Advertising ThinkLA Diversity & Inclusion

'Focus on character, not color': 8 questions with Rhonda Fortner, VP, Saatchi & Saatchi LA


By Doug Zanger | Americas Editor

March 14, 2017 | 3 min read

Editor’s note: ThinkLA’s DIG (Diversity, Inclusion, Gender) 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.

Rhonda Fortner, VP, Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Who was your role-model when you were younger?

Coming from a long line of strong women of color, my role model was Barbara Gates — my mother who was instrumental in my can-do attitude and nothing is impossible mindset. She worked multiple jobs for as long as I can remember ensuring we lived in communities offering the best public education. When I think back, long before realizing the importance of being a minority she would instill the importance of education which lead me to idolizing powerful women of color like Condoleezza Rice, Toni Morrison and Ursula Burns.

What was your first job in advertising?

Print assistant at Ford Motor Media consolidated planning and buying agency.

What is most rewarding aspect about your job? What makes it all worthwhile?

Quantification of success via pre-determined conversions only available in the digital environment. Educating clients and friends on interactive landscape and keeping everyone abreast of trends. For example, a lot of people don’t know Facebook owns Instagram or explaining behavioral targeting concepts is always fun.

What's the best compliment you've ever given?

That’s tough because I am constantly inspiring people to go the extra mile. I believe in treating people the way you would like to be treated — it’s my mantra and has served me well. As far as compliments, that would entail continuous dialogue inspiring publishers to embrace the meaning of a true PARTNER. Challenge the status quo and drive innovation leading by example and ALWAYS operate based on what's best for the client.

What advice do you have for young black people in advertising?

Focus on character, not color. Strive to improve quality of work, establish strong relationships bridging gap for the next wave of advertising and ALWAYS give back. Whether mentoring young professionals or teaching the elderly, pay it forward.

How can we support more diversity in advertising?

Establish a multi-cultural advertising organization — one that embodies the nationalities of multiple races interested in advertising

What's something about yourself that would surprise people?

I am a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter.

What should our industry be talking about in 2017?

Eliminating media silos, focusing on cross-tier conversions performance and most importantly, standardization of data usage. Embodying these features will elevate the industry holistically.

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