A “Privilege Check” from Heat and the 3% Movement

"Privilege Check" at the 3% Conference

“Privilege Check” at the 3% Conference

Heat Executive
Creative Director
Elaine Cox
talks about
video games,
and workplace diversity

Attendees who checked their jackets at the November 8-9 3% Conference in Chicago were given a scratch off filled with statements like “I do not have any learning disabilities,” “I have never gone to bed hungry,” and “I fit the demographic criteria of a typical executive at work.”

Part of a thought-provoking art installation called Privilege Check, the messages enhanced the 3% mission to advocate diversity in advertising.

The concept and production for Privilege Check were developed by Heat — a creative agency and sponsor of the 3% Conference.

Heat’s Executive Creative Director Elaine Cox states, “We decided to just turn that little moment into an aha moment for people.”

The Privilege Check was intended to inform and create empathy amongst the guests. There were various cards, but each asked attendees to scratch off any of the statements that applied to them.

Elaine Cox
Elaine Cox

Cox explains that for every privilege scratched off, “You get an answer underneath that educates you for a moment. So, something like ‘3% of C-Suite corporate positions are held by women of color, 18% white women, 12% men of color, and 67% white men.’”

The 3% Conference, a subset of the 3% Movement, was founded by copywriter and creative director Kat Gordon in 2010 when she learned that only 3% of women were creative directors at the time.

According to the 3% Movements’ website, that number is now up to 11%. Despite those gains, the movement plans on continuing to advocate for greater diversity in advertising until that number reaches 50%.

Also Read: The 3% Conference rises in Chicago

Cox states, “The 3% Conference is very near and dear to Heat. We’ve been sponsors for many years. We’ve held 3% related events at our agencies – speaking events, networking events.”

While Heat was founded by white men in 2004, according to Cox, the founders are “nice, kind, and empathetic white guys” and Heat is “a hundred, a hundred percent committed to doing everything we can” to improve diversity in advertising.

For Cox, this commitment and the message behind the Privilege Check are personal. She stands out as one of only 11% of creative directors to be women. Her family is made up of refugees and asylum seekers from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic whose paperwork once said they were “stateless.”

This experience taught Cox that she “would never want to work in an environment that was really closed and blind to their privilege.”

Despite the immense gains women have made in the advertising world, Cox emphasizes that once she finally attained a copywriter position at the start of her career in the early 2000s, she was largely boxed out of work she wanted and was “pigeonholed” to gendered copy, such as “lady products.”

During this time, Cox learned, that in advertising, people need to “have a thick skin and be your greatest advocate.”

She recalls, “Finally, I was working at an agency where the main account in the building was for videogames, and that’s very male dominated.” However, after showing up to meetings she was not invited to and working alongside supportive friends, she blew her coworkers and clients away with her copy.

Now, Cox has a stellar reputation in the videogame industry for her work with impressive clients, such as Sims, EA, Assassin’s Creed, and the Westworld mobile game.

One of her favorite projects is a recent campaign Heat launched for Words with Friends 2.

Cox states, “Aside from the fact that it’s beautiful and charming and just makes me smile when I watch it, I also love that it kind of reminds everybody why everybody played Words with Friends ten years ago to begin with.”



While 89% of creative directors in advertising are men, organizations, agencies, and individuals are reshaping the industry to more accurately reflect the demographics of consumers.

Agencies, such as Heat, embrace diversity. Art installations, like the Privilege Check, spark reflection. Creatives, such as Elaine Cox, shatter glass ceilings, and at the 3% Movement, they all work together to demand industry-wide change.

To view Reel Chicago’s Facebook photo album of the 3% Conference’s final few hours, click here.

For more information on the 3% Movement and the 3% Conference, click here.

For more information on Heat, click here.

Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @FilerJoey.