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AAAA and Howard University Announce Partnership to Increase Inclusion in Advertising 

Howard UniversityNancy Hill, president and CEO, American Association of Advertising Agencies, today announced a new partnership with Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications to establish a comprehensive center to address challenges, eliminate barriers and identify opportunities to achieve a more diverse and inclusive advertising industry workforce at middle to senior management levels. The announcement was made during Hill’s remarks at the 2008 AAAA Leadership Conference, which concludes today.

By a unanimous vote of its Board of Directors in January 2008, the AAAA committed $250,000 to begin the planning of this national center with a four-fold mission:

  • To provide professional development, leadership training and resources to increase and strengthen the impact of individuals of color in middle- and senior-level management across all disciplines in advertising
  • To provide the advertising industry with research, analysis, strategic and tactical consulting, and policy input to attain diversity and inclusion goals and objectives
  • To benchmark best practices and solutions to increase the quantity and quality of persons of color in the industry
  • To increase the retention and management-promotion opportunities for people of color.

The Board also pledged that the AAAA would provide industry leadership and financial support in developing the Center’s curriculum, research and programming and assisting the university in raising an additional $750,000 annually to support the Center.

Within its first year, the Center will produce an extensive industry report about the status of diversity within advertising, which will also serve as a foundation for five proposed professional development modules targeting:

  • C-Suite Advertising Leaders, to engage and support them in making a critical investment and commitment to diversity, based on a sound advertising business case
  • African American advertising professionals, to develop strategies for career mapping, networking, and addressing challenges and perceived roadblocks
  • Current managers and supervisors of all races seeking to increase team productivity and inclusiveness
  • Potential mid- and senior-level African American professionals transitioning into advertising, and
  • Historically and Predominately Black Colleges and Universities to collaborate and assist in strengthening the diversity pipeline.

In addition to developing and pilot testing the modules, the Center will also create a database of resources of highly qualified candidates, mentors, trainers and recruiters.

To provide ongoing perspectives aligned with industry needs, assist in programs, curriculum and professional development areas, the Center will establish an advisory board. The board will be composed of significant senior-level representatives from the AAAA membership and other industry partners in advertising, marketing, media and interactive. The Center will provide subject matter experts to participate in AAAA conferences, seminars, forums and meetings.

“Howard University is an ideal partner to work with the AAAA and other advertising industry groups to aggressively meet industry demands to diversify,” said Nancy Hill, president and CEO, AAAA. “The Howard brand offers a deep understanding of the African American experience, is distinct in its ability to offer Center participants a nurturing and culturally aware environment and has a proven track record and long history of developing leaders.”

The idea for the Center grew out of a joint vision of Dr. Jannette L. Dates, dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University, and immediate past AAAA president and CEO O. Burtch Drake, who in April 18, 2007, empanelled a Board Task Force to review a request and proposal from Howard University for the Center. The task force, chaired by Eugene Faison, chairman and CEO of Equals Three Communications, visited Howard University and met with Dean Dates and a team from the University’s Professional Development and Leadership Academy, to develop a proposal to present to the AAAA. The task force and the AAAA Diversity and Government Affairs Committee proposed the AAAA support of the Center, which was approved by the AAAA Board of Directors.

Faison said, “The AAAA financial commitment to this Center demonstrates the sincerity of advertising agencies to support diversity by providing tangible resources that help improve inclusiveness in the industry and retain African American and other talent.”

“The issue of diversity is greater than the Human Rights Commission concerns raised in New York last year; it affects the entire industry, including mid-size agencies outside of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Center will help us recruit and retain talent, especially African American talent, because it costs more to recruit than it does to retain,” said Cathey Finlon, president and CEO, McClain Finlon.

Added Dr. Dates, “We’re excited about this partnership because Howard University is committed to more than just talk. We’re about developing leaders for America and the global community. We’re about working side by side with the AAAA and other advertising organizations to ensure that the industry’s needs will be met through best practices, training and support,” said Dates. “We want to hear your agency’s challenges in recruiting and retaining talent, what works well and what you really want to know about diversity and inclusion but never asked. Our Center team will work to provide resources to meet those specific needs.”

In the coming months, the Center leadership will seek additional input from the AAAA membership and the industry to identify and offer detailed opportunities for all to participate in and support the Center.

» Center for Excellence in Advertising

About Howard University
With the oldest accredited and most comprehensive advertising program at any Historically Black College or University, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 12 schools and colleges. Founded in 1867, students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, a Marshall Scholar, 19 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call (202) 238-2330, or visit the University’s Web site at

About the AAAA
The American Association of Advertising Agencies is the national trade association of the advertising agency business. The 1,196 member agency offices it serves in the United States employ 65,000 people, offer a wide range of marketing communications services, and place 80 percent of all national advertising. The management-oriented association helps its members build their businesses, and acts as the industry’s spokesman with government, media, and the public sector. For more information visit our Web site at

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