HP pushed ad agencies to do better on diversity—and saw a change in ad performance

The results were good.
The results were good.
Image: Tony Avelar/AP Images for HP
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Two years ago, HP got serious about diversity. After getting its own house in order and adding more women and people of color to its leadership ranks, it pressured other firms seeking HP’s business to do the same.

This included a challenge to ad agencies: set and achieve targets to increase the diversity of teams working on HP accounts. The directive worked. The printer maker’s top five agencies reported a 20-point increase in the percentages of women working on the HP account.

Now HP is showing what effect the increased diversity had on its ads: An analysis from Nielsen indicated a 33% improvement in revenue per impression, while a key measure of purchase intent rose by six points in one year, according to ComScore’s Brand Monitor.

HP’s ads also scored better on the Association of National Advertisers’ measure of unconscious bias in advertising and programming—a five-point increase in effectiveness put HP in the top quartile of brands, the company said. The so-called GEM score, short for Gender Equality Measure, is based on polls measuring consumer perceptions of how female actors are portrayed in the ads.

“The facts are in, diverse teams perform better,” says Antonio Lucio, HP’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“The results give us confidence and motivation to accelerate our efforts,” Lucio says. “We will be adding GEM metrics to all our ad testing and will be the first brand working with The Female Quotient to create and implement a custom ‘Algorithm for Equality’ to measure workplace inclusion.” (The Female Quotient offers companies “equality bootcamps” and is the outfit behind the Girls’ Lounge pop-ups at high-profile conferences like Cannes Lions, the Consumer Electronics Show, and the World Economic Forum in Davos.)

HP also announced its involvement with Cannes Lions in #MoreLikeMe, a pilot program to increase representation of people of color in the creative industry. Each of HP’s biggest ad agencies—BBDO, Edelman, Fred & Farid, Giant Spoon, and PHD—nominated rising stars from their firms, representing a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, to attend this year’s Cannes Lions marketing and advertising festival in Cannes, France.