4A's Multicultural Intern Class Shows Value of Diversity

MAIP Graduates Tell of Impact They Had on Agencies This Summer

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A class of interns has nudged the advertising industry one step forward on the path to a more diverse workforce.

At a ceremony last week, 151 graduates of the MAIP spoke of their experiences spent at agencies this summer.

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Last Thursday, 151 students graduated from the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, capping off summer stints at 78 agencies in 23 different cities where they practiced copywriting, account management, media planning and art direction.

Angela Johnson Meadows, manager-diversity programs for the 4A's, said that a dozen of this summers' interns had jobs lined up before the program ended.

Celebrating their experiences
At the ceremony, held at New York University's Kimmel Center, the graduates spoke about their experiences -- some sang, others recited poems and one even belted out "Ode to Joy" on a harmonica. "A lot of times minorities are told they can't do something ... this experience breaks down barriers," said Natasha Aswani, 22, a copywriting intern this summer at Ten/United in Pittsburg (and a skilled harmonica player to boot).

Multicultural marketing pioneer Monica Gadsby, CEO of SMG Multicultural, an affiliate of Starcom MediaVest Group, gave the keynote address. She called the graduates "tomorrow's architects of change. Rest assured this industry needs you as much as you need us."

After surviving an interview process that saw 350 applications from students this year, the MAIP interns work for 10 weeks at participating 4A's member agencies, including Avenue A/ Razorfish, MediaCom, DraftFCB, Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB Worldwide, among others.
Monica Gadsby
Monica Gadsby

Since its inception in 1973, MAIP has helped launch the careers of more than 1,600 African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Native-American marketers, Ms. Meadows said.

Pledge to diversify
Even so, it's only a small dent in an industry notorious for its lack of diversity. The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently wrapped up a lengthy investigation of the hiring practices of New York agencies, ending with 15 signed memos of understanding on minority recruitment and submitted goals for minority hires in 2007. At the end of the year, the agencies will deliver a detailed report to the commission and a set of new goals for 2008.

Some of the agencies that have set goals for minority hires are MAIP participants, including Euro RSCG, which was awarded by the 4A's this year for its commitment to diversity. "MAIP for agencies is a no-brainer," said Annette Stover, the agency's chief operating officer.

MAIP graduates said their varied perspectives brought value to the agencies where they interned. "Most people in Pittsburg were born and raised there. Coming from Miami, I felt like I was able to bring in a point of view they'd never thought of, show them there are people out there of other cultures," Ms. Aswani said.

Translating more than language
Tanya Maldonado, 22, who interned in account management at Ogilvy, New York, said she was able to use her Spanish-language fluency to translate a Pond's survey given to Spanish-speaking women into English. And Shali Nguyen, 21, a digital/interactive technologies intern this summer at McKinney in Durham, N.C., said her youth helped her explain emerging digital technologies to her bosses. "Having lived through being on Facebook, I can explain how to make an app," she said.

Many interns said their experience this summer crystallized their choice to work in advertising. "The point of advertising is to reach audiences, and to reach them, you need to know people. ... This is the future of advertising," said Donn Ogilvie, 21, an account planning intern this summer at Publicis USA.
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