Multicultural Marketing Now

This week’s podcast from full service marketing agency Bigeye focuses on audiences of color and the ways advertising can better reflect America’s diversity.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Full service marketing agency Bigeye examines advertising for communities of color. Multicultural pioneer George Zwierko offers tips for targeting Hispanic audiences and Reema Elghossain of the 4A’s talks about the benefits of creating diverse, equitable, and inclusive agencies. Darius Lana, Associate Director of Marketing at Pearson, and Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist Maegan Trinidad share their experiences of the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program.

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. This November, Americans decide who will become the next president of the United States. Census data indicates that people aged 18 to 45 years old will represent just under 40% of the eligible voters this year and more than 30% of them will be non-white. This reflects an increase in the numbers of voters identifying as African American, Hispanic, and Asian since the 2016 Presidential election. The expansion of the Hispanic population accounts for almost half of America’s population growth since 2000. Today, we’re going to revisit interviews that focus on some of the ways advertising and marketing can reflect America’s ethnic and racial diversity and create more equitable, inclusive workplaces. At the beginning of March, we spoke to a pioneer and expert in multicultural advertising: George Zwierko, the Principal of Rumbo Marketing in Tampa. I asked George what the most common misconceptions about Hispanic audiences are.

George Zwierko: I think that there is a barrier that’s put up by certain advertisers because there’s just a lack of understanding of what the capability of these audiences have regarding spending or regarding usage. There needs to be a level of education when it comes to how we can best communicate and connect with diverse audiences. I think the misconception is that you might have a product, brand or service, and you feel that if “I’m spending money and I’m targeting my general market audience that somehow, someway, I’m going to touch my ethnic audiences,” or that, “My ethnic audiences represent such a small population of the folks that would utilize our service or product, that to give it any weight regarding, let’s say a media spend or any creative execution is just not worth the effort.”

Adrian Tennant: Twenty-six percent of all children in the US up to the age of nine are Hispanic and more than half of the Hispanic population is under the age of 29. How do you think the growing strength of this population will impact popular culture and by extension, the kinds of creative developed for advertisements?

George Zwierko: I think there’s an opportunity to look at our Hispanic audience and see that a good majority of our audience is bicultural, bilingual, because they do skew young. I think there is a greater opportunity for us to create campaigns that are more relevant and are more relatable. The problem that we run into is that in the past a lot of brands and many advertisers would strictly translate their ads, and I think that was because of a lack of understanding of the Hispanic audience as a whole. The problem in translation is that if we create advertisements that are meant to be funny, witty, clever, highly conceptual, and then you translate that, those things don’t always translate correctly. And then what we’re left with is just a very bland advertisement. But what we like to do is really hone in on what we can create, what type of creative can we do and original content could be made that still keeps the essence of the original messaging. 

Adrian Tennant: So brands should think less about translation and think more about transcreation?

George Zwierko: That’s correct. And transcreation is just what that is. It’s taking your message or your content, your visuals, everything that you put into your campaign. And then developing an execution that’s going to be relevant to this new audience.

Adrian Tennant: Now, the amount of total ad spend brands have invested in Hispanic media has been rising in the past few years. But eMarketer has reported on the disparity between the proportion of ad spend allocated to Hispanic media and the number of Hispanics that are actually living in the US. Why doesn’t the Hispanic audience receive its fair share of ad dollars, do you think?

George Zwierko: It’s sad to say, but I think there’s a lack of understanding of the value these audiences bring to the table. I think many people in a variety of different positions just take a stance when it comes to communicating to other audiences, I don’t think they personally recognize the value. So therefore it won’t exist in any strategy moving forward. So I would say it’s narrow thinking or just missed opportunity. I do agree that the spend is going up incrementally. I don’t think it’s anywhere near where it needs to be. And I think there’s a great opportunity for us to just reevaluate what our spend does look like. And to us it’s a very simple formula: we’re doing a local campaign and we’re going to communicate it to our local audience. And we look at the local population as being a certain percentage of non-Hispanic, a certain percentage Hispanic, and so on and so on down the line. And we look at those audiences. And we start to look at our customer profile within that population and we identify that, you know, within the non-Hispanic market, we’re going to be speaking to this demographic. But then a very similar demographic exists within our Hispanic population and in our African American population. So taking those new percentages, let’s reevaluate what our spend will be and then also look at what is going to be the best avenues and the best channels for consumption based on those consumer behaviors, based on what we know non-Hispanics do and, and Hispanics will do and African Americans will do and then target appropriately and spend appropriately. So that might mean that I’m not going to take 100% of my budget and throw it toward one audience and then hope that if I pepper in some folks that look Hispanic in my TV ad or I pepper in some people that look African American and my billboards, that I’m going to be effectively touching those audiences. We’re going to miss something, whether that’s going to be in the message or in the execution of the creative. Somehow, someway, we’re going to miss the mark. And what by missing the mark, we’re just doing an injustice to the brand. We’re not communicating that brand as effectively to other audiences as we did to our general audience.

Adrian Tennant: Almost half a century ago, the American Association of Advertising Agencies – better known as the 4A’s – recognized the lack of diversity in the industry. To encourage more students to consider careers in advertising, the 4As set up an internship program and awarded scholarships to African American, Hispanic, and Asian American young professionals. Back in January, we were joined by Reema Elghossain, Vice President of the 4A’s Foundation. Responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion, Reema leads some of the industry’s most prominent diversity pipeline initiatives, including the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program, or MAIP, for short. I asked Reema to explain what the Foundation does, and the part it plays within the 4A’s.

Reema Elghossain: Sure, absolutely. So the 4A’s Foundation was established in 1997, with a commitment to provide scholarships and awards for young people of color interested in getting involved in the advertising industry. In the last two years, the 4A’s made an intentional decision to move MAIP and our educational programs, which include our high school initiatives over into the 4A’s Foundation. So it really serves the industry, advertising and marketing at large, with all of their talent needs, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. So we really try to support the industry from the 4A’s Foundation with finding diverse talent, with educating diverse talent, on what advertising is and the experience, and then really developing that talent once they’re into the industry.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways does your work with the 4A’s Foundation today help develop young professionals in their careers?

Reema Elghossain: We do it a number of ways within our educational programs. We partner right now with two high schools in New York City that are predominantly students of color that actually have an advertising track within the high school programs. And so what we do for our high school students is we try to immerse them into the advertising industries. We connect to them with speakers and experts in the industry to share insight. We host events and competitions for them so that they can understand what it’s like to get briefed by a client and to do pitches. We train them on what every discipline is in the industry and really try to help slowly build a network for them while they’re in high school and show them opportunities to be able to major in advertising and have internships throughout their career. Through MAIP, we do it a number of ways. We have our fellowship program and that runs annually and we do a 13-week virtual spring training for all of our fellows before they even enter their internship at their agency. And that again trains them on what each discipline is. But then also we train them on some transferable skills and then how to navigate the industry, especially from coming from a diverse place. And then we have over 3,500 alumni that have gone through our programs since 1973. And what we do is we partner with agencies and outside companies to provide any type of personal development, professional development, networking opportunities.

Adrian Tennant: Fantastic. Now can you talk a little bit about the process for students who may be interested in applying for the 4A’s MAIP program?

Reema Elghossain: Around the end of August and into mid-October, we have applications for students to apply to be part of our program. It’s for juniors, seniors, and grad students across the country and it’s a pretty extensive application process. And we ask for essay questions, the video, letters of recommendation and really just want to understand, you know, what they’re interested in the industry. We then give them a screening process. We do coach them on interview tips and prepare them through the process. And then we have our community of volunteers in the industry that really support our initiatives, who will interview them. And once they pass through all of those stages, they then become finalists. At that same time, our agencies are applying to host fellows for the next year. And then we have a huge selection kickoff where agencies will then make offers to their favorite top finalists and they place an offer and that MAIP finalist has the opportunity to accept or decline. If they accept and it can be anywhere in the country, then they now become a fellow. Once they become a fellow, we actually support the agencies by taking care of housing and travel and then again, onboarding them with that spring training and an orientation to get them really immersed into the program before they even enter their internship.

Adrian Tennant: Specifically thinking about job candidates and young professionals, do you see any generational differences in how today’s young professionals maybe just starting out in the industry – or have one or two years experience – how their career decisions contrast or compare to older, more established workers?

Reema Elghossain: Absolutely. They are thinking of things that I never thought of when I was their age. They are thinking about, “What are your mental health and wellness programs that you have established at your agency?” They’re thinking about even things that might not even matter to them early on, but like, “What are your maternity and paternity leave programs? What is your work life balance?” They are thinking of things that are important to them that, I’ll be honest, at 37, I didn’t think of when I was their age and they’re holding agencies a lot more accountable. They’re looking at agencies and saying, “What can you do for me?” Not just, “What can I do for you?” I would say when they first get into the industry, there is that still that same fear and desperation of finding a job in a lot of places, especially for our community – you know, as young people of color, there’s this fear of being able to find a job, but the questions that they’re asking are very much different. They’re not just, “What are the hours and the salary and the insurance benefits?” They’re also just asking about the experience, the environment. “Do you have any diversity inclusion initiatives? Do you even have a DNI lead? What programs do you have that can help support me? Do you have mental health? Do you have employee resource groups and do you have professional development opportunities?” These are questions that they’re asking and they’re also not afraid to be able to leave at a faster rate than, I would say older generations. You know, they find a company and they want to stick with it for a long time. I think the young professionals now are saying, “If you’re not putting into me, I’m okay with getting up and finding a new opportunity.” And so I think it’s definitely forcing agencies to think a little bit differently about what they’re providing to their employees.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to a special edition of IN CLEAR FOCUS reflecting on the state of multicultural marketing. In April, IN CLEAR FOCUS caught up with MAIP alumnus, Darius Lana. Currently Associate Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at the online education division of Pearson, based in Orlando, Darius is something of a Renaissance Man: an advertising practitioner, business strategist, and marketing educator. I asked Darius what led him to the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program. 

Darius Lana: I learned about MAIP from my advisor, Joan. Actually, it was very interesting. They had 300 openings for MAIP-ers and I got the one public relations gig out of that and I was already kind of heading in an advertising direction at the time. It was looking like advertising, copywriting, and art direction were kind of the sections here. And they put me in the public relations piece at Golan Harris in Chicago. It’s now just Golan. I was on the British Petroleum, the BP account during the 2010 oil spill. So when I came on, I came to learn quickly about crisis communication and crisis PR. But I think that opportunity really kind of kept me engaged in advertising public relations, and then also helped me to understand how different the opportunities are for those that are maybe people of color versus you know, whites in general. So some of the things that I learned when I was in the program that less than 10 percent of those in the industry are people of color. And I love MAIP because it’s one of the few programs that are focusing on changing that to match the diversity of the audiences. So as we start to see more people of different colors and different backgrounds, more prominent throughout different industries in different areas, we need to understand how to better appeal to them because they spend money as well. So I’m glad to see that we’re really starting to make some progress there.

Adrian Tennant: What barriers do you think multicultural communities commonly face when looking at advertising and marketing as a potential profession?

Darius Lana: Yeah, so, you know, that’s a really great question. Some of the things that I’ve even dealt with early on in my career were I think that people, some of the things that have been barriers, besides being passed over for promotions or, maybe seeing their viewpoints being dismissed. I think there’s also the assumption that you represent your race when you are in a brainstorm. And that happened to me pretty early on where one of our clients was a Visitor Bureau and they wanted to appeal more to Blacks. And I think I had to be like 23 or 24 at the time. And basically the premise was, “Hey, we’re not resonating with Blacks. They don’t come to our area and we really want to change that.” Of thirty people in the room, I’m the only black one. And they look at me and they go, “Darius, what do you think about how to get more Black people to this place?” And so I think there’s tremendous pressure to represent your race. And it’s one of the most frustrating things I think a person of color could deal with. You see it in all different avenues and facets of life. But in the ad industry, I think that’s one of the biggest barriers is people making assumptions that because you look a certain way, you should resonate with that particular audience. Sometimes it does work out, but sometimes it doesn’t. You’re going to have people that are Black and are Caribbean or Black and African or Black and African American. I think every experience is very different. Those are some of the things I’d like to see more industries, all industries to get better at, but especially as those that have the opportunity to create messages that speak to people of color to understand that.

Adrian Tennant: So on the flip side of that, how do you think agencies should attract more people with multicultural backgrounds to consider careers in the profession?

Darius Lana: I think that one of the ways that they can do that is making sure that they are present at functions that the 4A’s or the MAIP team hosts. I think that’s really important. Also I think that there is this false notion that, “Hey, all of our seats are filled, all our C-suites or VP or SVP seats are filled. And as soon as something opens up, we’ll have that for a minority or a person of color or a woman,” or what have you. And I think that that is a false assumption. I think that you should look to create space right away and you should do it at every level. I think that we do this thing in industry that is “Okay, we have somebody that is a person of color in this role at this level and that’s good enough.” But then when you go and you look at the About Us and you scroll through and you’ll look at all the SVPs of the VPs or the C-suite or the people that they say, “Hey, these are the people, the figureheads,” you’re not seeing that representation. So I think it goes back to even if you go back to education, people want to see people that look like them doing it. I can think back, and this is kind off on a tangent, but I can think back throughout my college, throughout my high school and middle school and elementary school, I think I’ve had one African American male teacher and one female African American teacher, my entire K through 12 primary, secondary education. So people want to see before they decide to join what would be 40 hours of their life a week for 40-plus weeks. So I think that’s where we get started is putting people in place that look like the people you want to attract at the highest level, not just at the levels like Diversity and Inclusion VP or something like that. Put them in account service roles, put them in sales roles you know, cause they’re definitely qualified and they’re definitely out there.

Adrian Tennant: Looking back, how do you think MAIP helped you prepare for and navigate your professional career to date?

Darius Lana: So MAIP was my first internship, which is generally not how MAIP goes. MAIP is typically for people who are about to graduate or on their second or third internship and so MAIP was great in a lot of ways. It was my first introduction to a big city. I was in downtown Chicago during the summer, which was great. It’s amazing weather but I had to make a lot of grown up decisions very quickly. I graduated early, so I was even younger, I was 19 when I was in Chicago. But also, I think that there’s a lot of things that you think coming out of a program into quote unquote real life or real scenarios that I learned the hard way. There were a lot of things that I took away that maybe that I wouldn’t have had if I had gone to a different setup. So, I mean, just interning in general helps with that understanding real issues with real clients early, helps with how you can take that away and apply that to one day real job or full-time job. But MAIP in general, just had me thinking about how I can establish opportunities beyond myself for people that look like me in the industry. How can I make it known that what we’re doing is not good enough that we need to do more.

Adrian Tennant: Darius, since graduating from the program, have you stayed in contact with MAIP alumni?

Darius Lana: Yeah, I have. It’s a pretty nice knit group and so those of the 2010, I’m pretty good friends with a couple people. Some of them live out of the country now. I actually, a friend of mine, his name is Alex. I was just talking to him a couple of days ago. So, you know, now this is a relationship that is 10 years old. It’s true when you are involved in MAIP, it gives you an opportunity to make lifelong friendships and it’s cool to kind of see where people have gone. I have another friend who was a pretty high up at Amazon before she left to take her gig overseas, to the UK. I have another friend who is working for Google. So a lot of people have the opportunity to use MAIP as a jumping point for their careers and that specific initiative probably helped them get there, whereas maybe the opportunity wouldn’t be available if not. MAIP is pretty cool.

Adrian Tennant: MAIP has now helped over 3,500 people enter advertising and alumni represent the largest diverse community in the industry. With some personal insights on what it’s like to go through the program, Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Maegan Trinidad, who is an alumna of MAIP, joined us back in January. I asked Maegan how she first learned about MAIP.

Maegan Trinidad: So one of my family members is actually also a MAIP alumna and she’s the one who told me about it before I entered in my sophomore year in college. Because she noticed that I could benefit from the program and seeing what it was like to work at an agency because I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. So it was something that was worth a shot – and I ended up really liking working agency-side, which is why I did MAIP two years and ended up at Bigeye.

Adrian Tennant: What was the application process for MAIP like?

Maegan Trinidad: It involved several essays, a video interview, and after those were submitted, there were two further rounds of interviews.

Adrian Tennant:  Wow. I think you said you did the program twice.

Maegan Trinidad: I did.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. What was the female-to-male ratio like? I’m curious.

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like it wasn’t a stark difference, but it was a little more female, I’d say.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. You attended the MAIP events in New York City. What were they like?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like they’re a really good experience. We got to go to several agencies, like large agencies we went to, Wieden and Kennedy, I believe. And it was interesting to see what different types of agencies looked like in their different organization styles because obviously we could meet the different people who worked there and we got to network with them and we also got to see what their space was like and they were all very different.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now it sounds like there was some competition amongst agencies for interns on that MAIP program. Where did you intern?

Maegan Trinidad: The first year when I was in New York I was at MEC, which is now Wavemaker. And the second year I was in Chicago at Mindshare.

Adrian Tennant: So what did you personally feel were the most valuable lessons you learned from each of those internships?

Maegan Trinidad: To be adaptable, to be honest, when I went through MAIP, I was selected to be a media planner and media planning wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be a strategy intern because I mentioned earlier that I have a research background and I wanted to see what that was like to apply in an agency setting. But working in media planning did allow me to see what else was out there and when I got to meet my teams at my agencies, they were very welcoming and they worked with what I felt were my strong suits. So they adapted what they had me do based on my desire to branch out and see how I could bring my skill set to the agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow fellows?

Maegan Trinidad: My fellow fellows? Yeah, actually I’ve made really good friends during MAIP. That’s another thing I really enjoyed. Most of you guys are strangers when you show up to your host city and since you live together, you get to make some really good friends. I made some of my very closest friends during MAIP. Unfortunately, now they live across the country, but…

Adrian Tennant: Well at least you’ve got people you can go visit and possibly crash on their sofa.

Maegan Trinidad: … That’s what I say!

Adrian Tennant: Maegan, would you recommend the program to others looking to enter the advertising industry?

Maegan Trinidad: Oh, absolutely. And even interns here, if I see that they have an interest and they’re qualified to join the program and have an interest in specifically some of the disciplines that they have offered through MAIP, I talk to them about the program and tell them about the application process and what I went through. And if they’re interested, I offer to tell them more about my personal experience. And I was a MAIP Ambassador at UCF before I graduated. So I feel like I want to be a resource for other students and if they want to learn more, they can contact me.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Reema Elghossain at the 4A’s if she had any advice for smaller, independent agencies seeking to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.

Reema Elghossain: The first thing is how diverse is your agency? Now I don’t expect agencies to share their numbers, but what is your first goal? Is it one, hiring diverse talent so that you can add diversity to your pool? Or is it “We have the diverse talent, we want to add more, but what can we do to be a more inclusive space?” And there’s definitely different needs when it comes to both. I definitely think every agency, whether it’s independent, small, all the way up to the larger holding companies, all need to continue to hire more diverse talent. So that’s I think, a problem across the board. But depending on where they are and what their resources are, there are different ways that they can make a better environment.

Adrian Tennant: Over the past 47 years, MAIP has not only helped to bridge the gap for diverse talent in the industry, but has also ensured that such talent can thrive. Supporting and empowering Black, Brown and diverse populations, MAIP continues to advocate for change across the industry by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard and that advertising reflects society. If you’d like to hear more, the MAIP Alumni Association recently launched a new podcast called Left Unsaid. You’ll find it on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

My thanks to all our guests featured in this episode:

  • Multicultural marketing expert George Zwierko, Principal of Rumbo Marketing
  • Reema Elghossain, VP of the 4A’s Foundation responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion 
  • Darius Lana, Associate Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at Pearson, and 
  • Maegan Trinidad, Digital Marketing Specialist here at Bigeye.

You can find a transcript of this episode along with links on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” You’ll also find a link to our listener survey. Please take a moment to submit your thoughts about the podcast, and the kind of content you’d like to hear more of in future episodes. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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