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Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in Advertising

Posted on October 22, 2010 and read 5,588 times

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brettcreditpic Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in AdvertisingBrett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2

Early every fall for the past several years, the advertising industry’s best and brightest have been converging on the Big Apple for Advertising Week. No, it doesn’t have the cachet of Cannes by a long shot, but there’s something a bit poetic about having so many of the movers and shakers of Madison Avenue actually near Madison Avenue.

One of the highlights of this year’s Ad Week was the premiere of Pursuit of Passion, a film spearheaded by our friends at VCU Brandcenter and the 4As. The film, as well as the project alongside it, is the latest step in encouraging diversity within the ranks of the ad industry.

Pursuit of Passion was very well received at Ad Week. “The film captures the best and truest thing about this industry: the passion of its practitioners,” said Steve Simpson, Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather, North America. “Their dedication to craft, their tremendous wit, their endless enthusiasm. It shows that this is a business that is hungry for talent–all kinds of talent–and prizes it. The film is a brilliant advertisement for ourselves, when we are at our best.”

We managed to get a word with our pal Rick Boyko, Director of VCU Brandcenter, to find out just where Pursuit of Passion came from, and more importantly, where it is headed. We’ve also provided the film in its entirety for your viewing pleasure. Take a look; it’s inspiring no matter what your role or race is.


 boyko6 09 11 20 264 Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in Advertisingihaveanidea: How did the whole Pursuit of Passion project come about?

Rick: It’s been the culmination of a lot of serendipitous moments. For the past five years, I’ve been speaking to groups of inner city high school students during Advertising Week in New York City. I would give a presentation about what the industry was about, and then follow it with a panel of recent VCU alumni who happened to be minorities, and they’d share their experiences about discovering, breaking into and working within and around the ad business. Now the kids would be wowed by the work I’d show, but when it came time to listen and chat with the alumni, their eyes would just light up and you could see we were reaching many of their minds.

While the talks were wonderful, we were only seeing about 200 students once a year. Definitely not a scale that could lead to a lot of change. So last year at Ad Week I was talking with Alain Sylvain, who sits on the VCU board. We talked about creating a video of some sort that featured people in the business talking about their careers. We felt that this could be a great tool to attract a diverse group of minds to the industry.

In February of this year I received a email from Charlie Tercek, co-founder and director at Serial Creative in LA and a colleague of mine from my Ogilvy days. He was telling me an idea that he had with Cecilia Gorman, the recruiter an creative resources manager of Y&R and Wunderman LA. They too thought of the idea of doing a recruitment video for the industry. I told him about our idea, so we all had a conference call, and less than two weeks later we had the ball rolling. We had a freelance producer named Daniel Tuggle, as well as a company called Mr. Mister who wanted to help edit and add graphics.

ihaveanidea: Was it difficult to get everybody for in front of the camera?

Rick: Not at all. I reached out to many friends in the industry, as well as several alumni, and they all instantly agreed to be a part of it, and those alumni spread the word through their own circles. Cecilia reached out to her many contacts and connections, and they were all eager to be involved. Nancy Hill, President and CEO of the 4As threw her support behind the project. Alain did the interviews, and was helped out by two current VCU students, Carrington Faulk and Michael Wilson. The project was especially exciting for Carrington, who is African-American and used to be a high school teacher.

ihaveanidea: What was the response like when you premiered it at Ad Week this year?

Rick: Well we first screened it during my annual talk with the students, and they absolutely loved it. Many of them came to us afterwards to ask for more information about getting into the business. We also had an official premiere on the Thursday evening, to a packed house of industry people. Everyone enjoyed it and asked how they could help in distributing the film.

ihaveanidea: I guess that’s the next challenge. Who is your first target? Obviously students…

Rick: Of course we want to get this video into the hands of high school students, teachers and guidance counselors, but we also wanted to be seen by parents. A lot of parents, particularly minorities, don’t view advertising as a viable career path, if they even know about it at all.

We’ll be pushing the video through all the usual social media streams, but we really need to get it into the hands of the counselors and parents. We need to educate them if they are to educate the kids.

For more information on Pursuit of Passion, please visit the website, or send an email to




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