Adland has a diversity problem: Miami Ad School's call to action

VaynerMedia, Facebook and IPG are the first organizations to answer the school's challenge.

The Miami Ad School has a challenge for the advertising industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion: Put your money where your mouth is.

VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk was the first to raise his hand and answer the call to action, followed by Facebook Global Creative Director Andrew Keller. The two companies are making tax-deductible contributions to the Miami Ad School Scholarship Program and sponsoring "Experience Labs" in which students will spend an entire term.

Interpublic Group had already contributed to the scholarship fund prior to the official challenge, with R/GA agreeing to host the Experience Lab.

The Miami Ad School developed a diversity and inclusion program two years ago, addressing seven issues that prevent minority talent from getting into the industry: knowledge of creative careers, family support, scholarship, training, mentorship, opportunity and job placement support.

Pippa Seirchrist, co-founder and head of innovation at Miami Ad School, told Campaign US that the first wave from the program is graduating and it’s been "insanely successful."

Minority enrollment is now 45 percent, an increase of 25 percent from where the school was prior to creating the program. "We knew if we recruited and trained more minority talent, we could help agencies diversify their creative departments," said Seirchrist.

"The industry has a diversity problem," she added. "Agencies are starting diversity and inclusion programs and hiring D&I managers. This is part of the solution, but doesn’t address the real problem; there is a shortage of minority, creative talent. Minority talent has to be grown."

VaynerMedia was "so in" from the moment it heard about the challenge because it appreciates the school’s unique approach to growing talent, said Andrea Sullivan, chief client officer at the agency.

"This allows us to not only fuel the pool of talent through the scholarship, but allows us to give back through our Experience Labs and have students apply learnings in a real-world way," she said.

After accepting the challenge, Sullivan said Vaynerchuk reached out to Facebook’s Keller, who was equally eager for the tech giant to join the cause.

"It’s important to note that not only agencies can help support this mission, but brands themselves," said Sullivan. "The industry needs to come together."

The goal, according to Seirchrist, is to have ongoing relationships with a group of agencies, brands and tech companies who value diversity and want to work together to accelerate their D&I programs.

For more information about the challenge or how to contribute to the scholarship fund, visit: https://miamiadschool.com/blog/advertising-has-diversity-problem.

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