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“Just Do It”
That thought can easily pop up when it comes to breaking down gender barriers in the advertising industry. And it happens to be especially fitting for independent digital agency The Program, which is helping tear down those walls with an all-female brand team leading its global Nike account.
The team is currently working on an initiative around Nike Air VaporMax Explorer Pack, which features an “Explorer Light” and “Explorer Dark” pair of shoes. One of the social content posts from The Program that launched this week includes a video on Foot Locker’s Instagram featuring the double sneaker pack.
The agency, which has 27 staffers and is based in Portland, Ore., has been working with Nike since 2009 on everything from developing global content strategies and cross-category seasonal content to creating microsites and social media content for new products. And in the last year, the brand team has been comprised of six women.
Coe Lottis, founder and VP-strategy for the shop, referred to Nike as The Program’s oldest relationship and an “anchor account,” said he doesn’t know how the team became all women. “It just happened –it was very organic,” he said. “We try to find the most talented and smartest people who make the most sense [for each brand] and now we have this team at the helm of our largest relationship.“
Design Manager Kim Ponto, has been at the agency since 2013, said while the agency didn’t intend for the team to be all women, the account team “would love to inspire more women-led teams” at other agencies.
“Although we’ve been lucky enough to be based in a very progressive city, as well as work with incredibly progressive brand partners, we definitely recognize the struggle with gender bias in this industry. It’s still out there for sure,” said Ponto.
She added that her Nike team wants to encourage other shops and women in the industry “to be confident enough to break down those barriers so they can focus more energy on creating kick-ass creative work, and less on the struggle towards equality.”
Recently, Lottis said he walked into one of the Nike team’s meetings and they told him that “no boys were allowed,” but they were joking, of course. Ponto said the women would be fine with a man coming onboard, noting that the agency is a tight-knit group and they ask men in the office for information if they want insights on a male-targeted product.
At the end of the day, Lottis said the team’s passion and craft shine through so much that no one ever thinks about the fact that it’s made up of all women.
“I hope that folks can take inspiration from the forward-thinking men we have here on our staff, who are able to stand back and recognize amazing work when they see it, and not even pay attention to gender lines,” said Ponto.