Now check this out man, I’ve been working here about nine days, you know, been on time, most of the time, even when it rains. Don’t you think it’s time we talk promotion?” – Bony T from the movie Boomerang.
If only the rise to being a Madison Avenue ad exec at the top of the industry heap was that simple. But as advertising executives of color can attest, the climb can be an arduous one that leaves many would-be advertising rock stars somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Enter the Marcus Graham Project, a national network of diverse professionals “coach up and bring up other diverse professionals in advertising and marketing,” says Marcus Graham Project co-founder and content and development director, Jamil Buie. “What we see as our goal is to bring as many interesting, smart, creative minds into the field of marketing and advertising as [possible].”
The Marcus Graham Project is the brainchild of a group of savvy advertising professionals working around the country who weren’t seeing diversity in the field, which compromised the creative processes for people of color to express different points. “A group of us, Lincoln Stephens, Larry Yarrell, Jeff Tate, Kenji Summers and myself weren’t seeing people who looked like ourselves and we didn’t have resources or points of reference to bounce ideas off or get coaching on how to navigate a very insular ole’ boy — and for all intents and purposes — white industry. So we came together for the mutual helpfulness of one another.”
The decision to establish the Marcus Graham Project to benefit minorities in advertising has well, boomeranged and is fast becoming a major change agent as well as a mentoring organization. (Marcus Graham was the super successful ad exec played by Eddie Murphy in Boomerang.
“Initially [the project] was formed around helping young men, because as many black faces as you might see in advertising, the majority of them weren’t African American men. Black men were under represented,” explained Buie. But the value added or collateral benefit has been the culture-to-culture exposure and exchanging of ideas for creative insights that eventually end up in the public realm.
And what transpired over the next couple of years is nothing short of amazing. The Marcus Graham Project grew from a group of four or five friends trying to help each other out, to an organization of 1,400 to 1,500 creative professionals. And to develop the professional and creative capacity of its members, the Marcus Graham project hosts every summer an annual 14-week intensive training boot camp for highly talented professionals.
“In the iCR8 boot camp [participants] basically create a pop-up advertising agency, which solicits briefs from clients, executes against those briefs, pitch the work and hopefully when it gets sold [to the client] they have the opportunity to interview with those companies for a job to continue working on the projects that they have initiated.”
Marcus Graham boot camp clients in the past have included; AT&T, Rock the Vote, the John Legend Foundation, Beats by Dre, Apple and Pepsico.
After the 2015 summer boot camp, an inspired Buie returned to Detroit to establish the Detroit office for the Marcus Graham project. In early January 2016, Buie and the Detroit organization collaborated with Team Detroit, an agency representing Ford Motor Company and other top tier corporations on publicity and marketing initiatives for the City of Detroit.
The Marcus Graham Project is housed in Junction 440 in Detroit’s TechTown.
For interested professionals or more information visit the marcusgrahamproject.com