Stop Talking Multicultural; Let’s Start Living It

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By Lia Silkworth is EVP, Managing Director at Tapestry, Starcom Worldwide and Steven Wolfe Pereira is VP, Brand Strategy & Marketing Solutions at Oracle

What’s the number one show on television? “Empire.” Last year’s surprise hit brought in 16.2 million views for its second season premiere, ratings that TV shows haven’t seen in years. The sleeper hit movie of the summer? “Straight Outta Compton,” the most successful music bio pic ever, grossing five times its budget. And if you count recent Golden Globe and Emmy wins by Gina Rodriguez and Viola Davis, respectively, it would appear that diversity is finally being recognized as good for business!

Indeed, it’s being recognized by America’s consumers. Over 35% of the U.S, population is diverse today, with approximately 17% Hispanic, 13% African-American and 5% Asian. By 2040, studies predict that over 50% of the U.S. population will be Multicultural. However, you don’t have to wait that long to be living in a Multicultural nation—we already do! The top 20 DMAs in the U.S. are Multicultural majorities. And if you want to connect with millennials, over 50% of them will be Multicultural in less than five years.

But what about inside the Media, Marketing and Advertising Industry?

Limited diversity behind the scenes continues to plague all areas of the media industry (see: Matt Damon and “Project Greenlight”). There is always talk about how “important” Multicultural is. Unfortunately, it usually is just that–talk. Year in, year out, the industry laments the difficulty finding multicultural talent. In our Multicultural nation, the talent is not that hard to find at all!

At Starcom Worldwide, along with Oracle and the New York Times, we decided to do something about it and created the Multicultural Media Talent Pipeline. Held during Advertising Week, the idea was simple: let’s work with our clients and partners to bring Multicultural students to New York City, expose them to our industry and develop the next generation of talent for our industry.

We identified students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and tristate area schools. Now in our fourth year, we’ve welcomed talent from institutions across the country including Florida A&M, Howard, Morehouse, Columbia University, Syracuse University and University of Texas at Austin. Hosted last week at the headquarters at The New York Times, our media partners, including Facebook, Chegg, Google, iheartmedia, InteractiveOne, BET, Telemundo/NBCUniversal, Time Inc., Yahoo! and Univision, joined us to support the students and this important effort.

The day included panels and keynotes ranging from “How to Land Your Dream Job” and “African-American and Latino Perspectives in Advertising” to a “Young Advertising Panel” comprised of strong black and brown talent who recently joined our industry and “Developing Your Elevator Pitch.” We created these panels to do more than inspire these students to join our industry. Our goal was to underscore the valuable role they will play in ensuring future generations of advertisers, agencies and marketers connect responsibly, contextually and relevantly with the ever growing Multicultural population in the United States. There is no doubt that the students—fearless, curious and bright—will proudly take this on and expand our industry in unimaginable ways.

Industry, Your Move

Now we challenge the rest of the industry to carry this torch and ensure that diversity is more than a buzzword. It must be executed beyond our campaigns, but while searching for the best talent and building our teams. This cannot happen passively, but will require concerted action to get the industry where it needs to be. The Multicultural Media Talent Pipeline is just one step. Let’s make this personal and commit to making a difference.