En route to Brazil, somewhere in the air between New York and Salvador de Bahia, I struggled to order a cappuccino. My flight attendant spoke Portuguese. The woman sitting next to me translated my fumbling words. Later, cappuccinos in hand, we realized we were both headed to the first ever WPP Stream in Latin America—e nos conectamos instrantaneamente (and we instantly connected).
WPP Stream is the highly anticipated three-day un-conference that occurs in various parts of the globe—where WPP leaders, clients, partners, and industry trendsetters gather over yoga-at-sunrise, friendly competition, and beachfront views, to engage in candid conversations about the current state and future of marketing, tech, and media.
It was no coincidence that WPP Stream reached LATAM. WPP operating companies (including associates) generate revenues over $1.7bn and employ over 17,000 people (excluding Globant). In particular, Brazil’s economy is stabilizing for businesses, after the deep recessions in 2015 and 2016. The culture is abundant and is a key growth market that has grasped the attention of tech giants, streaming services, and start up investors. Brazil, an emerging market, is in the same league as more developed economies when it comes to asking tough questions and finding solutions to developing the market and the economy.
Perhaps, the highlight of WPP Stream in LatAm, was engaging in discussions – some in English, others in Portuguese and many in Portuglish – which were chosen and curated during the actual event by the attendees. The mixing of culture, language, color and sound mirrored the hundreds of conversations happening throughout stream. Below, I’ve highlighted three topics that resonated most with me.
Making Real Connections with Data
Of course, many of the curated topics of discussion were centered on data. In recent years, data has been the driver of most marketing conversations and strategies—but industry ego, toxic company cultures, and lack of knowledge has manifested into road blocks on the path to developing data driven strategies and infusing this into the creative spaces. Data is available everywhere, but it’s the truth in data, the insight that we derive out of it that produces impactful results and tells meaningful stories. In order to create longevity and build real connections with consumers, agencies must stop being siloed. We must align our goals, so that data, creativity, and tech are merged.
Finding Balance in a World of Instant Gratification
This conversation started in a small hut on top of a stream—no pun intended—as participants reminisced about the first concerts they attended and current playlists on repeat (my playlist consisting of Cardi B, Romeo Santos and Janelle Monáe). Streaming services are driving and influencing culture. They give us instant gratification, constantly, endlessly. They open doors to cultures and provide easy access to any content we may want. And yet, we are missing something: the unexpected, the uncalculated, a true encounter with the unknown. How do we allow for ourselves to be surprised, to live in the moment, to be stimulated, to challenge beyond what we could have imagined for ourselves?
Going Beyond Diversity and Implementing Inclusion
As a Black Latina woman working in the world of marketing, inclusion is something that I advocate. No surprise, diversity was a topic of discussion. From the gender pay gap to scarcity in hiring people of color, these issues are global. How do we get the industry to stop talking, and start including? How do we bring a diversity of voices, perspectives, and experiences to the table? How do we enrich our company cultures, and our own lives?
The conversation was frank and highlighted acknowledging personal biases and privilege as a barrier. Delving into solutions for more inclusion—emphasis was placed on several agendas; support and understanding from the leaders in the industry, inclusion in the recruitment process, involvement at decision tables, retention strategies for people who are hired, and exposure in schools and community programs that are underrepresented.
Inclusion, understanding, truth-telling, and listening are the secrets to pushing forward and innovatingthe industry. In Yossi Vardi’s words “WPP Stream is a space to exercise humbleness, knowledge, and humanity.” For me, the expression was reflexive and inspirador —plus, I can now order a cappuccino in Portuguese.