Times of Change in Advertising: Nicole Gordon, David&Goliath

Nicole F Gordon
Director of Talent and Culture David&Goliath
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?

I am a natural people connector and aspire to learn about what drives human behavior. That’s what prompted my interest in psychology, and I graduated with a Masters in Forensic Psychology at 26. I was living single in Manhattan when I was first introduced to recruiting while working through school, and I loved it. I worked for a couple of staffing agencies where I was introduced to creative recruitment, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.  

I am a first-generation citizen of the U.S. and my dad (who was born in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. in the 70s) inspires me to be constantly challenged and to always advocate for people who don’t have a voice or are looking for one. He also taught me how to be scrappy and resourceful. I didn’t go to ad or art school so I got here in an unconventional way. I learned everything I know about advertising because of the few people I met along the way, like Holly Gregg who was HR/Talent Director at an LA ad agency at the time, who believed in me and taught me the ins and outs of the industry. That is why mentorship is so important to me and I am forever grateful. I have mentored and tutored students in underserved communities and mentored talent looking to break into advertising throughout my career. I truly love connecting with people and discovering untapped talent. 

I currently oversee recruitment, people operations strategy, culture, employee engagement and am a tenacious DE&I advocate. As a new parent, I hope my two-year-old son will be proud of his mother and feel comfortable pursuing a career in advertising as a multiracial young man himself one day, if he chooses to do so. 


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?       

There is no denying that we are living through times of change in advertising. Throughout my journey, diversity has been top of mind for me since I have been ‘the only’ woman in a room of men in an industry that was primarily male dominated. Within the last year I’ve witnessed an unprecedented movement. The hiring of BIPOC and female talent in our industry is the highest I’ve seen since I joined over a decade ago, but we still have a long way to go. At David&Goliath, we have more than doubled our Black employee representation in the year, and achieved equal representation of employees who identify as male, and those who identify as female over three years ago.  

In addition to overseeing recruitment, culture, and talent engagement, I am continuing to foster and expand our partnerships to diversify talent in our industry outside of the traditional programs and organizations. Light Bringer, 4A’s MAIP, AEF MADE, ThinkLA, Save the Internship NY, LAUSD Central and Tri-C High Schools, and City of Angels Independent Study/Support Programs, and Dynamic Girls, are a few of the organizations we partner with to expose students to advertising from as early as high school and to consider it as a career path. We go into virtual classrooms at least once a month to speak to the next generation of leaders all in an effort to fix the problem of lack of diversity in the pipeline in our industry. 


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 am glad to see there is an increase in DE&I roles across many organizations, but it has to start from the top down to make an impact. It can’t be dependent on one individual within an organization. If there is no buy-in across all aspects of the business then I feel any effort will fall short and will be short-lived. So, it needs to start from an authentic leader who leads by example, sets the tone and inspires the organization to be a part of the change. You will not be successful in the long-term by box checking or meeting quotas. 


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

We have created a DE&I collective called the Braver Together Culture team that is comprised of employees from diverse backgrounds, across all departments and seniority of the agency to keep DE&I at the forefront, as well as monitor our diversity data as an agency. I think this model fosters a more diverse, equitable, and collaborative agency for all, rather than putting the burden on one or two employees. 

What makes D&G stand out is that we have reached our initial DE&I commitments and goals and we are continuously improving upon them. We truly foster an inclusive culture that not only attracts top global talent, but develops and retains them through mentorship, wellness, and career advancement programs.   


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

A lot of brands have stepped up in the wake of the racial injustices, and others have been doing it all along. P&G and of course, Nike, have always been at the forefront and continue to do a great job to elevate their brand purpose and foster inclusion. What I loved was when the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup in 2019, Nike ran a tribute spot illustrating what’s possible for women, as well as supporting the team’s fight for pay equality and against gender biases in sports. 


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?  

We made a public commitment in July of 2020 to support and help put an end to systemic racism in order to create a more inclusive agency culture.Some of the more notable initiatives include supporting Allyship&Action to further its cause, hiring our dedicated Director of Empathy, Tiffany Persons, and accelerating our recruiting efforts to increase Black talent at every level, and also creating an environment of recognition, growth, and retention of our existing BIPOC employees, partnering with the DE&I expert consultant, TOSHA, and have instituted an unlearning and learning process, in which everyone in the company, from the top down, will participate in, through an ongoing education program, developing data equality by expanding our data practices to be inclusive of our current and future employees and honoring Juneteenth as an annual company holiday dedicated in service of Black communities.