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Ad Age


Why Brands Need Hispanics as Both a Target Audience and a Talent Pool

By Alex Miller for Ad Age

Being a queer, brown woman without a degree, I knew every step of my life would be an uphill battle. Small things connected the dots for me—like purposely being given a gender-neutral, white-passing name and being told by my family to always mark my ethnicity as white and never Hispanic. What hit me the hardest as a young girl was learning about a statistic that stated Hispanic women were most likely to earn the lowest income in the U.S. I used that information as motivation. I became a go-getter so that no one could ever tell me that I couldn’t do something.

Understanding the challenges of what people like me face isn't just morally right; it's crucial for business success. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is more than 60 million people and grew by 23% between 2010 and 2020. We are an underutilized asset as both a target audience and a potential talent pool. Many of us are still struggling to find our way into the industry, which not only holds us back as individuals but also holds back brands and agencies that could benefit from our perspectives.

This might sound ridiculous, but six years ago, I had no clue that advertising agencies existed. That’s how far outside of the system I grew up in. When I learned about them, my instant reaction was “Whoa. Could someone like me work for one of these cool agencies? Is that even allowed?” Some of us are systematically groomed to think we can dream only as big as what society decides is achievable for us.

In one of my first interviews, a recruiter said, “We don’t hire often, and we hire only applicants that went to good schools.” He told me I was looking into the wrong industry and then left. His message was clear: You didn’t go to school, you don’t have any connections, you don’t belong at this agency. He didn’t care about the perspective that I could bring.

I knew I just needed one agency to believe in my potential. I poured my heart and soul into cover letters that went unread. I applied to agency after agency, but no one would consider me. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even get a response back. The industry was not going to make it easy for me. Instead, it took a 5-year journey to find my break into the advertising world.

Before applying, I checked out each agency’s team section and wondered if I could fit in with its team. Based on how little diversity I saw on these teams, I knew I had slim chances of being considered regardless of my talents. I would try to make myself as white-passing as possible so I wouldn’t stand out, thinking that would prove I could fit in and belong on the team. That was my mindset until I crossed paths with a fellow queer, brown creative who was working as a freelance recruiter. He told me the words I needed to hear: “You should never feel like you don’t belong in these same spaces because you deserve to be in them too.”

This advice changed everything for me. I realized that pretending to be someone I'm not was never going to be my path to success. I rebuilt my website, resume and cover letters, and made sure they were full of my personality, and not just what I thought recruiters wanted to hear. I made sure to include exactly who I was, what music I liked, what some of my hobbies were, and even what my favorite beer is. I wanted it to feel like, right from the get-go, you knew exactly who I was. It was perfect; it was me. I was ready to start applying again.

"I realized that pretending to be someone I'm not was never going to be my path to success."

- Alex Miller

The first agency I applied for with this newfound mentality finally gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for. It hired me as a design intern!

But then came the question I had always struggled with: Would I fit in? To my surprise, everyone was so welcoming and genuine. I wasn’t merely accepted; they celebrated me for who I am. When my internship was coming to an end, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But luckily, neither was the team, and I got the news that they wanted to bring me on full-time. I cried that night; after all these years, someone finally believed in me. It was exactly where I needed to land all along. My journey felt discouraging at times, but looking back at everything that happened, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the world. I’m fortunate to have the chance to help make diverse audiences feel authentically represented. When I’m designing, my first instinct is to find ways to involve images or inspiration from communities of color. But showing inclusion and diversity in ads isn’t enough. Consumers are becoming more loyal to brands that are committed to addressing social inequity. That’s why it’s equally as important to have authentic representation in front of the camera as behind the scenes too.

It took one piece of advice to change everything for me, so I hope my experience can be the advice someone else may need to hear. If you are reading this and have any doubts in your mind, please know that you belong in the same space as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to embrace who you are, you are incredibly valued, and you deserve to be celebrated. We all do.

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