Cannes Lions

Elephant XD Academy

ELEPHANT, Los Angeles / ELEPHANT / 2021

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During the racial justice reckoning of 2020, Elephant took a hard look at the agency, and across our industry and society, and made a formal and public commitment to change to combat systemic racism. Fundamental to these commitments was investing in BIPOC Futures. Our brief in short: Break down the barriers to the advertising industry for diverse talent by teaching the foundations of what we do to kickstart a career in digital product design for the next generation of BIPOC talent. And so, Elephant XD Academy was born. XD Academy is a 6-week creative bootcamp that is free to accepted students, with a curriculum created by our employees, taught by our employees, so everyone can contribute to change.


Elephant XD Academy


One of the biggest challenges to diversity in advertising is opening up the possibility of creative industries to diverse groups of talent. We wanted to start at the top of the talent funnel, and create a program that benefits our industry, not just Elephant. XD Academy was conceived as a way to jumpstart careers in our field, and catapult young BIPOC students and new entrants into the job market with the skills they need to succeed. To immediately access young BIPOC talent for our pilot of XD Academy, we partnered with 4A’s MAIP and solicited candidates for the program among their “MAIPers”. In addition to the requirement that participants be people of color, we also made the decision to accept students that did not have any formal training or experience with digital product design, so as to more concretely and directly grow the talent pool.


With a multidisciplinary team of Elephant subject matter experts, we designed a fast-paced, 6-week creative bootcamp intensive course. Over a two month period, we created a hyper-focused experience design curriculum with a balance of strategy, design, and prototyping coursework, that would culminate in a set of final projects. Then, we launched the inaugural class of nine BIPOC students in Fall of 2020. The nine students were divided into teams of three to execute a digital product design solution for three individual client projects with specific business challenges, and for the launch of the Academy, those challenges were pandemic-focused. Furthermore, the curriculum was designed specifically for scale; while the launch of XD Academy with nine students piloted the curriculum, the bootcamp was designed for virtual learning, and is now a turnkey solution we will extend with multiple sessions, larger student bodies, as well as offering the curriculum to our clients to