The discussion about multicultural marketing tends to gravitate around a few topics, such as consumer insights and advertising. However, it is also important to pay attention to the infrastructure responsible for creating and training the new generation of multicultural talent that will work in the creative business for years to come.
This is already the most diverse generation ever in America, and it is entering the marketplace at a moment when many brands have no growth strategy outside the multicultural segments.
Unfortunately, the creative industry still has a long way to go when it comes to properly representing diverse segments, mainly at the higher-ranking levels. However, a few organizations are working to address that issue. I had the pleasure to chat with Tiffany Warren, EVP and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Sony Music, and also the founder of ADCOLOR, the premier organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting diversity in the creative industries.
The organization will hold its 16th annual ADCOLOR Awards and Conference this November 17-20 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live. This will be the first fully in-person gathering since a virtual-only event in 2020 and a smaller, hybrid event in 2021. However, ADCOLOR works year round to spotlight diverse individuals through roundtable discussions, panels, and programs like ADCOLOR FUTURES and the inaugural class of the ADCOLOR LEADERS program. Here’s an edited version of our discussion:
Isaac Mizrahi – Let’s start from the beginning. What is ADCOLOR, and why was it created?
Tiffany Warren – ADCOLOR is the premier organization dedicated to celebrating and championing diverse professionals in the creative industries. I founded ADCOLOR in 2005 after seeing the lack of diverse representation in the advertising industry and its respective award shows. While my focus started on the advertising industry, ADCOLOR’s mission has since expanded to a variety of industries, from tech to entertainment to music and more.
We continue to advocate for historically excluded professionals of color by celebrating and centering them within their industry through well-deserved recognition at our annual Award Show and through thought leadership and networking opportunities at our annual Conference.
We also elevate diverse talent through our highly sought-after FUTURES program for those just beginning their career and our inaugural LEADERS program for those well established in their careers. In addition, we provide deeper levels of support and connection through our Community Groups.
Mizrahi – How has ADCOLOR helped the industry over the past years?
Warren – ADCOLOR’s motto is “Rise Up, Reach Back.” With that, we’ve always focused on championing diverse professionals so that they can continue to “Rise Up” in their field and then use their position of power to “Reach Back” and bring up other diverse professionals. It’s a much-needed cycle for sustained diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
The effectiveness of this motto is evident in our list of ADCOLOR Award honorees and winners. We’re seeing those who we previously honored as ADCOLOR “Rising Stars” or “Rockstars” now being the face of the industry. They’ve made notable strides and paved the way for many others who hope to do the same. This includes the likes of Antonio Lucio, Bozoma Saint John, and countless others. It’s what I like to call the “ADCOLOR effect.” Those recognized through an ADCOLOR Award or featured on the ADCOLOR stage have incredible momentum, and as they excel exponentially, they lift others along the way.
Mizrahi – How has the COVID pandemic represented a challenge for the organization?
Warren – Like most other event-based organizations, the pandemic caused much uncertainty for us, and we had to do our best to adjust to the unusual circumstances. On numerous occasions, we had to cancel our in-person plans, change dates, modify attendance levels, and more.
When all was said and done, we decided to host the Conference 100% online in 2020, and we hosted a hybrid event in 2021. It was important to us not to cancel the Conference and to uphold our mission of championing diverse communities even when it couldn’t be done in person—especially since it was a time when our community needed it most.
Luckily, our first-ever entirely virtual Conference in 2020 was more successful than we imagined. The state of the world gave us the unique ability to reach a broader global audience, gaining over 150,000 views online. Because of virtual offerings, a challenge was turned into an opportunity, and we are grateful for that growth in our community.
Mizrahi – What are the plans for ADCOLOR this year, including its Conference?
Warren – ADCOLOR 2022 will be held in Los Angeles, California, from November 17-20, 2022, at the JW Marriott L.A. Live. This year’s event encompasses the 16th Annual ADCOLOR Awards, the ADCOLOR Conference, the ADCOLOR FUTURES Program, and the ADCOLOR LEADERS Program. It also marks the long-awaited return to an entirely in-person gathering, following a virtual-only event in 2020 and a smaller, hybrid event in 2021.
We’re excited to announce that the theme for ADCOLOR 2022 is ‘Still Rising.’ We felt it was fitting because despite all the challenges and historic disadvantages diverse professionals have faced, we are still working, still creating, and still striving for a better, more inclusive future. Since ADCOLOR 2022 will be fully in person for the first time in two years, we want attendees to walk away feeling recharged and ready to create actionable change in their respective industries, to still strive for excellence, and rise to the occasion in the fight against injustice.
Mizrahi – What are the things the industry can do to support ADCOLOR?
Warren – The best way to support it is by getting involved in what we have to offer. Show that you truly support our mission by nominating your diverse colleagues for an ADCOLOR Award, recommend the FUTURES program to a bright, rising star who reports to you, and inform a boss that they may be a good fit for the LEADERS program. If you see someone who may be “the only” or “one of few” within the workplace, tell them about the ADCOLOR Conference and ADCOLOR Community Groups. Offer them that sense of community they’re lacking within the workplace. And this is not just the duty of diverse professionals; allies must speak up and highlight their colleagues through these opportunities as well.
And of course, another important way to support us as a non-profit organization is through partnerships. We have an incredible list of partners that grows by the day, and ADCOLOR certainly would be nothing without them. We can’t thank them enough, and we welcome additional organizations who feel ADCOLOR’s mission aligns with their DE&I efforts internally
As America becomes more diverse and multicultural, the advertising business needs to adapt to a reality where the people working on ideas to reach and connect with this diverse segment understand their realities because they also come from diverse backgrounds.
Initiatives like ADCOLOR are significant, because the lack of representation in the creative industries could hinder brands’ ability to create authentic and relevant strategies for a market with higher expectations. It’s time to amplify and support their work.