In episode 163, Erik and Kerel talk with Doug Melville, a DEI executive and author of ‘Invisible Generals,' a story about America's first two black generals, a father and a son, who helped integrate the military, create and command the Tuskegee Airmen, and beyond. Doug grew up with a majority mixed race family, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, went to Syracuse University, majored in marketing, worked with public figures such as Britney Spears, Quincy Jones, Charlamagne Tha God to name a few and eventually found himself in DEI.
Doug shares his family story, why it’s so important to own your own family’s story, becoming a powerful networker and communicator, what it was like to grow up mixed race in different communities, committing to helping people be seen, getting his book published by Simon and Schuster, the current state of the DEI space, advice for global DEI officers, where he draws inspiration, and so much more.
“Sometimes the skills that we pick up, negotiation, communication, storytelling, are actually the things that are going to change the way these companies operate, and the outcomes.”
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of MRP Minority Report Podcast with Eric and Kerel. Each episode, we talk with real operators and leaders in media, tech and business. And today joining us is Doug Melville. Doug is the author of Invisible Generals, and a DEI executive. Let's jump in and get to know Doug. Doug, welcome. How are you?
Doug Melville 00:29
Oh, gentlemen, how we doing today? Let's go!
Doug, super excited to be able to spend a little bit of time with you. So many questions we have and also just excited to spend a little bit of time with you and get to know you a little bit better, a lot better. Also, some exciting news, you get a new book out. We want to talk to you about Invisible Generals. And so Doug, for those that that don't know you, can you tell us a little bit about you? Where were you born and where were you raised?
Doug Melville 00:59
Alright, Doug Melville, originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, representing the Constitution state. I grew up there mixed race. Both of my parents, all four of my grandparents, and all eight of my great grandparents are all mixed. We are the most you know, half-rican American family in America, went to Syracuse University, became a male cheerleader when I wasn't good enough to make the football team and started traveling around the country. That launched me into my first job, which was driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. So-
I got questions about that one too later. (laughs)
Doug Melville 01:37
(laughs) That was the first job I ever had. It was like a really amazing job as marketing. You know, that was my major, but the job is there's 18 people, six Wienermobiles, three people on each dog. And then they all circle around the United States. So all six go to each 48 continental United States.
Doug Melville 01:59
You're one year out of school, and they give you a per diem and they tell you, go see the world, do all the commercials for Oscar Meyer, do all the press interviews. And each car was essentially like a little PR machine where you would get a bonus at the end of the year based on how many PR impressions you would get. So you had to learn how to make a press release and all these things. But that really helped shape me. So if there was one job really, right out of school to just see America, but also to kind of run your own little operation in a $1.3 million, you know, hot dog car.
I have to ask you a question because in looking at your background, you have had so many fascinating experiences in a wide range of industries. I mean, interned under Quincy Jones, you just talked about the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, you were assistant tour manager on one of Britney Spears' tours, artists relation, like it's so many fascinating experiences, I have to ask you in terms of your mindset for really exploring the world in different industries, because I see so many kids come out of school, and they may go right into one industry, and they have that sort of, you know, one path where it seems like you had a number of different experiences in different industries. And so I just wanted to get your perspective on that.
Doug Melville 03:32
I always wanted to work in music, but I could never play music or sing. You know, that was really the industry I wanted to work in. And I was an intern under Quincy Jones. And he would always say, you know, he was more like a Yoda to me, you know, it's not like I saw him every day on my intern, so I'm really, you know, the lowest on the food chain. But you know, he would always say 1/3 of your life you spend working and 1/3 You spend sleeping, but what you do with the last third defines success from failure. And I always remember, what am I doing with the last third? You know, because we have to make money in a day job, and you have to sleep, but that last third, I always said you know, who wants to sit behind a desk all the time? And that spurred me to travel and then one job kind of led to another and I think the secret was actually was knowing my superpower was relationships and was personality and was networking and before there was social networking the person who was the networker actually did have more opportunities. You know, the internet changed it but before the internet, if you didn't know where the party was, or you didn't know who was going somewhere, you really didn't know. So you know, I was the guy who was kind of leaned into that and I found out that my superpower was communication, storytelling, but also writing simple business plans. You know, like idea to 2 million was a little game I used to play when someone said, "I have an idea," and I'd say, "Oh, I wonder if I could turn that into a business." So I started learning, you know, when you think of Jay Z, and he remembers all the rhymes, and he never writes anything down, when people would talk, I would be able to process how to make that into a business, $2 million. And that just became something that people would say, "Oh, can you write it down? Can you do it for me?" So kind of as my jobs progressed, you know, I did drive the Wienermobile for a year, I was assistant tour manager on the Britney Spears Hit Me One More Time tour. I got that because I had traveled the country. They need someone to manage the road and manage people. And we were all so young at the time, it was her first tour. So everybody was 21, 22. So I was the one who was, you know, had a little bit of managerial skills, you know, not much but enough that it got me the role. And then after that I met Tommy and Andy Hilfiger, who were the tour sponsors was the Tommy Hilfiger company. They said to me, "Hey, Doug, what do you want to do?" And I said, "I want to help artists create their side hustles, or passion projects," because when you're around artists, all they talk about is, "Hey, man, you know, I can start an idea of perfume, things like that." So that was when I was able to take my little mental parlor game, and actually apply it to people's ideas, and then write out simple business plans. And when people were starting out before the internet was scaled, people were like, "Oh, call Doug, you know, he'll be able to help you write a plan, he'll be able to help you do this." Now, to be clear, all I wanted to do was get a job out of college, you know, on advertising, real basic, you know, get the job. But it was actually Tommy Hilfiger, who told me, you know, "Doug, the key to being successful is don't start at the bottom and work your way up. Start at the top by starting your own company and find a way in." In college, they teach you how to get a job, which stands for "just over broke." So what you need to do is learn how to be the CEO of your own life and build a career, you know, and I know these are semantics, but when you're going up through it, you don't really know job, career. But that was the superpower that I was able to say, this is working and this is something that I could do over the course of time. And then once you kind of start getting into it, I started a marketing company and then I get a phone call from Earvin Magic Johnson, and he was going to start a marketing company and asked me if I wanted to be the president. So I was 27 years old, I had never even walked into an ad agency in my whole life. I had just done these jobs for different people, but I had a really good network because there used to be another game we would play, "who is the most famous person that will answer your call?" So then that spurred me to people would know that I was real. That kind of helped me. And then once I started working with Magic Johnson, he was the one who opened my eyes to this whole world of supplier diversity and corporate responsibility and developing communities and per caps, and Hilton University and Starbucks College, and, you know, mixed use buildings and the power of leases and ownership, royalties and partnerships, and sponsorships. So I didn't really know it from him, but he's the one who taught me how to be a real businessman and kind of gave me my PhD that allowed me to understand rooms a lot better, never being nervous when I walked in, because he trained us like, not only businessmen, but for us, black businessmen. They don't walk into a meeting with a book bag, walk into a meeting with a briefcase, make sure your bell is tight, shoes are fresh, tie. What's the material shirt, not wrinkled, you know, because sometimes we just don't know or we see another person do it and we mirror it. Magic was really the guy that was like, "Doug, you got to tighten up if you want to get to the next level." So if it wasn't for him really being my north star, I don't know what would have happened.
That's amazing. Doug, I want to actually take you back a little bit, because I'm fascinated with your background a little bit. And I must ask you because it's, I think it's unique, you know, probably a little bit less unique today. But, you know, being of mixed race, you grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, your dad's a judge, your mom's a school teacher. Both parents are of mixed race, right? And then also your grandparents as well. And these are different times that I'm talking about right now. Tell me what that was like growing up with family like that and how that kind of maybe shaped you into who you are today.
Doug Melville 09:51
I think that's a great question because you know, when you're mixed, race can either be your rocket fuel because you you embrace both worlds, or race can be the downfall of your dreams because you never feel like you fit in. And you can never find that clique that you can attach yourself to, to bring you to the next level.
Doug Melville 10:16
That's the unique thing about mixed race people. And, you know, I used to admire mixed race people growing up. Derek Jeter, Mariah Carey, Halle Berry, you know, when we have Barack Obama, Lenny Kravitz, Jordin Sparks, I could sit and go down the list, but these are the people that I would watch - not Jordin Sparks because she came after but (laughs) watch and say, "Wow, how are they moving?" Black and white, and, you know, talking to my parents, because they grew up in a time where race was on their license, on their birth certificate, segregated south, they both started at HBCUs, but then graduated from Stanford and NYU, so they even had University experiences at both. And they would always say, "Doug, we want to raise you in Connecticut, because it's Connecticut and it's like, you know, Fairfield County and all the richest people and all that, but we also want to raise you in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which is the primarily black city, because we want you to understand every side of it. You know, we want you to have black friends, we want you to have white friends, we want you to have rich friends, we want you to have poor friends. So they went out of their way to ensure that I understood both sides of the spectrum. And I think that was something that was unexpected, or when I look at other people our age, it's a lot of extra work to do that. But that was how it really raised me. And for me, it was a jet fuel to become more of a social chameleon and a corporate chameleon, versus, you know, someone who set in a certain point of view. Not that it's bad, it's just you are the product of your lived experience.
Absolutely. Yeah. And Doug, I have to ask the question, too, because as we're talking about your family, you had an opportunity to really explore more about your family, right? Really try to get to know the story of your family. Tell us a little bit about how that journey began, because it probably started with kind of like a simple question, but then became so much more, huh?
Doug Melville 12:21
Yeah, no, you know, it's funny that you asked Erik, because, you know, sometimes the best stories in the world are in your living room, but no one's talking. Quite simply your auntie, your grandmother, you know, we all have people in our family, but do we really take the time to hear their stories? I mean, we think we had to struggle, they had to, you know, drink rain water, or, you know, I'm just saying [inaudible] (laughs) you know, like, you know, we didn't have any food that expired, if we had food, it was good, you know, that kind of thing. And my family was really quiet. They never really talked about the past, they never really said anything. When I went to go see the movie Red Tails by George Lucas, it was late 2011. It was a screening, but the movie hit Black History Month in 2012. And the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen is a man by the name of Benjamin O. Davis, Jr, Ben Davis. Ben Davis and his father, were the first two black generals in American history. So I knew that, but I didn't really know much more than that. They raised my dad, my dad was their nephew, but raised him like his son. And so I knew what I was going to see when I went to go into the movie in the screening, and Terrence Howard played him, looked just like him. And he walks into the room, and the names were changed of the characters. So I was expecting that he was going to be Ben Davis in the movie because that was his name and this is his character. But what ultimately happened is that after the movie was over, you know, when I started talking to the producers, they were like, "Well, Doug, you know, this is Hollywood. We don't use the real names." And I went to my dad, and I was furious. And my dad goes, "Well, there's two things I want to tell you, Dougie. The first thing is, if you think getting your names changed is the worst thing that's gonna happen in your life, you are really spending time focusing on the wrong things." And he goes "And number two, what are you going to do about it?" So then he explains to me the story of our family. And that was the story of the invisible generals, America's first two black generals, a father and a son, who helped integrate the military, create and command the Tuskegee Airmen, and then even more so after they retired, the son, Ben Davis Jr. led the creation of the TSA, the United States Air Marshal program, and those were so successful in keeping the sky safe, that he worked with President Carter to create the 55 mile an hour speed limit. So, when I started uncovering these stories, I couldn't believe that no one was talking about this. But I know we know Martin Luther King, and we know certain American stories, but I'm sitting here going, "Wait, let me get this straight, 1901, the dad, Ben Davis Sr. becomes an officer, the only black officer, the next officer that was black in the military was his son, in 1936. And at the start of World War Two, there's 335,000 soldiers in the United States military and there's only two black officers, a father and a son." How could nobody tell this story, and it was hard for me to understand it. So in my personal life, I set a Google alert and started on the journey to find out my family. And on my professional life, I made a commitment to myself that I would be a chief diversity officer, and help ensure companies don't keep people invisible, and that they help make the invisible people visible indeed. And I started working with TBWA in 2012.
Wow, that is, that's so fascinating, Doug. Is the book out now?
Doug Melville 16:16
Yeah, the book comes out on November 7, in honor of Veterans Day. Actually, I want to share something that actually ties it all together. When we were at TBWA, I was probably three or four years in there. I was there eight years, but three or four years in, and my CEO at the time, this gentleman named Rob Schwartz, I love this guy. He was like my biggest advocate, but also just the greatest human. And we were doing happy hours at the office, you know, advertising is like come do the happy hours. This woman said, you know, "Can you guys stop doing happy hours because alcoholism runs in my family, but also runs in advertising? And is there a way that you can do something else to bring people together that's not around alcohol?" So Rob and I didn't blow it off, you know, because that's something that you could say, "Okay, thank you so much, Margaret. I appreciate your feedback. You know, keep it moving." We said "What would happen if we started a talk show in the lobby?" And then we were like, "Well, who would be the guest?" So we started small, we brought in guests, and we had Julie Rice, she was the co-creator of SoulCycle. And we had Koppelman came in, Brian Koppelman, he had just created Billions. And people started coming to the agency, and we were serving education. Well, then I said, "Rob, can I call some of my friends and like, you know, add a little bit of, you know, hip hop and style to the operation?" You know, I like those guests too, but I was like, you know let's bring in some [inaudible]. So we brought in Wendy Williams and we brought in Elaine Welteroth and Maria Shriver came in, and the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox. So we started having a much bigger following for the podcast. And one of the guests that came on was Charlamagne tha God. He was coming on to promote his new book at the time, called Shook Ones. And afterward, we had a conversation and I told him my family story of the first two [inaudible]. I just told it to him like I told you all and he goes, "You know, that's an incredible story. One day you should write a book about it. So cut to years later, I hire a literary agent. We put the pitch together for the book, we pitch five different publishing houses. And the publisher that took it was Charlamagne the God. So you know, I say that because it is a wide work experience, but it's actually this multi hyphenate slashing vibe going on right now, where everybody's actually doing everything you just don't know where it'll lead. He signed me to Black Privilege Publishing under Simon and Schuster. And he has been amazing to work with, you know, I mean, he is just, believed in the story, wanted to bring it to the world. But I think when I started getting into publishing, and I became an author, the difference between a writer and author is an author is published. So I had written articles and things like that, but when I became an author, I realized that only 6% of all authors in the top five, the Big Five publishing houses are people of color. 6%. So, it is our responsibility, it's each of your responsibility, Kerel, Erik, your responsibility to go find your family story in your legacy. At the minimum, you should own your family story. Because when I found that out, then I started researching "Okay, the Tuskegee Airmen actual names weren't in Red Tails, but what about other movies and then I found out you know, when you talk about The Green Book, one family earned money because they wrote it, the other family didn't. Hidden Figures, not written by the family, written by a researcher. And then you realize the families don't even get paid unless you write it. And this to me was all I needed to know to say, if someone is going to one day find this story and write it, if somebody is going to go out there and eventually put all the pieces together, I would rather it be me.
And on top of that, Doug, right, who's going to do a better job of telling your family story, than you. It's the ownership piece of it, but it's also the accuracy and the passion around it as well, too.
Doug Melville 20:21
Yeah, like, I never have to read notes. People are like "Doug, you know, the story in and out," I'm like, of course I know it in and out. I mean, but even when I tell it, it's almost as if I tell it as if it's not mine, because it's really not mine. It's America's story, you know, it's a story of the United States. it's a story of a father whose wife died in childbirth, who brought his son to a barnstorming plane ride, paid one week salary to fly him around for a half hour and his son comes down and goes, "Daddy, I want to be a pilot." And instead of saying, "Hey, you know, your mother died and the military is you know, hard and I'm the only black officer, he said, "Okay, okay, I'm gonna train you. I'm gonna get you right. Have you do the sit ups, get up four the morning, you know, like Venus or Serena's dad, you know, someone who got out there and said do it. And then actually became the catalyst for his son success. So that's why I love seeing you know, Deion Sanders and Shedeur or examples where it really is like the Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr, father and son or when LeBron said "My dream was just to play with my son," [inaudible] spot for me, because that's really what is the dream, and I'm sure for you too, you know, for your families and your sons and daughters and say, you know, Kobe wanted his daughter in the WNBA, you know?
Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. Thank you for sharing that too. You talk a little bit about your role as a DEI executive. There's a lot going on right now in this space with respect to DEI leaders. If you go back a couple years ago, it was sort of a trending thing, you know, out there, although, you know, you were well before that trend, and now it seems like when companies are maybe going through a little bit of a difficult time, and cutting back on resources, it seems like if the DEI professionals are usually the ones that are suffering the most, right, losing their jobs. So what is the state of this sort of DEI executive right now, today?
Doug Melville 22:49
No, that's a great question, because I want to talk about this. This is the thing. There's 1000 small realities at the same time. The first thing is, it's very hard to generalize it because everybody's situation is different. The role, [inaudible] the pay is different, the incentive is different, the task is different. Each diversity officer has a specialty, some are better at L&D, some are better at supplier diversity, some are better at recruiting, some are better at ERG and programming development, some are better at creative services. So that's also a variation that gets put together. But these challenges, when I started becoming a DNI officer in 2012, there was very few. There was Tiffany Warren. I mean, there was other ones too, but Tiffany Warren, was to me the north star of the modern DNI movement, although there had been others, she was really the one that was at the holding company level that started laying out okay, Madison Ave is an industry, this industry is going to get multiple diversity officers. So when we started, there really wasn't a playbook. So how we looked at it at TBWA was, what if diversity was a client? So we actually had a client team, just like you have PNG, or whomever your client is, and we had a client team on a job number called diversity where we had a creative director, a comms person, to figure out how we can actually do this in a way that's inclusive, in a way that's thoughtful. So then we saw it evolve. Okay, thoughtful and inclusive, then you have Oscar's so white, you have same sex marriage legalized, you have me too movement, then you have black lives matter. Well, by the time we've gone through these different areas where there's been a kind of a DNI spike of interest, you know, general interest, now, when George Floyd happened, it was almost looked at in a way to give unwarranted opportunities to many people, structures that weren't set up, resources that weren't put aside, individuals that may or may not have been qualified, corporations who, you know, if I say to you, "We need to help save somebody, or there's a perception that we need to get the solution in right away," the moment wasn't prepped. The people in the organizations, like I'm saying the budget, the job number, the [inaudible] your plan, all the things that go into an executive position, as it relates to strategy at scale, were overlooked in exchange for providing opportunities for people that were looking to get in in the corporate environment, or going out of your way to ensure you had a more inclusive team, but the details weren't necessarily aligned. So then you get all these individuals in, and then now, oh, well, we're going to do job cuts. So they do, you know, last in, first out, the LIFO system, like accounting, you know, last people in are the first people out, resources and budgets may not have been defined, so they're fluid. Job responsibility and roles, is there accountability? Who's responsible if someone has a DNI speed bump? Is there somebody's responsibility to get them out of the organization? Will someone leave the organization? If they, you know, violate the DNI code of trust? Is it for customers? Or is it just for employees? So what I'm saying is the state of DNI right now is, it's gonna take time in the companies that see it through, it will evolve. Should it be centralized? Should it be decentralized? Should it be country by country? Should it only be in certain countries that are asking for it? People still aren't sure. But I think what's happening is, there's enough companies putting attention to it, that we just need one to showcase exactly why it works well. It's just like, if you see Steph Curry or if you see Tiger Woods, you say that is the example of the best of the best. And I think the challenge with diversity, equity and inclusion right now is, most companies aren't putting the resource in to allow it to be front page news because when you make that a priority, now it becomes political. And that's something that didn't happen when we started 10 years ago. Now, it's like, "Oh, if it's conservative, it must be this party. Oh, if it's liberal, it must be this party." But when we first started, it was how do we build more opportunities for people? Now it's, well, I mean, their opportunities are ahead of our opportunities, so why do we have this training program, but we don't have this one? But that's not how it started. It started as a good way to grow your business and become a domestic emerging market for your company. And it's turned into, essentially a political this verse that because certain words have almost been politicized to the point where you can't get past it. The word 'woke,' you know, the word 'cap,' you know, I mean we could go on, but that's the issue, particularly domestically. So I've had the chance to go to 40 different countries, and sit in those countries and understand what is diversity around the world. So I can tell you from firsthand experience in America, it is race, but there's other markets all around the world where it has a different meaning. And I think we really need to understand that global diversity is an amazing opportunity that will unlock so many companies, but we still look at it very Americanized, because-
Yeah, I was just gonna ask you about that, Doug. I mean, you've been to 40 countries, probably 195 countries, almost 200 countries out there, you've been to almost 50 of them, right?
Doug Melville 28:53
First question I ask people, do you know how many countries are in the world recognized by the UN? Let's go Erik, 195!
Thinking about what you just said, a lot of times when we're talking about DEI and DEI practices, right, we're focused on sort of like the domestic and the US perspective. Give us an idea of kind of like maybe one or two things that would be interesting, kind of applied here from your travels and also being a global officer, right? That's a very unique thing. There are not a lot of global DEI officers. That's just fact, right? And so what are maybe one or two things that would be interesting to sort of think about kind of applying here that you think could be successful to connect to what you were just saying?
Doug Melville 29:41
Well, I think the first thing is that people have to understand the globe. Okay, so I think if I just said "Okay, well, how many countries are in the EU?" Okay, 27. Well, how many countries are in Europe? 44. What's the easternmost country? Iceland. What's the westernmost country? Russia. People don't know that basic geography so when you say you're a head of diversity, if you don't even know how many countries are in the world, you know, if you don't even know how Europe works, or 54 countries in Africa, or you just don't know basic things. So I think the first thing is you really have to understand geography. Number one and understand that diversity is different, because there's all these different people. So that's number one. Number two, I would say, there are a lot of countries in the world that use quota systems. In the United States of America, when you say quota people go "Oh, see what I'm saying? You see what I'm saying?" But when you go around the world, a lot of countries have quotas. If you go to Saudi Arabia, they have Saudization, which is quotas for certain roles for locals to have those positions. If you go to Dubai, they have Emiratization, the local Emiratis, certain roles and percentages, work in certain roles in the company. South Africa has quotas, many countries around the world have quotas around disability, how many percentage of people either have a physical or mental disability? And then if they get compensated for that, so just that right there are two different areas that if we just understood all the countries quotas, and all the global countries, and how many people get let in with Visas, we right there will be smarter diversity officers. So that was my biggest learning around the world. And then one other thing, gentlemen, language. We forget these words, 'diversity,' they don't translate. When you go to Korea, and you ask an office, how do you say the word, people will sit around and say, "Oh, it could be this, it could be that," these words we're saying don't even really translate into native tongue and it makes people confused on what it's supposed to mean because even we don't know. Sometimes we'll say, "Okay, what is diversity?" Everybody's like, "Okay, it's different. Everything is diverse." Well, if everything's everything, then everything's nothing, you know, it's like, it gets really strange like that. So I think that's another learning is the value and importance of language. You know, when you go to Europe, there's some countries where you can't get a driver's license unless you take the test in two languages. You can't graduate high school unless you speak three languages, you know, so we don't really have that compatibility, because we're from the driver's seat culturally, and people come here, but that would be what I would say it's so important for a diversity leader to know.
That's huge, thank you so much, and tremendous insights. So we're lucky, we're catching you while you're here in New York, so that's great, but you're not living in New York, right now. You're literally living somewhere else. You're not only talking to talk, I mean, you're walking the walk. You're living in Switzerland, right? And Kerel and I said, we're going to come see you and come catch you in Geneva, I live in my day to day for the last two years in Geneva, Switzerland. That's where I've called home. And it was a big learning for me, my company transferred me from New York City on Fifth Avenue, all the way to Geneva, Switzerland to the headquarters. And it was my first time really living and working abroad. And I was in the luxury industry. And you can only imagine, you know, during COVID, there was such a resurgence of conversation around luxury sales growth, you know, you could, you could just kind of look through and see how the luxury entities all fared quite well. For me, it was a great learning because it allowed me to work in another country and really understand what being a global diversity leader is like living in another country. And I think when you go to Switzerland, you know, when we were growing up as kids, you'd be like, it's Switzerland, it doesn't have a side. And when you live there, you realize it is Switzerland so it makes you refine the details of how you communicate, because nothing is left unsaid. If you just say, "Hey, you know, bah, bah, bah, we need to do this." That's fine, but when you go there, you have to really explain why it's important to do this. What's the effect of it? We're in America, we just do things like so [inaudible] why should we throw a pride parade in America? We'll be like, "Why?! It's June!" you know, but when you put [inaudible] exactly why. Is it for the clients? Is it for their recruits? Is it for current employees? What will be the result of throwing a private party? How do we judge feedback, if we should throw it again? You know, like, simple questions, but they ask it a different way where it makes you say, "Oh okay, I need to refine how I do it" and it also, when we're talking about EU and Europe, you can have people from 44 countries and everyone's European. And then you go in the room and say, "Yeah, but diversity" and people are like, oh, yeah, 44 countries. And then you're like "Yeah, but the thing is in America" and they're like, "Yeah, but we're not in America. I mean, what other diversity do you want me to have? We have people here from 44 countries, we have people speaking 40 languages. What do you mean we don't have diversity?" You know, so you have to look at this role in a very global lens. And I think that was really what I learned moving and living over there in Geneva. Tremendous.
Doug, where do you draw inspiration from?
Doug Melville 35:23
I think, I draw a lot of inspiration, my mentor is Jay Brown. And he was the, I don't know his exact title, but we met, our mothers were both school teachers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but he ended up being the chairman and CEO of Roc Nation. So he was really, you know, at the ground floor and worked with the Roc Nation family to kind of build it from Rockefeller to Roc Nation. I draw inspiration from him because we grew up in the same street, and he's like one of us, but, you know, he's the one who's really been at the forefront, even though he's behind the scenes of things with Jay Z or Rihanna and others on their ecosystem. But he really is a super big inspiration to me and his brother and you know, Tommy Hilfiger and his brother Andy and actually Magic Johnson and his brother, Larry, there's something that works with me about the brother dynamic, where it's like, yeah, okay, we all know Magic Johnson, but Larry Johnson, who was his right hand man and traveled with him, helps you understand how to move in the rooms, you know, because they are partners in crime. Andy Hilfiger, people don't really say his name all the time, but he was really the person who was behind creating Tommy jeans while his brother Tommy was creating the clothing. His brother Andy was the one working with Aliyah and you know, dressed in Grand Poobah. So I draw inspiration about this relationship and brothers and maybe that's why I was so into the father and son, there's just something about the duality of two and if you look at every successful company, podcasts Like U2?, Ben and Jerry, Baskin and Robbin, you know, Hewlett and Packard, you know, there's something about the two that really gets you through and I think that that really inspires me.
I love that. I never thought about it that way. It's something about the two but I'll definitely keep that one in mind now. Fun question for you. What's in the music rotation right now? What are you listening to?
Doug Melville 37:25
Right now, this week I'm on J. Cole, Active Shooter. I'm loving that one on replay. I do love a J. Cole, but you know, he, he's elusive. You know, I can't really you know, I don't [audible] he's here he's not here. Oddly enough, DJ Khaled's Instagram is somewhat on rotation because I'm not sure if this guy's a comic or if he's like, but I do like "Sing About Me" Kendrick Lamar and there's a Kanye West song that never made the record but I think it's called Free. "Someday we'll all be free." He released it after his album on like the mixtape circuit, but really love that one, too. I love Drake, "Texts Go Green," you know, I don't know. I mean, that album didn't get a lot of love, but "Excuse Me, Nevermind," but I love that too. You know, I'm going more hip hop these days.
Nothing wrong with that. Especially this year, 50th anniversary.
Doug Melville 38:19
Yeah, yeah. So that's important, too.
I wanted to ask you a few questions, but I think I'm gonna have to save it. Wanted to ask you questions about a $1.3 million hot dog car. What that's like cruisin but maybe we'll do that another time. But it's been a pleasure having you on. Thanks so much and excited to be able to spend some time with your book as well. Can you tell our listeners and viewers like where they can find your book? And when it comes out again, Doug?
Doug Melville 38:48
Actually we have two public events. If you're in New York and LA, it comes out in honor of Veteran's Day, it's called "Invisible Generals." My first book, 70,000 words, no hanging chads, no hanging chads, we did it. We got Ben Crump to give me an amazing quote on the back, we got Ebony K. Williams who I just love so much, Charlemagne tha God and then General Johnson, the former president of Tuskegee Airmen, but I want to just say 11/11 on Veterans Day, we'll be at the Barnes and Noble in Marina Del Rey doing a signing. I'll be doing a, signing at ADCOLOR, November 10, the day before. And then I'll also be on November 9, Thursday in New York at the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca with Charlemagne tha God, you know, you may see me on the Breakfast Club, you may see me on the [inaudible]. You know, you don't know where you're gonna see me but we got some good things coming. And I'm really excited to really share this story, which I feel and many have told me is the next Hidden Figures, you know, a story that we all want to hear. I just want to leave with really telling everybody two things. Number one is look back and look at your own legacy and look at your family. And the second part of my book is how to uncover your own family legacy. So yes, I can tell you about mine and it's an incredible story. But it was hidden just like yours may be hidden, you just don't know what to ask and once people are gone, you're never gonna get the information. And I think the second thing is everything matters. Everything's connected as the old, Steve Jobs, connect the dots on looking back, not looking ahead. But one of the things that I had the opportunity to be engaged with was, when I was working at TBWA, I had a meeting with an executive at PepsiCo, and I brought to the meeting a bag, and I unzipped a bag and I lay out different things on this person's desk, and they were different Aunt Jemima dolls. And I said to him "One day, the internet is not going to look at this well." And that was the beginning of the conversation to retire Aunt Jemima. Now, this was something that I had a passion to do. We were their ad agency, so I had access to the right people. And it started with small conversations. And then it ended up snowballing. And then they ultimately retired Aunt Jemima and all the food mascots. And it was something that came about, not from salt, but from sugar and from talking and communicating. So sometimes the skills that we pick up, negotiation, communication, storytelling, are actually the things that are going to change the way these companies operate, and the outcomes. And one thing that Ben Davis told me was, "It's important that we use the system to diffuse the system. We must be the people that are the catalyst for change. And the impossible takes time, but in time, you can accomplish the impossible." So put your head down, focus on the performance, know that no matter what anybody tells you, the most expensive real estate in the world is the moral high ground. So not everybody's gonna make it and not everybody can afford it, but this is your chance to go ahead and do that.
Tremendous, Doug, thanks so much for passing that on to others. And so many great parts in the book, if you want to be able to preview a little bit of it, there's a tremendous 18 minutes that's available to learn more about "Invisible Generals" and spend a moment there, there's so many more great nuggets of wisdom from lived experiences. And Doug, thanks for hanging out with us. And if our audience wants to connect with you and find a way to connect with you, what's a easy good way to sort of do that?
Doug Melville 42:44
Thanks so much, Erik. Instagram, I'm at @DougMelville or LinkedIn and you know, I'm always here, I always reply to the messages and you know, someone helped me and I'm really open to help others. So, rise up and reach back, as a founding board member of ADDCOLOR, rise up and reach back. Rise up and reach back. It's so important.
Excellent. Thanks. Shout out to our friends at ADDCOLOR, too, and also thank you Doug for spending some time with us. And everyone, thank you for listening to another episode. Be sure to catch more episodes wherever you find all of your audio and video, just search for Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks, everyone. And thanks, Doug.