Since 2011, The Face of Talent has been considered as a ‘graduation ceremony of sorts for its 45-year-old MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program) fellowship. This year’s group, a record 213 college juniors, seniors and grad students became fellow, representing roughly 50 agencies in hubs like Miami, Kansas City, Boston, Chicago, New York, Austin, San Fran and Los Angeles.
The Drum took a closer look at the highlights, which included a host and keynote that both brought the crowd of roughly 700 to standing ovations. There were also pitches from the trade organization to invest in the massive pipeline of talent it’s built and honorees that spoke dissected how the industry is addressing the challenges women and people of color face each day.
MAIP, high schools, and a unified talent initiative front
This year, as said by 4A's senior vice president of talent initiatives Keesha Jean-Baptiste, marked the first time that MAIP, the 4A's two ad schools, and the 4A's foundation could fully benefit from the week of training, leadership luncheons, and community service.
Jean-Baptiste, who last year joined from Wieden+Kennedy to succeed former talent initiatives lead Singleton Beato (now chief diversity officer at McCann Worldgroup), said to attendees: “I took this role because I want us to be more thoughtful. Every decision we make as an industry does or does not support diversity and inclusion in the industry.”
In order to do that, Jean-Baptiste said that the onus is on agencies to foster workplaces that are enlightened and allow for equity between those in positions of privilege and power and talent that is underrepresented in the industry but over-indexes on cultural impact.
Jean-Baptiste referenced the initiatives the 4A's had in place and highlighted the Workplace Enlightenment Certification that the 4A's launched earlier in the year to foster safer, more culturally-attuned agency environments.
“Workplace support,” she said, “requires thinking critically about who is represented, and “the environments of oppression that we sometimes place people in within the workplace.”
A pantheon, philosopher and gladiator show strides for progress
Tuesday's Face of Talent leadership luncheon audience consisted of the 200+ fellows, MAIP alumni, recruiters and over 75-plus executives filled the newly repurposed Ziegfield Ballroom in NYC and took in an air of unity and activism.
Host for the occasion, Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and chief of VC firm Pipeline Angels had set the tone with a quote from the headline-grabbing Beyonce Vogue issue.
"Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens,” she recited in front of the group of young professionals and execs alike, “we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like."
She followed up with a smile to the fellows, who all came to New York for a week's worth of programming that included the luncheon, MAIP's Greenhouse, a creative talent incubator, MAIP Cares Day, a community service day with Omnicom Health Group; and an agency immersion with Dentsu Aegis Group.
"I have been changing the face of angel investing," Oberti Noguera said, "and you all are changing the face of advertising."
In between wardrobe changes that Oberti Noguera used to highlight the LGBTQ community and the disabled and Latinx community, the 4A's honored a group of industry leaders who have been pushing their ideals forward.
First, a new award: the Philosopher Award, given to Professor Douglas Davis of The City University of New York — City Tech, for his leverage of educational talents to help students at his own school and the two advertising schools Meca (pronounced ‘mecca’) and iAM find their way into profitable creative careers.
Tiffany Edwards, engagement and inclusion director of Droga5 and Karen Costello, The Martin Agency’s chief creative, were recipients of the 4A's/MAIP Pantheon and Gladiator awards respectively.
Edwards, who had overseen diversity and inclusion practices at The One Club and Advertising Club of New York before joining Droga in 2017 had been lauded by chief operating officer Susie Nam for her architecture of initiatives such as the One Club creative boot camp, (W)Here Are All the Black People career fair, as well as other internal and external initiatives for agency and industry.
As for Costello, who was introduced by her colleague, Martin Agency chief Kristen Cavallo, her award came for stepping up to drive the agency forward from what Cavallo called “the agency’s own #MeToo moment”
“We’re probably two of the few women who got our C-suite roles without an interview,” Cavallo joked, before saying of her colleague, “Karen stepping into the role wasn’t a handout, but something she had earned for a very long time. She’s grabbed the brass ring and helped us achieve equal pay across the agency and allowed us to look towards our future as an agency.”
Other honorees included MAIP’s fellow of the year and One Club/creative fellow of the year, handed to Alicia Harris and Racquel Ortega, as well as the selective Bill Sharp Award for the future of advertising, given to alumni Donovan Triplett of BBDO Atlanta.
Sheldon Levy, member of the inaugural class of 1973 (and noted as the first MAIP alum to retire from his post), led a pinning ceremony for the young alums, who now join a group of over 3,500 alumni across the ad and media industries.
Addressing the keys to the diversity equation.
Keynoting the event was a relative outsider to the 4A's community: Blavity co-founder Jonathan Jackson. Jackson had helped launch the media outlet in 2014 and left the company earlier this year on a research trip for the Nieman scholarship for journalism he received from Harvard.
The media executive used his 10 minutes to address each facet of the industry’s diversity and inclusion pipeline: the MAIP alum in the room, recruiters, and C-suite attendees
First, to the Maipers in the room, he said: “You get to be the people we never had. You are not here by some cosmic accident, or a fluke, or a mistake, or a typo. You deserve to be in this room, in this place, for such a time as this.
“Even if you never get selected for anything else in your career — don’t worry, you will — you are worthy because you draw breath. It may take some time to emotionally engage with that truth, but once you let it envelop you, you will continue to reimagine yourself, and the world around you. You do not have to become a person of value. You were born as such. No job, no award, and no accolade will give you that.”
Then, to the talent leads, he added: “Performative wokeness will not bring us any closer to a world that has more equity or justice. Please do not put ‘diversity champion in your bio if you aren’t interested in winning intersectional games.’
"These people don’t come into your organization unfixable; but the systems in place need overhauls so they can meet the standards and needs of the people you want to recruit, but struggle to retain. That is a hefty challenge, but it is in fact, the unsexy part of the work.”
Finally, addressing his fellow executives, Jackson told them to consider their legacy when addressing those in underprivileged communities. “Your legacy will be defined by how you nurture and slingshot the talent in this room,” he said.
“If your succession plan doesn’t look like this room, I’m not sure you have one that is adequate in scope, and dynamic in its intentions. Please rethink it.”
For the 213 fellows who spent more than 20 weeks in virtual training and in paid internships across the country, the luncheon provided a wake-up call: exposure to the leaders of industry and the confidence to consider themselves equals in a greater push towards making Madison Avenue an even playing field for all.