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On a Mission to Diversify Advertising

Summer BRAND camp introduces diverse students to the advertising industry

Brand Camp
A top priority for businesses is to increase diversity. According to the Deloitte Review, “If current trends continue, tomorrow's workforce will be even more diverse than today's—by gender, by ethnicity, by culture, by religion, by sexual preference and identification, and perhaps by other characteristics we don't even know about right now.

Yet many businesses, including advertising, have been slow to actualize diversity. Through the collaborative work of the college's Innovation Committee, an opportunity to move more diverse job candidates into the advertising pipeline presented itself.

Sydney Dillard
Sydney Dillard (Associate Professor)
Seizing this opportunity, Sydney Dillard, associate professor of public relations and advertising (PRAD), and PRAD Assistant Professor Juan Mundel submitted a proposal to DePaul's Office of Academic Affairs to fund a summer camp to introduce students to the field. They cited DePaul's commitment to diversity and growth as a rationale for their proposal. The funds were approved, and in June 2018, the first summer BRAND camp was held at the college.

“BRAND stands for building resources, addressing needs and diversity in advertising," Dillard says. “From my experience in the advertising industry, the higher up you go in leadership positions, the less you see of women, of people of color. So that was one of the primary things that I wanted to focus in on—increasing diversity.

Mundel explains further: “It's important to have diverse people in the decision-making room so that whenever someone decides to include a diverse population [in advertising], they're not using stereotypes or hurting a minority group in some way."

Juan Mundel
Juan Mundel (Assistant Professor)

The camp is run in conjunction with Chicago Scholars, a nonprofit devoted to long-term mentorship of first-generation students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds through college and the first few years of employment. Chicago Scholars has worked in the real estate, finance and banking sectors, and partnered with DePaul in 2019 to expand into the marketing and advertising sectors.

“We're working closely with high school students in the Chicago area, exposing them to the creative side of advertising and helping them understand that there is a pathway to success that you can take if you decide to do this," Dillard explains. Mundel explains that “not only would it help us grow enrollment, but also it would help us serve a bigger purpose—to feed the pipeline for the advertising industry."

Twenty-eight students attended the one-week camp at DePaul. They learned some of the fundamentals of the advertising industry. “We also did some travel. We were able visit Leo Burnett, one of the largest ad agencies in the world," Dillard says. “Students got to meet people from different parts of the agency to learn about what they do and see some of the campaigns they create."

One surprise for the students was their visit to Facebook's Chicago headquarters, where they got some hands-on experience designing ads. “A lot of the students are Instagram users. Initially, they thought, 'Oh, Facebook. That's old school,'" Dillard exclaims. “When they learned that Facebook owns Instagram, they were like, 'Oh, really?' I think that was pretty much a mind-blowing experience for them. But, overall, just the idea of advertising as a career was, I think, also one of those 'aha' moments for them."

Dillard and Mundel found BRAND camp to be a fulfilling experience. “Oftentimes you don't have the opportunities to find a collective group of like-minded people looking to achieve the same goal," Dillard says. “We all see that there is a disparity in the industry, and it does take a lot of effort to address those disparities and a will to change them."

Originally published in Conversations (Spring 2020)