Perspectives: Diversity in Advertising, Joyce Lee

"When you see someone who looks or reminds you of yourself achieve breakthrough moments you believe that it is within your own reach"

Joyce Lee
Executive Producer Joan Creative, NYC


Tell us about who you are and what your job title is?
I am the Executive Producer at Joan Creative. 1st generation Chinese-American, native Californian, New Yorker at heart.
What was the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome since you began working in advertising?
Lack of dedicated mentorship at work – for my first five years in advertising I reported to ECDs as a producer and learned mostly via trial by fire. I actively sought advice from outside agency and line producers but it wasn’t until I worked for a head of production who was invested in my growth that I really started to excel and become confident in my own abilities.
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity within the industry?
The industry does not reflect the diversity of the audiences we are supposed to be able to connect with. This is true across all the ways we could diversify - gender, race, sexual identity, socioeconomics, etc.
What do you think causes agencies such difficulty in regard to attracting, retaining, and nurturing people of color?
Fundamentally, advertising is a creative industry, and therefore somewhat of a luxury to pursue in the first place. I also think, unlike finance/law/medicine or other more ‘obvious’ corporate fields, people are less aware advertising has its own financial ecosystem (creative agencies, strategy agencies, production companies, media companies, etc.) and can become a lucrative career. I had no idea advertising was an option when I was in college – my first desk job just happened to be as a receptionist at an agency.
The advertising industry has for years been talking about its many diversity issues, what do you think a long-term solution could look like?
Creative problem solving is becoming more important across industries. Advertising could take the lead in fostering these skills by offering easy/free education and tools to new audiences, which will hopefully grow the number and diversity of people choosing advertising as a career. An excellent example is Droga’s D5in10 program -- a crash course in advertising for creative professionals who have never been to ad school. It also segues nicely into the next question…
What is going on within your agency to improve diversity?
One of the reasons I joined Joan is that the founders, Lisa Clunie and Jaime Robinson, have a clear vision to pay it forward and continue pushing the definition of creativity. A percentage of Joan Creative’s revenue goes to The Joan Foundation for Diversity in Advertising – the Foundation’s first initiative will be to partner with a local school in New York to create a program that introduces 7th graders to advertising.
We are also always recruiting for diverse staff. I am proud to say that almost all of our executive leadership team is either female or a person of color (or both).
How do you plan to inspire the next generation?
I am not an activist by any means so I can only hope that as I mature and grow in my career that I can lead by example -- when you see someone who looks or reminds you of yourself achieve breakthrough moments you believe that it is within your own reach.


Joyce Lee
Executive Producer Joan Creative, NYC