Advertising Week Crossing the Color Line

Another Year, More Events Dealing With Diversity

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Carol Watson Carol Watson
After five years of Advertising Week, the organizers seem to be catching on to the importance of the diversity issue. There are more events than ever revolving around diversity and multicultural marketing.

There were some great topics and panel speakers addressing topics previously covered in my blog posts. New-media panelists discussed consumer trends during an event sponsored by Uniworld. Michaela Angela Davis, a former editor at Essence and Vibe, commented that the buzz on multiculturalism on the web is global in thought and diverse in perspective. She also said that when marketers try to be too politically correct for the multicultural market, they come off "corny," looking like they're trying too hard to be, for example, "too black." How do you prevent it? She said: "Keep young and cool people close to you."

Other well-attended panels included "Madison Avenue and the Color Line," featuring Jason Chambers, author of the book by that title; advertising professor Allen Rosenshine, chairman emeritus, BBDO; Joel Johnson, a longtime agency account planner who is now head of strategy at Sapient Interactive; and Dawn Williams Thompson from P&G, representing the client perspective. By the time we got to the meat of the issues -- why agencies are not taking a cue from their clients and why clients aren't putting the agencies' feet to the fire -- our time was up.

The AWNY breakfast hosted by The New York Times featured Stuart Elliott as moderator. The speakers included: Tariq Mohammad from AOL Black Voices; Lewis Williams, chief creative officer of Burrell; and Starcom's Esther Franklin, who presented further information on "Beyond Demographics: African American Archetypes." Topics tackled included the small slice of the pie (e.g. ad budget) available for minority targeting and whether there is a switch between African American and Hispanic targeting. Tariq suggested that the pie be increased to represent the population. Marketers should not see the opportunity as African American vs. Hispanic. They must address both. On the topic of how marketers do mainstream and also focus their message in targeted media, Mr. Williams responded, "Multicultural audiences listen with both ears. They use one ear with NPR and another with Tom Joyner. We don't get the messaging screwed up. We have different expectations."

The Vidal Partnership hosted a panel that included Geraldo Rivera leading a controversial discussion about leveraging the power of a solidified Latino voice vs. the division of Hispanic cultures into Dominican, Mexican, Cuban, etc. Rivera commented, "The more a company recognizes the breadth of the colors of the Hispanic market, the more effective they will be. There are more things that unite us than divide us. We are not defined by a language."

Advertising Week even diversified the evening concerts with Big Boi and Ziggy Marley hosted by Facebook.

On top of all of these activities -- and the cautiously optimistic news coming out of the Civil Rights Committee hearing -- the icing on the cake last week might have been a hilarious post from "SuperSpy." On Wednesday, Media Bistro Agency Spy posted The Don'ts of Advertising Agencies: The Black Folk Edition. The first don't, of course, is about hair -- as in don't ask us about it. It is hilarious in its accuracy, and yes, I have heard all of these stories from candidates at some point. She posted a Women's Edition this week (so that's double don'ts when it comes to black women!).

The list brought to mind an answer to a question that often gets asked, particularly from young talent just starting out in this industry when confronted with insulting behavior. "What do I say?" they ask. Eric Michael Dyson, renowned speaker, professor and author of several best sellers, was a featured speaker at the recent NAMIC conference and shared a classic line with the crowd as he shared his advice to people of color blazing a path in corporate America in the heat of Barack Obama fever. "Be Barackish." If someone says something insulting, you say, "I know you did not intend to be insulting and I am not offended, but some people may be." Mr. Dyson suggests that you make it a teachable moment. You can't fight every battle.
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