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agencies launch Project MC, using social networking to promote growth
Adweek.com (June 15, 2009) Jo Muse expected a few hours of venting at the
launch meeting of Project MC, an initiative designed to define the role
and importance of agencies that specialize in marketing to
African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. Instead, said Muse (left), lead
organizer of the initiative, he got a full day's worth of gripes related
to such shops feeling marginalized by clients and general-marketing
Also, opinions varied among the 23 participants at the spring meeting on
key issues such as whether minority shops should regularly compete for
general-market assignments. To weigh issues and opinions -- and foster a
greater sense of community within the group -- Project MC is turning to
social networking for help. In mid-July, it will start a
social-networking group on Ning.com that will feature a blog and enable
executives from minority shops to share knowledge, find talent and
debate hot-button issues.
"This community that we're creating is going to be an opportunity for
the founders [of Project MC] to articulate points of view, [identify]
resources and opportunities and [open things up] to a broader view of
people," said Muse, CEO of Muse Communications, a multicultural shop in
Social networking "is a good idea," said Vicky Wong, president of Dae
Advertising, an Asian-American shop in San Francisco and a Project MC
participant. "How much time people have to engage in that, we'll have to
In addition, Project MC hopes to meet with executives from the
Association of National Advertisers soon to express ongoing concerns
about clients cutting back on minority-targeted efforts and
general-market shops treading on speciality shop turf.
Project MC includes CEOs from African-American agencies such as UniWorld
Group, Carol H. Williams Advertising and Burrell Communications Group;
Hispanic shops like The Vidal Partnership and La Agencia de Orci &
Asociados; and Asian-American shops such as PanCom International. The
group also includes leaders from the American Association of Advertising
Agencies and general-market shops Wieden + Kennedy and Butler, Shine,
Stern & Partners.
The initiative comes against the backdrop of a minority population surge
in America-at the end of 2007, minorities represented 34 percent of the
U.S population, up from 30 percent in 2000. Also, the ad industry again
finds itself under scrutiny for its relative paucity of
African-Americans, this time via civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri and
A major topic of conversation within Project MC revolves around the
pitfalls of being a specialist among generalists and whether specialists
should regularly vie for general-market work. Some participants favor
the latter, while others argue that you can't have it both ways, even if
general-market shops encroach on minority-market ground.
That said, minority agencies have created work -- albeit from
minority-market briefs -- that has become mainstream. In 2006, for
example, Hispanic shop Conill Advertising produced a spot for Toyota
that ran on the Super Bowl. Also, spirits marketers from time to time
employ minority shops as lead agencies. But those instances are
"If anything, the exceptions suggest that there is a common ground and
that [it] isn't exploited to the degree it could be," said Muse.
Project MC's short-term goal is to produce a guide for multicultural
shops to most effectively operate in this economy that will be presented
at the ANA's Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference in October.
Long term, Muse hopes the effort will attract more participants and
ignite a dialog that will continue within the Ning.com group.
The bigger challenge, of course, is turning dialog into action. "It's a
good start and I do hope to see some meaningful tactics or actions,"
said Wong. "Otherwise, it's just talk. I don't think that's productive.
We can always talk at parties. There's a group together, [so] you want
to achieve something."
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