In 2021, in the face of Asian hate, Digitas teamed up with Ascend to launch a campaign that would spark much-needed conversation around the invisible barriers that keep Pan-Asian professionals from achieving their potential in Corporate America.
30% of AAPI professionals report workplace discrimination. Yet the vast majority of people of other say discrimination against Asians is non-existent. We set out to show the world what’s beneath the numbers that prop up the ‘Asian success story’ and make people confront the truth about the AAPI experience with a call for systemic change.
Despite the fact that AAPI professionals often find success, so many are held back from reaching their full leadership potential due to bias, stereotypes and cultural differences. On one side, everything seems to be going great. They’re at the top of their careers. But on the Other Side, they’ve had to overcome real challenges to get there.
To illuminate the inequities faced by this community, The Other Side campaign centered around real stories from AAPI professionals across industries who volunteered to share deeply personal stories about their own Other Side experience. By sharing their stories across a multitude of platforms, but starting with LinkedIn, our goal was to leverage their influence to both educate and inspire action among both AAPI professionals and corporate executives with the power to create change within their organizations.
Recognizing how little awareness there is within Corporate American for the alarming workplace discrimination reported by AAPI professionals, we knew that we needed to launch The Other Side campaign with a stopping activation that would spark a conversation and movement. We chose LinkedIn, the largest professional networking site, to jumpstart our launch and tapped into behavioral patterns we saw on the platform that nicely reflected The Other Side insight.
Historically, LinkedIn profiles reflect a refined, positive side to users’ professional experience: the glossy headshot, promotions or other achievements. In the past year, influenced by the ramifications of the pandemic on mental health, we began to see more vulnerable conversations surrounding professional wellbeing. We wanted to ride this wave of new behavior while also highlighting the other side of the AAPI professional experience currently missing from the LinkedIn dialogue.
We asked 20 AAPI professionals, ranging from CEOs to CMOs to leaders of various Fortune 500 companies, to help us spread the word with a first of-its-kind LinkedIn headline hack. Each of the “Other Side storytellers” updated their LinkedIn headline to reflect their personal Other Side experience, such as: “Least Likely to Be Promoted to C-Suite” or “Reduced to the Model Minority”. In addition, each storyteller updated their profile picture and cover photo with the signature The Other Side illuminated spotlight. These profile updates were complemented by a series of posts from the storytellers highlighting the personal story behind their other side headline, to raise broad awareness, inspire action with both AAPI professionals and corporate allies and organizations. In the weeks that followed, we saw an incredible groundswell of conversation surrounding just these 20 organic posts: from new headline changes and vulnerable Other Side story posts, to comments and shares.
To completement the LinkedIn headline hack, we amplified our message across donated media in key cities — NY, Chicago, SF, LA, & Washington D.C. This ranged from wild postings to digital billboards in heavily-trafficked areas. Deb Yeh, CMO of Sephora, donated Sephora’s Time Square digital billboard above the brand’s flagship store, which showcased The Other Side for the full month of November.
We also partnered with Forbes around the time many publications were releasing their lists of successful professionals (most influential leaders, 40 under 40, etc.) by publishing our own “other list”, which included an insert in Forbes that told both the success and Other Side story of some of our Other Side storytellers.
Finally, we provided a resource for further engagement and to elevate the discourse on the Ascend Leadership website with a dedicated Other Side portal that included an audio experience: Sound of the Other Side. These audio stories employed directional audio to invite listeners to connect to the AAPI experience in a unique, immersive way.
Throughout the campaign, our biggest challenge was creating a groundswell movement through primarily organic means. Donated media from key partners and organizations were critical to extending the reach of our LinkedIn headline hack and extending the conversation across industries and communities.
We brought attention to the issue at a mass scale…
Prompted engagement and inspired action…
Won new allies for our mission…