Editor’s note: ThinkLA’s DIG (Diversity, Gender, Inclusion) initiative has been created to celebrate and work towards greater diversity in Los Angeles. ThinkLA and The Drum are pleased to highlight African American leaders in the Los Angeles marketing community, their thoughts on the industry and how to build greater momentum for all.
Crystal Marie Grant, account manager, MXM
Who was your role-model when you were younger?
Growing up, I wanted to be like Captain Planet – mostly because he got to have superpowers and make the world a better place all at the same time. Corny, I know, but he seemed so cool and had an amazing theme song.
What was your first job in advertising?
After graduating from college, I did the nonprofit version of advertising: fundraising. Developing and nurturing relationships with funders and Board members was an excellent training ground for working with clients in advertising!
What is most rewarding aspect about your job? What makes it all worthwhile?
I love telling a good story. When our team successfully tells an amazing brand story that doesn’t feel like advertising, a story that feels authentic and engaging to their audience, it gives me the warm fuzzies!
What's the best compliment you've ever given?
“You continuously provide a perspective that creates room for a diversity of thoughts while simultaneously getting right to the heart of what both our audiences and our clients need.”
What advice do you have for young black people in advertising?
As a minority, we know what it’s like to represent a “niche” or specific demographic, and being able to see things from a perspective that may not seem “mainstream” is an asset! Audiences are becoming more and more segmented, and people that are able to understand a variety of perspectives are exponentially more valuable in doing the work we do. I would suggest that young people should take the time to really learn the consumer profile of a group different than yourself (e.g. Hispanic millennials) and then you’ll have at least two arrows in your quiver!
How can we support more diversity in advertising?
Shonda Rimes, the famous TV writer/creator/producer, once said “Diversity [signifies] something ‘other'. I have a different word. I call it ‘normalizing’. I make TV look like what the world looks like.” In advertising, we should make our industry look at least as varied as our audiences. One of the easiest ways to identify excellent talent of color is to recruit at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) or at universities with a high percentage of minorities versus recruiting within traditional networks. Agencies can also make a concerted effort to ensure that there are applicants for job openings from across various racial/ethnic backgrounds.
What's something about yourself that would surprise people.
I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage; not for moral reasons, I just think it smells funny and costs too much!
What should our industry be talking about in 2017?
Ah – so many things, but I’ll settle on artificial intelligence tools like chatbots that allow brands to talk directly to consumers via apps like Facebook Messenger. Whatever brand is best able to make these communications feel the most “human” will be a winner!