My journey led me to a job selling Yellow Pages ads, which helped me understand advertising channels, and then to a direct mail company targeting African Americans. Building on that experience, I made the leap into the agency world as an account executive at Chisholm-Mingo Group, one of the few minority-owned agencies in New York.
This opened the door to a career in multicultural agencies, where I had the chance to work closely with icons of multicultural marketing, including Byron Lewis Sr., Carol H. Williams, Jo Muse, Herbert Kemp Jr., Samuel J. Chisholm, Pepper Miller and Charles “Chuck” E. Morrison. I also met brilliant advertising minds that are unknown outside the multicultural world. They taught me that the value you bring as a marketing professional has nothing to do with where you work, but with how you work and the intellectual rigor you bring to the discussion.
What multicultural marketing brings to the general public
I’ve seen a lot of changes in marketing in 25 years, but the role and purpose of integrated communications remains the same. All consumer communication, multicultural or otherwise, is designed to get someone to think or do something…it’s as simple as that.
With that in mind, I am acutely aware of how the approaches created and implemented by the pioneers I learned from have become standard practice for targeted communications for forward-thinking marketers.
Early in my career, I often felt from headhunters and general market agency professionals that the multicultural advertising experience was considered “less than”. However, my experience working in collaborative groups has often revealed that the systematic approaches multicultural marketers used to uncover unique insights for specific audiences practiced in these agencies provided an additional layer of understanding that was embraced by our partners. general markets.
Often the ideas originally generated by multicultural partners have become the foundational approaches used in both targeted and general market outreach. Campaigns such as KFC’s Mingo-Jones’ “We Do Chicken Right”, Burrel’s McDonald’s “I’m Loving It” and “Whassup?” Budweiser’s Charles Stone III (African American filmmaker) campaign all have their origins in multicultural shops.
I have personally seen this thought come to life. As the media environment has become more fragmented and media consumption habits have become less defined by race, target marketing has evolved into an understanding of culture and lifestyle. For example, several years ago I led the FDA Center for Tobacco Product’s “Real Cost” campaign to reduce smokeless tobacco use among rural white males ages 12-17.
On the surface, you don’t get more mainstream than 12-17 year old white males. However, the rural American way of life is unique and represents a culture in its own right. As with many ethnic audiences, there was a research gap that required a methodical approach to primary research to understand the attitudes and perceptions that contribute to this unique health issue.
We used to ask ourselves a question in my first agency job, meant to make sure we met the unique needs of our target audience: “What’s so dark about that?” This phrase, with some obvious changes, applies to virtually any market you are trying to reach. Since then I have worked on General Market, Hispanic, Asian, African American, LGTBQ and other targeted campaigns for unique and hard to reach audiences. Audiences change, but the thinking still applies.
The national dialogue on racial equity in America and existing disparities has intensified over the past year and a half. One such disparity is the relative lack of recognition of what these visionaries brought to advertising. The influence and power of media and marketing in shaping society cannot be overstated. During Black History Month, an acknowledgment of the African-American pioneers who shaped the advertising industry is fitting and belated.
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