Agencies and media companies hope summer programs will boost diversity in advertising

Not-so-recent news: Advertising has a racial diversity problem, with about 5.8% of the workforce identifying as black, according to 2020 data from the 4As. The best news? Agencies and organizations are trying to do something by making it easier for them to pursue marketing careers.

After the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd, programs like the BLAC Internship Program and Breaking Media were created to help bring more diversity into advertising. Both in their second year, they provide the opportunity for people of different skill levels to learn about the industry and hopefully find employment.

But Nicolet Gatewood, executive director of BLAC, told us that was just the beginning. Of the 5.8% of black employees in the advertising industry, 68% are entry-level or administrative according to the 4As. “That’s not right. And so, we maintain that an internship program is a great opportunity for interns. It’s not the diversity solution for our agencies – they need to ensure adequate representation for all levels, including leadership.

Creating a door

Gatewood said she was 35 before she got into advertising, thanks to the help of a personal connection.

“The advertising industry thrives on referrals, right? And sometimes nepotism. So if you’re in a predominantly white industry, who have you had professional experiences with? Other white people “, she said. “It’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy and a problem here, and we aim to break that.

When creating the application requirements, Gatewood said it was important for the BLAC program to remove as many barriers to entry as possible. “Our application criterion is not a curriculum vitae. No one cares if you went to college, if you’re 40 and trying to get into this industry, or if you’re 21 and have never worked in the industry” , she said.

Entrants submit a two-minute video showing off their creativity. From there, they interview and, if selected, work with one of 20 participating agencies, such as Barker or Upshot. Interns meet throughout the 12-week program to work together on projects, hear guest speakers and, at the end, attend a job fair.

“We feel we have an obligation to our two interns, which is to provide opportunity where opportunity is needed, to open a door. And the other commitment we make is to the industry. And that’s through our agencies,” Gatewood said.

She and program founder Toni Lee expect agencies to commit to the nonprofit 600 & Rising’s 12-step plan and pay interns a minimum of $15 from the hour.

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“When you consider life choices, whether one chooses to leave their current career path and follow their passions in advertising, or whether one is on summer vacation at college, but they can win at least $15 per hour working as seasonal staff. [for] Amazon, we can’t ask them to give away their labor and expertise for free,” she said.

Interns work on projects with their respective agencies (like this one, to which interns Tashanee Williams and Seth Jones contributed), as well as with the broader BLAC group. They meet for workshops and training on topics such as creating presentations and negotiating salaries, before ending their internships with a brief two-week assignment that they present to executives at companies like Procter & Gamble.

Last year, Lee said 23 of BLAC’s 32 interns had landed full-time jobs by the end of the program, though she said some of the nine who did not yet need to complete their studies. This year, the goal is to match or exceed those numbers.

Be the advertising partner you want to see in the world

Vox Media is working with agency UM for the second year on its Breaking Media program, in which students from diverse backgrounds can take online courses on topics ranging from media planning to personal branding, taught by Vox and UM marketing professionals.

This year, Vox and UM are working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to encourage students to register through email promotion.

Chris Clermont, head of DE&I at Vox Media, called 2020 a “racial calculus” that caused Vox to assess its ongoing efforts to improve diversity in media to ensure actions weren’t just “performative.” . He said it was clear that “we need to go to schools that have direct connections to the audiences we are trying to serve. And we need to have people who have the same lived experiences who are able to bring them into the workplace and into the meetings and into the decision-making and into the storytelling and the stories that we put together.

Last year, Clermont said, the program had 250 students. This year, he said, they’ve enrolled nearly 300. One of Clermont’s hopes for the virtual program is to continue to create hiring opportunities. Although Vox hasn’t hired anyone from Breaking Media to date, UM has hired eight people full-time after last year’s program, according to Vox.

Overall, Clermont said it makes sense for publishers to play a role in promoting advertising diversity because of the intertwining of the two. “It’s just part of the ecosystem,” he said.

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