It Takes More Than Cash to Solve Problems

Some Agencies Follow Their Checks With Action

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Tiffany Warren Tiffany R. Warren
Scholarship and internship programs are widely accepted methods of checking the diversity participation box not only by Fortune 500 companies but by advertising agencies. When agencies are often asked about their level of participation and implementation of diversity programs, they usually respond "Well, I am proud to say that we not only support the Four A's Scholarship Foundation but we host one Four A's MAIP intern per summer and are annual exhibitors at the AAF Most Promising Minority Students Career Fair!" These are all worthy programs to support, but the secret to their success is not financial.

The sad truth is that while agencies and greater corporate America may send in checks, sponsor interns and support career fairs, this has not led to sustained diversity. Why? This is external dressing for an internal problem. The industry cannot heal the historical wounds left by its lack of diversity by applying a financial band-aid. Financial sponsorship is easy, quick and pain-free. The real work is developing, nurturing and supporting the careers of the alumni of these programs. Providing them with jobs and support well after the check has been cashed, the slick exhibition booth is torn down and the summer has ended will begin to lessen the internal diversity challenges agencies face daily.

Why is the retention rate for AAF MPMS, Four A's MAIP and Scholarship Foundation alumni so high within the advertising and wider communications industry? A trifecta of reasons: consistent follow-through by mentors/sponsors; an enviable informal professional network amongst alumni; and agencies who take it a step further.

Some examples of agencies taking it a step further:
  • For the last nine years, DDB hasn't just provided the Bill Bernbach Minority Scholarships to students of color studying art direction and copywriting at top portfolio schools. It has also offered one year externships at any DDB office throughout their network.

  • IPG regularly recruits AAF Most Promising Students to become IPG Fellows. The program provides Fellows with mentors and coaches. It is recognized as one of the top agency programs for training and promoting young professionals of color.

  • Since 2000, BBDO has administered the Allen Rosenshine Minority Education and Training (MET) Fund and much like DDB offers scholarships and internships. Many graduates of the MET Fund are now BBDO employees.

  • Alumni of Arnold's TAP Program, which taps the talent of tomorrow today, have not only been hired at Arnold but are making their marks at Euro RSCG, Hill Holliday and Ogilvy & Mather.
For agencies that participate in any of the industry programs above financially, I ask you to take it a step further and develop internal programs to support your external financial sponsorships. In the end, writing a check does not guarantee a high-diversity ROI, but investing in the future of a young professional of color by offering them real opportunities to succeed and providing them with support through the ups and downs they will face in this industry will.
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