meeting agenda was moderated by Ad Age Studio 30 Editor John Dioso and Contributing Editor Natalie Zfat, who together have been The List's project managers since its inception in 2019. Dioso and Zfat updated the 2022 class about their predecessors' achievements, including launching the Ask About It campaign and naming the companies with the best family leave policies in 2019.
List 2020 member Garrett Bewkes explained how after months of one-on-one meetings the 2020 and 2021 classes banded together to create the Generation Next mentorship. Bewkes and fellow 2020 member Lauren Franklin partnered to create and curate a robust educational curriculum that focused on four main pillars: business fundamentals, work environment and culture, networking and presenting, and management and leadership. Under each pillar were individual lessons.
“We created these North Star statements for each lesson so that when the mentees walked away they would have one key takeaway," Bewkes explained. “This industry is incredibly challenging and there’s a lot to overcome, and we wanted to help combat the unconscious bias that sometimes manifests itself in the mentorship itself.”
List 2021 member Whitney Headen discussed how the program culminated in a group project in which mentees worked together to develop a holistic marketing campaign to drive inclusion in the workforce and promote mentorship. One team was then selected to share their proposal at Advertising Week New York last October. One group pitched an idea for a mentorship matching app (think Hinge or Bumble for mentors and mentees).
The proposal offered "a different approach to mentorship," Headen said. "We talked extensively about the fact that mentorship is a two-way conversation. It's not just about higher-level executives giving information. There's a lot that we can learn from people who are three to five years into their careers, who are on the ground, doing a lot of the things that we're championing" to increase DE&I in the industry.
Headen revealed the group is taking the next steps as an entrepreneurial collective to bring the app to life.
Alumni of the program shared their experiences with Generation Next at Tuesday’s event. Rafiat Kasumu, now a product marketing intern at Instagram and MBA candidate at The Wharton School, was matched with Twitter Head of U.S. Content Partnerships and List 2020 member Sarah Rosen.
"I was in a period of transition where I knew I was going to be leaving my full-time role to go back to business school," Kasumu said. "One of my goals was to pivot and work for a social platform. I was able to ask Sarah really candid questions about her experience and around partnership marketing. A lot of the conversations we had helped me get my current role."
List 2020 member Krystle Watler also joined in person to give a testimonial about her time as a mentor, sharing that her relationship with her mentee, Sung Un Choe, digital content specialist at The CW Network, continues to this day. What has been most meaningful to Watler is not just helping Choe grow as a professional; it’s also the personal relationship she has developed with him. The pride she feels for him is palpable.
"It’s been wonderful getting to know Sung outside of work," Watler said. "He just bought his first house, so over the past six months we’ve been talking about that experience. I'm proud of him, not only for getting a new gig in the past year, but also hearing more about his personal life and answering questions and being there for him that way, which has been so meaningful."
The List 2022: Building a future vision of a mentorship-plus model
Columbia University lecturer and List 2022 member Kai D. Wright, who is also a member of the Ad Age Diversity Advisory Council, took center stage to leverage the collective knowledge of everyone in the room by issuing a challenge to build a future vision of how the group can grow the Generation Next program—what he described as "a mentorship-plus model."
Before the meeting broke up into smaller groups to come up with ideas for how to achieve the mentorship-plus model that Wright had set as a goal for The List 2022, he asked attendees to echo Peres and share their personal relationship with mentoring as either mentor or mentee or both. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the diversity in the room and particularly The List 2022 itself—roughly 95% of the incoming class are people of color—mentorship has played a key role in members' careers as both something they have benefited from and continue to do to benefit others following in their footsteps.
“I feel like I got so much out of my mentee relationship," said Jovan Martin, a List 2021 member and a mentor for the inaugural class of Generation Next. "I wouldn’t be where I am without it, so for me, I feel like it’s part of my contribution. Why I’m here on earth is to help form the next generation, especially being a Black female in this position, so I really want to make sure I can help other people.”
“Mentorship has been transformational for me," said List 2022 member Elicia Azali. "I come from a really small town with very humble beginnings, and with mentorship, I can point to those relationships that helped open my eyes and change my trajectory. I believe it’s my obligation to help return that and help others open their eyes around what’s possible, because we know that talent is ubiquitous, but it’s opportunity and opening the door that sets us apart.”
“When I think about my journey, there are a lot of ways I could have gone left and things probably would have been very different, but I went right because there was someone there to guide me and push me in that direction," said List 2022 member Ahmad Islam. "As a Black male in this industry, I knew that there was an absence of mentors who were going where I was trying to go, and I was fortunate enough to bump into a few of those folks and have the opportunity to learn from them, so for me it was really about paying it forward, and helping to make the path I walked easier for those who were coming behind me.”
List 2020 member Harry Román-Torres echoed the vulnerability and sense of solitude that Islam and many diverse professionals in the industry face when establishing their careers. For Román-Torres, one of the keys to his success was “being surrounded by people who saw something in me that I couldn't see for myself because I didn't have people around me growing up that could see that thing inside me. The feeling of safety and empowerment that came from that was huge for me and my career, and giving that gift to others is the thing that motivates me.”
Generation Next 2022: Making an impact
In the coming weeks and months, The List will follow up on the myriad ideas discussed during the class of 2022's inaugural meeting, including how macro events like the Great Resignation and an uncertain economy can affect the goals of mentors and mentees and how The List's approach to mentorship can have the maximum impact on these and other pressing concerns in the industry.
"Our mandate is to try to build and sustain the positive work that has already happened, but also to think of the state of work right now," said Wright. "What's the state of talent right now? Over the last two years, there have been mega shifts in terms of where people work, how much people work, and the types of organizations that individuals are motivated to work for. And so that means our role as mentors has to shift also, and the individuals that are coming into the industry—and staying in the industry—are changing."
For the latest news on The List 2022's progress—including the announcement of the 2022 Generation Next mentees—visit The List vertical on AdAge.com and website AdAgeTheList.com, and follow The List on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Email [email protected] for more information.