Newly-appointed chief equity officer Elise James-Decruise is The Ad Council’s first-ever. She brings more than 20 years of experience across the tech and advertising industries from Thomson Reuters, Macys.com, and MediaMath where she founded the company-wide education services organization named New Marketing Institute. As she embarks on her new role with The Ad Council, she is hopeful for the future ahead and tells Marcom Weekly where the industry can expect to see growth.
“There’s so much talking which is great because it gets people excited and it elevates the conversation,” says James-DeCruise. “I want to spend more time in the action category. We’re at such a crossroads as an industry, and as a practice. We have people’s ears and now it’s [time to act] and make a plan forward.”
Leading up to her recent appointment with The Ad Council, James-DeCruise reflects on the past year and a half as a turning point for how she saw herself and the work she does. Her joining The Ad Council was a true alignment of forces that came during a time in her life where she started to question the level of risk she was willing to take to step out on faith and carve a path that would be a true intersection of her passion areas.
“When I obtained my Master’s from Robert Morris University in Instructional Leadership, I started to think about ways I could support the work and support people by being their thought partner and trusted advisor when they didn’t feel comfortable asking questions within an organization,” she says. “I wanted to create safe spaces and micro and macro experiences to help them feel comfortable [engaging in dialogue] so that they can further accelerate their careers through learning.”
As James-DeCruise started to navigate her career, she became even more drawn to being a part of conversations and experiences that were rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion and ways the industry could serve as a change agent by creating framework, best practices and next practices to guide people through the diversity, equity and inclusion journey.
In 2012, James-DeCruise joined MediaMath where she founded the New Marketing Institute (N.M.I.) and helped launch the Marketing Engineer Program. As she helped build the Marketing Engineer Program, she had her first opportunity to look at the workforce data impacting individuals from underrepresented communities.
“That was the moment for me that I said ‘there’s something to this.’ It’s not that there aren’t enough of us,” says James-DeCruise. “It’s that there isn’t enough exposure to the field and the career tracks that [underrepresented groups] can go into. And, if we could create more career accelerated programs, the level of understanding and vulnerability required to get an offer to a job would be ten-fold.”
James-DeCruise eventually found herself at a crossroads and wanted her next endeavor “to be at the intersection of [her] life’s work which is a combination of diversity, equity and inclusion, and social good.” She described her new role with The Ad Council as being just that.
“I’m really looking forward to amplifying the work around diversity, equity, and inclusion across the workforce, workplace, marketplace, and community. Those are the four lenses I look through as I’m building out programs, initiatives, and strategies within any company and those are the same four lenses that I’ll start with at The Ad Council,” James-DeCruise says.
Within her first year as the organization’s new chief equity officer, James-DeCruise’s tells Marcom Weekly her priorities include creating a shared language around the workforce, workplace, marketplace, and community, ensuring there are proper listening channels both internally and externally, and ensuring The Ad Council has the right balance of thought leadership.
Reflecting on what drove her to The Ad Council, James-DeCruise expressed how inspired she has been by the organization’s previous work and believes the organization “has the opportunity and brain trust to showcase what best-in-class D.E.I. work looks like.”
“I look back at some of the work that The Ad Council has done most recently and they weren’t all comfortable topics for people,” she reflected. “But, you have to take a stand, you have to educate, you have to bring people together, you have to demystify a lot of things to make progress.”
As Elise James-DeCruise looks ahead to what the industry can expect, she sums it up in one word, “action.”
“I hope that people are ready to be uncomfortable and [sacrifice their comfort] for the greater good,” she shares. “The gift of all of this is the process and the learnings along the way. It’s not getting it right. It’s not checking the box. It’s the process and you don’t have to wait for it to be perfect.”
Elise James-DeCruise formally began her role in April 2021 and is expected to share her full-year plan with internal stakeholders later this month.
Carla is a correspondent covering people and news features and digital content.