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‘Color’ commentary on the business of advertising

November 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Conversation

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

From left; Soledad O'Brien, Boris Kodjoe and Tiffany Warren at the AdColor Awards and Industry Conference.

Las Vegas recently played host to the 2012 AdColor Awards and Industry Conference, held at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. More than 1,000 leading advertising and marketing executives attended the event put on by the nationally recognized nonprofit, which has a mission to “celebrate and champion diversity in the advertising, marketing, media and public relations industry.”

The organization’s founder and president is Tiffany R. Warren, senior vice president and chief diversity officer of Omnicom Group. Along with this year’s special celebrity awardees — CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien and actor Boris Kodjoe (“Soul Food”) — Warren spoke with Las Vegas Black Image Magazine about the state of inclusion in the historically insular industry, and why the world’s entertainment capital was chosen to host this year’s event.

How did AdColor come to be, and why did you feel there was such a need?
Warren: It all started many years ago, before we actually had our first show. I had gone to a lot of awards shows, particularly in the advertising industry, and they were great and made me proud to be a part of the industry. But what I noticed was that there wasn’t a lot of diversity and if there was, the honors kept going to the same people. I wondered about the people who were coming up in the advertising and marketing business, those who were doing a lot of innovative things. It seemed like minorities and the newcomers were shut out. So, along with a new company I started working with, we launched the AdColor Awards in 2007 and we have been going ever since. The idea was that the AdColor Awards would honor people at different stages of their careers — particularly people of color. It would include diversity champions, so that we could highlight achievement and really provide a blueprint for others to follow.

Do you think AdColor has had a positive impact on the advertising industry?
Warren: If you look at what the industry was before AdColor, I would say yes, we have had a tremendous impact. There were definitely a lot of effective diversity programs around before AdColor, and AdColor’s DNA came from those efforts. Now, there are many more organizations and programs that have sprouted as a result of AdColor’s initiatives, creating a more diverse creative environment based on high standards and achievements. AdColor has created more opportunities for people who have either founded or are running new organizations.

What brought the AdColor Awards to Las Vegas?
Warren: When we started, we thought we could never have our event in Las Vegas, because we are such a new organization. Also, we thought as a nonprofit, we could never afford it, (but) it was always a big dream to bring the conference and awards to Vegas. Nevertheless, after we had our awards at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, bringing the AdColor Awards to Vegas became a reality. We were ecstatic with the accommodations.

Boris, you were honored with the AdColor All-Star Award. What does that mean to you?
Kodjoe: The AdColor Awards are still necessary because we must move away from diversity being talked about to it becoming a normal (element of how things work in the advertising industry). We all realize we are not there yet, so we need to celebrate diversity and promote the need for understanding its importance in the advertising and marketing industries. The AdColor Awards help us to cultivate that dialogue.

Soledad, what does it mean to receive the Catalyst Award?
O’Brien: The AdColor Awards and Industry Conference is critical to insightful dialogue about diversity in the advertising industry. If you look at the numbers in the advertising industry, the (presence) of minorities and women is disturbingly low. You can’t just complain about the numbers and say that there needs to be change. You actually have to do something specific to make change happen. I think that is what AdColor does. Through their initiatives — such as networking, measurements, classes — AdColor gives a tangible strategy. That is what being a catalyst for change is all about.

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