Community On Our Own Terms: Pilar McQuirter, MullenLowe LA

Pilar McQuirter
Cultural Strategy Director MullenLowe LA
MullenLowe Los Angeles
Full Service
El Segundo, United States
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Tell us about yourself. Who or what inspired you to get into advertising and marketing communications?

Hey, I’m Pilar McQuirter, Cultural Strategy Director at MullenLowe LA. I got into advertising through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program. I saw this industry as a great opportunity to build foundational skills in life – strategic thinking, inspiring communication, and creative collaboration.


What is your opinion on the current state of diversity in the industry? Have you seen a significant change since the start of your career? 

I entered the industry through a program that’s supposed to help with the “pipeline problem.” Since I’ve started, participation and awareness of the MAIP program has only grown, programs like ADCOLOR have also garnered awareness. I want to see more of an investment in growing diverse talent through the ranks to reach senior levels beyond DEI roles. We need to get there.


Over the years, there’s been a rise of roles focused on Diversity & Inclusion, the introduction of quotas, and other possible solutions. What have you seen to be the most effective, and where have you seen these initiatives fall short?

I have seen a lot of POC folks get leadership positions in roles focused on DEI, it’s valid work. Not everyone wants to be in DEI though, so what about them? Our seat at the table shouldn’t miraculously appear in crisis. POC have valuable contributions to the work beyond the context of how their identity is impacted in a space. Furthermore, if you don’t create a culture of belonging, where everyone feels that they’re valued for their contribution you risk creating a culture of tokenism and thereby minimizing the impact of your employees. Make sure you diversify your employees AND the opportunities they get to contribute and make an impact at the agency.


Within your agency, what’s being done to increase/maintain the diversity of talent?

I love how much autonomy MullenLowe U.S. has given the employee resource groups. We’re able to create work and community on our own terms… which helps with retention.


Looking to the client-side, are there any brands you think should be commended for their efforts? 

I’ve seen Netflix making moves, Apple too. They create programming specific for diverse communities, they hire folks to grow and build those and they partner with community leaders to promote and advertise those offerings. Tech companies spare no expense when it comes to these things and that’s important. Pepsi also made a great come back with their Black History Month restaurant spot and their COVID Bodega Give Back.


What do you think can be done at a grassroots level to open opportunities to create a more inclusive future in the advertising world?

Everyone in the advertising space who has the responsibility of managing and hiring people needs to give back to students – going on college tours, being a MAIP coach, and volunteering at city colleges if possible. They need as much exposure to non-traditional talent to learn from the future of this industry, we need to stay sharp and learn from the next generation. 


Following one of the largest movements in history for racial justice, what was your agency's response? Have you launched or participated in any initiatives?  

I wasn’t at MullenLowe U.S. when they responded, but I did help curate and build an entire content platform promoting black wellbeing – The Black Catalog. I’m glad we were able to create a piece of thought leadership that allowed us to focus on what we need the most – investment in holistic wellness.