Wednesday, November 3, 2010
You should know that I’ve been preparing for this trip to Miami, FL for a while now. But not intentionally so; my experiences within the industry over the last 3 years have led me to this point. The experience of working at a multicultural agency and then wanting to know more about the advertising industry led me into my current situation of graduate school at VCU Brandcenter.
I have loved every minute of learning thus far; and being surrounded by so many progressive creative people has been an elevating experience. But I’m still a bit disappointed that the industry has not yet caught up with the larger culture. Our most visible generation, Gen Yers/Millennials, are continually blurring cultural lines, as exhibited by the transformation in art and music, but the minds behind what we as people see everyday—advertising— is still dominated by a less varied mainstream culture.
But there is a benevolent lighthouse in our industry that is doing its part to shine a light on the slow but steady pace of increased diversity in the ad industry. The AdColor Awards has been a great platform for discussion as well as praise about the people and companies that have been embracing diversity and the benefits that it brings.
The AdColor awards gave us an opportunity to discuss the topic of diversity through submission of an essay about, “how would you redefine diversity”. Below was my answer to the question and now on the eve of the AdColor awards Show weekend, I’m going to ask people in the industry the same question to see if in fact…we are all caught with culture as well.
How would you redefine Diversity?
To redefine diversity, one would need to define what it means within the context of our culture today, specifically within advertising. Diversity at its core is about the representation of variety— in race, gender, economics, and cultural affinity. But I can’t help but notice that this definition is more utopian than what the reality presents in the ad industry. Despite many industry initiatives—both educational and professional—there still seems to be a gap in wanting to be truly “diverse” and providing an environment where diversity is truly embraced and can thrive.
When I initially read the question about redefining diversity, I wanted to explore a dialogue that was focused on outreach—within agencies and higher education. However, I soon realized that although that solution was admirable (and overtly tactical) it doesn’t address the motivation behind embracing and redefining diversity. My goal thereafter was to treat this “redefinition” the way I would treat any other challenge or project as a strategist…Uncover the motivation that is unseen but felt by everyone.
Truth be told, 2010 will probably be the last decade we see minorities as a marginal group. As each emerging population acquires more wealth and subsequent options to lifestyles—their social and economic issues will evolve as well. Items that were once seen as impossible to achieve (i.e. buying luxury cars, bigger homes, domestic & international travel, etc) are now thought to be a part of the normal and expected American experience. All of those things are cause for celebration, but the missing link is recognizing that as our cultures continue in this economic and social exchange…the images and messaging must also reflect this exchange and their experiences.
I would argue that our job as planners, executives, creatives, and clients is to remain two steps ahead of culture. It is one of the ways that we can play a part in embracing diversity; by providing an environment that encourages an empathy for what people need along with embracing wildly different mindsets and personalities. The openness to difference can be a recipe for improved culture and success of an agency, firm, or institution.