AD COLOR founder Tiffany Warren
“Talent has no color,” says Tiffany R. Warren, Senior VP and Chief Diversity Officer for Omnicom, a global advertising and marketing communications company. At Omnicom, Warren oversees all diversity efforts for Omnicom Group including the Omnicom Diversity development Advisory Council, the Omnicom Medgar Evers Associate Program and the Omnicom Diversity Initiatives Group. In 2005, the Boston native, who has racked up several awards in the advertising industry, including becoming the youngest Manager of Diversity Programs at the American Association of Advertising Agencies in New York City, founded the organization, ADCOLOR. The goal, to support and inspire professionals of color and diversity champions within the advertising, marketing and media. The coalition’s primary initiative is the ADCOLOR® Awards, an annual program that honors outstanding diverse professionals at the junior, mid and senior levels of the industry, with past honorees including people like Queen Latifah and George Lopez.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Warren,who is preparing to host ADCOLOR’s latest awards ceremony in New York City on August 7, to discuss the organizations goals and how she hopes to continue to impact diversity within the advertising industry.
BlackEnterprise.com: Tell us about your ADCOLOR Initiative. Why did you start it?
Warren: I started my career in the advertising industry as an assistant account executive. At the time there was a dearth of role models and no avenue to understand their path to success. It was hard to find information about [diverse leaders in advertising], and if you did find that information, it was not tailored to inspire.
When I came to New York, I was 25, and I was hopeful and passionate about diversifying the industry. I managed the advertising programs and attended events but didn’t see diversity. In my opinion, if you can see it you can be it—and this is the core essence of ADCOLOR, [to help the next generation visualize success in advertising.]
So we launched in 2005 honoring our first cohort, and have honored 131 people since. So that’s 131 profiles of success. Along the way we developed a Board of Directors and staff, and in February of 2011, we submitted incorporation documents to become a 501 c(6) trade association.
Has the industry gotten better with diversity and inclusion? How so or why not?
Yes, because I look at before ADCOLOR and after, it’s really about looking at the landscape. Because of the generations that have come up or been reinvigorated [with access to ADCOLOR], now we have alumni who are working in the industry. These alumni have done so much in the area of giving back that it has created so many rich opportunities.
But we still have a ways to go. There’s an ecosystem that diversity and inclusion affects—what network shows get approved,what commercial gets made, what content is available—it’s all connected. Honoring people of color who are behind the scenes helps companies. It is an everyday motivation to continue to do what I do because everything helps. I grew up in a time when none of this existed, so the developments just in the last 10 years have been extraordinary and exponential. It used to be that there was something on the [diversity] timeline every 5 years, but now it is constant.
Is the industry more so difficult on ethnicity or on gender?
I think from my point of view it has been really interesting. I’ve been around a lot of people in each of those categories. From 12 years old I knew what I wanted to do I was focused. The war of talent is something that every industry faces and now there is more competition. We have to do a better job at explaining clearly the career path and figure out a way to connect that clear explanation for people who want to get there. There are so many different careers in advertising but we have low start salaries. And ten percent of multicultural students consider advertising – but they don’t stick it out. It’s a perfect storm of reasons. Women have more choices in digital, tech and advertising is a sexy prospect. It’s about developing peoples careers and giving them opportunities. We don’t do a great job at that.
People know their path as a lawyer, doctor, people don’t know the path to climb the ladder advertising. We need to do a better job as promoting our industry, what you can do, your path and how you can stay. We’re getting there – but we have to catch up to the industries that have been doing this for a while.