Why the Advertising Industry Needs More Women of Color

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By Alicia Harris

Just within the past year, several brands have faced widespread backlash and criticism for launching culturally insensitive and tone-deaf ads. Last April, Pepsi debuted a controversial commercial showing Kendall Jenner handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer during a protest that mimicked the Black Lives Matter movement. Users on Twitter and almost every other social media platform shamelessly vented their emotions and called out the multi-billion dollar brand for what they believed was an attempt to glamorize the horror of police brutality. Although the Pepsi campaign became the “ad heard around the world,” it was not the only time that a brand has recently been accused of being culturally insensitive.

Dove recently released an ad on Facebook that showed a black woman removing her shirt and transforming into a white female. Again, social media users vented on their favorite platforms for days after the ad was launched. Through repeated failures, it is evident that there is a lack of diversity at the table when campaign ideas are being pitched. A survey conducted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) indicated that 74% of 4A’s members feel as though agencies are now mediocre or worse than previous years at hiring diverse talent.

It’s one thing to log on to Twitter and Instagram to express your opinions and vent about the lack of cultural awareness in todays ads, however, getting up and physically inserting yourself into the chaos is a whole different story. The industry needs you. It needs women of color, it needs all of us. Each with our own unique experiences, point of view, and background. In order for agencies and brands to affect society with their ads and messages, the workplaces that create the campaigns have to be a true representation of what society looks like. And that’s not just one color. It’s every color.

Thankfully pioneers have acknowledged the lack of diversity in the industry and have created programs, conferences, and internships that specifically look for multicultural students who are ready to make waves in the industry. Here are a few programs, organizations, and internship opportunities that have been empowering students for years to step into the world of marketing and advertising and create the change that society has lacked for years.

1. The Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP)

For over forty years, MAIP has changed the lives of countless students across the nation. Each year around 120 undergraduate and graduate students are chosen to intern with some of the best and most well-known agencies in the world. Throughout the summer, interns are exposed to real-world work experience and numerous networking opportunities within the industry. Interns also participate in a twelve-week training and development series hosted by industry professionals the semester before their summer internship. The training introduces students to the industry beforehand in order to build their confidence prior to starting their life-changing journey. To learn more about MAIP, click here.

2. The One Club

The One Club is dedicated to offering education and leadership programs to existing and aspiring creatives. The organization seeks to create diverse workplaces within leading agencies and to empower and support multicultural individuals as they enter the industry. Throughout the year, The One Club hosts numerous boot camps and events that bring together head hunters from well-known brands and agencies to recruit amongst a diverse crowd of students and junior-level professionals. Here Are All The Black People is one of The One Club’s highly sought after annual career fairs. The one-day event provides multicultural students, industry professionals, and recent graduates the opportunity to showcase their talent to top agencies in the industry. To find out more about the programs and events available, click here.

3. Multicultural Talent Pipeline Forum

As one of the leading multicultural media agencies, Publicis Media created the annual Multicultural Talent Pipeline (MCTP) forum to offer students a real world perspective on the key areas of business such as media strategy, buying, planning, digital, analytics, and branded entertainment. Each year a group of students are selected to visit New York City during Advertising Week and immerse themselves into the field. Publicis Media created this program to close the multicultural talent gap and showcase the brightest students to industry head-hunters and executives who understand the importance of having a diverse workplace. Click here to learn more about the MCTP annual forum.

4. Most Promising Multicultural Students Program

Each year, the American Advertising Federation hosts the Most Promising Multicultural Students Program as an opportunity for students to launch their careers in marketing, advertising, media or communications. The lucky students who are selected spend four days in New York City networking with leading professionals and visiting the nation’s top agencies and media companies. Throughout the week, students also take part in the Most Promising University which provides training and professional development workshops powered by Omnicom Group, attend recruiting events and are honored at a luncheon filled with industry professionals. Click here to get involved with this game-changing opportunity.

For years, the advertising industry has lacked color, diversity and the magic that happens when various backgrounds get together to create and brainstorm ideas that inevitably change the world. Programs like the ones mentioned above are incredible opportunities to get involved and immerse yourself into an industry that now needs you more than ever!