'Keep the main thing, the main thing': Beyond the Brief featuring Diamia Foster, McCann

Making sure her voice is heard in this industry isn’t an issue for MAIP 2014 alumna and McCann associate strategist Diamia Foster.

The IPG Interact Associates fellow has already spent the past couple of years making waves in the network’s program: first in client services at Orion Worldwide, and then in media planning at Inititative:Identity. At McCann, she gets to dig deep into a wide variety of brands: from Mastercard to Lockheed Martin, the US Army to Facebook. But, for Foster and so many others, it all started with a MAIP fellowship.

The University of Florida graduate had her first major internship experience at McCann Detroit, balancing two brands and new business, while tackling the intensive MAIP experience, which includes weekly seminars and webinars, coding sessions, and a summer-long client pitch. She left that program more than prepared to take on the industry and its challenges, and put herself in a solid position to take on IPG Interact’s highly selective rotational. As part of the third leg of the program, Foster not only has contributed to her clients, but to internal agency culture as well, bringing a fresh lens to the black experience in advertising, being an MVP-type colleague, and balancing side hustles as a young pro. All this rising up and reaching back earned her a spot on the coveted ADCOLOR Futures program in 2016, furthering her ascent to potential industry stardom.

A go-getter who’s kicking down doors as she sees them, and paving her own way early, Foster is living beyond the brief.

Who is a young person in advertising that excites you most? Why is that?

I am the young person in advertising that excites me. I do unusual shit, I'm naive about things, I say what I think and feel and I have the persistence of a bull, even when I don't understand something. I still have a lot of growing up to do in my career (*laugh out loud*), but it excites me at how great I'm becoming everyday and—with more experience—how much greater I will be down the road, Until then, I'll just keep messing up and getting back up (sometimes wiping my tears), saying what I think and feel and taking the feedback with the criticisms.

If you started an agency from scratch today, what would it look like?

If I were to start an agency from scratch (I literally think about this everyday), it'd be an agency that only works on brands that are rooted in the goodwill of humanity and about pushing people forward. Money and ROI (Return On Investment) are important, I understand that. It's how we keep food on the table. Pay the bills. Everybody needs that. But way too many times, the main focus is "How can we understand this customer, so that they can buy this product?" (so the MAKE-THEM-BUY-THIS-AT-ANY-COST approach, aka "Thirsty") versus, "What's it about these consumers and how does this product fit into the story of their dreams, goals and aspirations?" (the I-WANT-TO-GET-TO-REALLY-KNOW-YOU approach, aka "a little TLC").

It's like pursuing a relationship - time, care and investment are required to build a strong foundation. If you're constantly thinking about when you're going to get boo'ed up, your actions will come off as inauthentic and thirsty.

What was your most embarrassing career moment?

Getting fired as an intern from an agency that I won't name for giving Mother's Day meme cards to every woman in the agency. Yes, the cards were a bit explicit, and from what I was told, every woman wasn't a mother (face-palm moment), but it's the gesture that counts. What do you even call it when an intern gets fired? (*laughs out loud*) I didn't even think that was possible. I mean, maybe a warning, but getting fired?! Geesh. Kinda cruel.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

"Keep the main thing, the main thing."

Reminding myself of what matters at the end of the day is important for me. The order is: God, myself, my family (friends, too), then work. I refuse to let work take all of my energy and/or frustrate me, because it's not the main thing.

I’ll do my best and give my all to the things I have control over, then I go home and take care of home matters. Simple. I will leave jobs. I will get new jobs. I will make new co-worker friends. Co-workers will pursue their dreams. The industry will change (or, at least keep talking about the changes they "need" to make). (side-eye) Everything about my job is inconsistent and unpredictable. The things that stay the same are: God, myself and la familia.

Where is your happy place/space?

Anytime I partake in sports and/or fitness activities. Such as when I'm doing my Muay Thai training or cycling at my Cyc Fitness class. For me, I not only feel great afterwards ("stomach on flat flat and my...") but it's also a mental thing.

How far did I push myself? Is there more left in me? Why? Why not? Did I leave it all in the room or on the floor? Can I be better? How?

All of those are questions that go through my head. I'm constantly being challenged and in working out, I've found a place where there's tons of encouragement and unity amongst all people.

What non-advertising things do you draw inspiration from?

"Brain Games" on the Discovery Channel. I love to learn about the human body (and plants) and why/how it does what it does. It answers and sparks my curiosities and helps me empathize more with people. When I'm brainstorming or writing briefs, translating my new understanding of the human body and brain functions to the behaviors associated with a brand or service.

I don't think many agencies approach work in that way; maybe it could be a new way to really understand consumers.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.