Monique Nelson is UniWorld majority shareholder

UniWorld Reboot: Monique Nelson Carrying the Torch, Rebranding a Legacy

Monique Nelson, CEO, UWG (UniWorld Group; Image: File)
(Image: File)

How did you arrive at Uniworld?

In 2006 I moved back to New York. I wanted to come home. I began interviewing at agencies and then one day I came into Uniworld and I met Byron. He was the most beguiling, captivating, charismatic, witty person I had ever met and everything that I said to him that I wanted to do he said Ok! And I said ‘Really? I can do all these things here?’ And he said, ‘Why not?’ And I said, “Well Ok!’

What were you looking to change?

Having been global, I understood that targeting is very important. One of the things that gets overlooked here in the States is that they want us all to be the same. The global market is the opposite. There’s no way you’d do the same campaign in Venezuela that you would do in Brazil. It was mind-boggling to me coming down to the States and everyone is talking about the general market, the one-size-fits-all approach.

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What part of the advertising market still needs conquering?

Everything still needs conquering. The pendulum keeps swinging in disconcerting arcs when looked at with the perspective of an African American. But I think we are going to get to this zone where people will really believe that there is no differentiation necessary. We’re still fighting that to remain relevant. We still need to be, still need to conquer. The markets are now more diverse and more competitive than ever. It includes Hispanics, Asian Americans, LGBT, women, millenials. They can’t be ignored.

Where is UWG going to be in a half decade?

(Laughs) I dream all the time. We will be the number one cultural agency across the board. We will be the premier agency for people to come to. We will be content providers, we will be thought provoking disruptors of everything that’s going on in society because our cultural insights and ability to connect is and will continue to be a part of the fabric of things that we do every day.

What are the differences between advertising today and yesterday?

There are times when I’m in rooms and it’s scary, because it looks like [the] 1950s which is disappointing, but the beautiful part is I’m in the room so there’s the difference. I don’t want to be the only one in the room, so I’m working hard to make sure there is a legacy, that there’s more of me and that we can be represented in more rooms.

True corporate diversity is an ongoing struggle. What’s your take?

By 2024, we are going to be looking at the peak of the white population and a period of social disruption in the U.S. No matter how you slice it, you are talking about a majority minority America and merely paying attention to one group is going to be detrimental. Listen, this is a business necessity, this isn’t about a choice. At some point if you’re doing any kind of long-term planning, if you don’t have a multicultural strategy, then shame on you, because that means you really don’t want to be in business long-term.

What are the challenges facing UWG that are peculiar to black companies?

I think there’s still a misnomer that we aren’t as good. We still fight to be at the right table. We are discounted from a conversation stand point. People think we can do the same work for less.

Any advice to other aspiring business leaders?

Dream big, stay curious, don’t be afraid to fail.