There's much talk about bridges these days-most notably about the bridge to the 21st century that we'll collectively be crossing. In this hopeful metaphor, though, is the implication that a connection needs to be made, a chasm spanned, a need fulfilled.
THE NEXT STOP
AAF Foundation will take its next step to cross that bridge during the "AAF's 25 Most Promising Minority Advertising Students" program Feb. 17-18 in Chicago. This event will identify for agencies, advertisers, media groups and corporations a multicultural pool of applicants. Within this group, undoubtedly, are some of the future leaders of the advertising industry.
As the faces and resumes of the young Americans being honored attest, the AAF's eight-year campaign for diversity is moving forward. The industry must take advantage of this new source of talent.
These 25 winners, and the 75 other outstanding students who are also contenders for careers in advertising (see facing page), were nominated from among AAF's 200 college chapters and through local advertising federations such as the Advertising Club of Greater Boston.
These students are intellectually stimulated by advertising and excited about how it can shape opinion, mirror society's values and affect economic growth. They are eager to launch their careers and hopeful about their futures; they are the advertising industry's human resources for the 21st century.
ONE SPAN OF BRIDGE
These students represent just one span of the bridge the AAF Foundation is building to connect our 50,000 members with the ethnically and culturally diverse work force we will all need for our future success.
Our industry can ill afford to ignore a multicultural market some contend is worth more than $600 billion. To reach this market, we need to respond to the American demographic shifts resulting in increasing numbers of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caribbean, Native American and other ethnic consumers.
Responding to these consumers means understanding what motivates them. It means that advertising must reflect these consumers accurately. And, finally, it means a diverse industry that speaks to its consumers can do so without offense and the consequences that might accompany innocent communications that certain consumers might consider in bad taste.
Recruiting qualified employees from among minority groups and having an in-house diversity program that ensures their success are crucial to the advertising industry's future success. Already, non-whites make up 25% of the U.S. population and in a little more than five years will comprise a third of all consumers in this country.
It will require creativity and freshness to understand this market, respond to it credibly and sensitively and capture it. This is what minority candidates bring to the table.
AAF's tools in making its case for successful diversity have been: outreach, not only to students but to current professionals and potential employers; resources, including publications, scholarships, mentoring, grants and research, developed as part of our "Cultural Diversity in Advertising Initiative"; and experience, gleaned from our own determination to have our staff, committees and boards reflect the diversity of our country and our marketplace.
AAF's surveys, and the findings of many others, demonstrate that through advertising, diversity can strengthen connections between groups often thought to be disparate, and can foster understanding and mutual respect.
With new tools and technologies at their disposal, advertisers can both segment and reach particular audiences. Industry examples of efforts to respond to our diverse population abound.
The banking industry is examining its marketing and employment shortfalls so that it can better penetrate ethnic markets; so, too, are grocery-store chains, magazine publishers, telephone companies and a host of others.
Members of the AAF's Advisory Committee on Cultural Diversity are committed to helping lead the industry across the bridge-people such as co-chairmen Tom Burrell and Vince Cullers, and members Clarence Smith, Byron Lewis, Jack Loftus, Merri Dee and Eddie Arnold.
Major supporters, including American Airlines and Nielsen Media Research, are helping to point the way.
The changing face of America must be reflected in our industry. As the eager faces of our promising students attest, they'll meet us more than halfway. It is up to us to invite them into our industry-and encourage and promote their deserving peers already in the industry. Do this and we encourage our future success.
Mr. Snyder is president of the American Advertising Federation.