By Philip McKenzie
Lack of diversity and inclusion throughout corporate America has been a topic of both pointed interest and hand-wringing consternation. Although this problem is not the sole domain of any one sector, due in part to their popular visibility and financial resources the tech and advertising sectors are often targeted as embodying the challenge of creating a diverse workplace. The pervasive argument heard from Silicon Valley to Madison Avenue about their efforts to be inclusive organizations? The lack of a viable pipeline for talent. But one organization has taken a lead role in addressing this challenge head on: Publicis Media via its Multicultural Talent Pipeline Forum, a program eight years running committed to identifying existing talent to join the media, marketing and advertising industry.
Despite evidence to the contrary, the belief that a limited pool of talent makes companies unable to identify appropriate employees continues to prevail. In fact, this idea operates as the de facto rationale for diversity failings, and in turn organizations shift their focus and resources toward addressing the so-called pipeline problem. However, forward-thinking organizations, such as Publicis Media, have determined that a commitment to diversity in the present outweighs the speculative nature of addressing the problem in the future.
The Multicultural Talent Pipeline evolved from recognizing a distinct and real blind spot, according to Lisa Torres, President of Publicis Media’s U.S.-based multicultural practice. “When I joined the business I didn’t see other people like me,” she says. “In meetings, I was often the only woman or the only person of color.” Torres astutely realized this gap represented an important opportunity that Publicis Media was well positioned to address. As home to Starcom, Zenith, Spark Foundry, Blue 449 and Performics, the expansive holding company’s backdrop fostered several catalysts:
- Across company units there existed an engaged network of diverse professionals who were committed to the concept of diversity.
- The business units represented the wide breadth of available professionals within advertising.
Perhaps most important? The commitment came from the top of the organization. Tim Jones, CEO, Publicis Media North America, has been an outspoken proponent for addressing diversity and inclusion on multiple fronts. It matters deeply when highly visible corporate leaders ensure that the mandate is a top-down initiative while also empowering those like Torres to put in place the key elements that make a program like the Multicultural Talent Pipeline actually work. These ingredients combined to make up the foundation for what is now known as the Multicultural Talent Pipeline, a formal program that addresses diversity by both leveraging an existing committed talent pool while also offering a varied experience to young people going through the program.
The program is offered during Advertising Week over the course of two days. Participating students from a wide range of schools are invited to participate in a career fair and attend a conference covering a host of topics germane to the media, marketing and advertising industry. (See photos at top, above and below.)
“Our core goal for clients is to develop brand messages that resonate with their consumers,” says Solange Claudio, President, Moxie. “As that consumer base continues to get more and more diverse, it becomes critical that our own workforce mirrors that diversity so that we can make those culturally relevant connections with consumers. MCTP is important to us because of the access we gain to a wonderful array of the multicultural talent that is, and will become even more so, critical to our future success.”
The internal and external factors within Publicis Media were fertile ground for creating what Torres still affectionately refers to as “her baby.” As the program began to grow it was most important to answer key questions: What were the topics and information most needed by students in order to determine if advertising was right for them? And, how do you ensure not only a diverse mix of students but ensure you were selecting from diverse academic backgrounds and universities?
Select students from the Pipeline can matriculate to multiple entry-level training and development programs which expose new associates to the entirety of the Publicis Media business. The goal is to lower the turnover rate by exposing associates to as much of the advertising business as possible giving participants the best chance of finding a role most fitting their skills and interest.
Brian Vaught, Senior Vice President, Training and Inclusion for Publicis Media, says there are two essential components to their program. First, it is not designed to be “one size fits all.” The students are all different and by providing access to subject matter experts across disciplines, they have an opportunity to experience all facets of the advertising business. Second, their philosophy mirrors the business itself. As advertising has become more specialized it is necessary to understand how projects must take into account a full range of expertise and leverage the landscape of the entire Publicis Media portfolio.
The Publicis Media Multicultural Talent Pipeline is not a remedy for the advertising industry that struggles to find its proper place in these conversations. But it does serve as a useful platform on what one company can do when it makes an honest commitment to address serious deficiencies in diversity and inclusion. By refusing to accept the conventional wisdom of the “pipeline as the problem” Publicis Media has rebranded the “pipeline as an opportunity.” As the industry continues to evolve it will be increasingly challenging to provide students with a program that is informative and a value add toward their long-term career success. Even with that reality, Publicis Media has shown no signs of slowing down and will continue to tap existing pools of talent.
Appeared first in Media Village