10/06/2011 01:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2011

Multiculturalism Is Hot!

It's great to see multiculturalism as a key subject during this year's Advertising Week. We have the 2010 census to thank for adding fuel to a fire that has been burning in plain sight for some time. "Think globally, act locally," is a multicultural call to action if I ever heard one. And that concept has been around for quite a while.

For the second year in a row, the 4A's has delivered great content though its Competitive Edge series for Advertising Week. The sessions commenced with Nancy Hill, President-CEO of the 4A's, moderating a critical business discussion with leaders in education and advertising. The subject was the partnership between private industry and education and how the advertising and media community can support The High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media (IAM). As the only public advertising and media high school, IAM is uniquely positioned to help our industry sustain itself through early engagement and development of multicultural talent.

Presentations on multicultural talent and cross cultural business practices, led by top advertising and media CEOs from Ogilvy, Saatchi and ZenithOptmedia demonstrated that a high stakes change management proposition, such as fostering a culture of inclusion, requires the active engagement and participation of the agency's Chief Executive. Period. These agency leaders, including John Seifert , Chairman and CEO N.A, Ogilvy; Mary Baglivo, CEO and Chair of the Americas, Saatchi; Tim Jones, CEO of ZenithOptimedia, N.A; and Dave Ehlers President of Optimedia USA, recognize diversity as a business imperative: a competitive advantage, if you will. It's not a "pass off" situation being delegated to HR, but rather diversity is an integral part of how these leaders are advancing their businesses. The men and women who took the stage aren't talking "around" the subject of diversity. Each of them shared insights, best practices and lessons learned for all to grow from. The point is diversity as a business imperative and the entire multicultural conversation has made center stage in a big way, at all levels of the industry, during this week dedicated to thought leadership, business strategy and the future.

What else has been hot this week in terms of the multicultural dialogue? The Vidal Partnership's three-part series on the Transformed General Market has been a brilliant collective of business leaders in discussions that reinforce our clients' recognition of the critical impact to the bottom line that is engagement and retention of the multicultural consumer. And as an aside, if you haven't experienced Manny Vidal's passion when it comes to the diversity dialogue, you have missed something tremendous. The bedrock of all presentations around diversity during Advertising Week is, of course, the AAF Mosaic Awards. And the GLAAD Awards were simply spectacular.

I'm thrilled that we are now seeing a fierce convergence of many other sessions regarding the need for multiple perspectives and talent that can touch numerous markets, such as the Multicultural Media Talent Pipeline for top college students on Friday, led by Steven Wolfe Pereira, who is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to his determination to increase the number of Hispanic and African American workers into the media hot spot MV42. Adding to that, AWNY has launched its Multicultural Task Force! This organization, which is supported by many high profile and powerful women in our industry, has now run fast and long into the multicultural exchange with How to Use Multicultural Insights that Drive Brand Growth.

It is remarkable to see the entire advertising and media community ignited with discussions about the vast multicultural space and how it deepens our capability to acknowledge, embrace and represent the global marketplace and today's (and tomorrow's) consumer. It strengthens our impact as a society and industry, and elevates us as business practitioners. Moreover, it's great to experience and engage in dialogue concerning the multicultural landscape and how it brings us to the competitive edge that many organizations are leveraging. But the subject itself, at its core, is about change. It's not soft and furry; it's complex and sometimes uncomfortable. Like any other critical pillar of business, multiculturalism is serious, multi-layered. Those not ready to participate in the transformation into the new multicultural state-of-being will find themselves swimming in mediocrity as a result of missing the boat. Stay tuned!