When Valerie Moizel, founder, CEO and CCO of the Woo agency in Los Angeles, received a piece of internal feedback on her agency’s lack of diversity in 2020, she lamented the lack of resumes she was receiving from minority candidates. She was determined to do something about it, so she started a mentorship program.
Moizel wondered, if not enough minorities were finding their way into the marketing and advertising world, maybe the problem was further downstream in the education funnel—and she and her team sought to change that.
“As one of very few women-owned ad agencies, the understanding of opportunity barriers has long been ingrained in Woo’s DNA—and our executive team shared this desire for a more diverse team. But an ongoing issue for us was a lack of diverse applicants. So rather than continuing to lament that lack of diversity among our applicants, this feedback inspired us to actually do something about it,” Moizel told Adweek.
Moizel and her team started “T.E.A.M. Woo” (Teens Engaged in Advertising Mentorship), where Gen Z high school students—with an emphasis on female and minority candidates—were invited to take an introductory, four-day advertising class. As part of the program, the students were given the opportunity to work on an actual advertising campaign—in 2020, it was for Niagara Water—and be mentored by seasoned professionals along the way. They learned about strategy, branding, concepting, execution and presentation skills, which they chronicled in a video.
The program has returned for 2022 and the health and beauty brand Supergoop! has signed on to mentor T.E.A.M. Woo high school students. In addition, Moizel said that the agency is reaching out to new schools and targeting specifically low-income communities to ensure that the agency brings in the students who might be at a disadvantage when it comes to opportunities.
“Our industry truly needs more diversity of thought and experience. When the industry lacks that diversity in the concept phase, it will frequently fail to deliver in the execution phase,” said Moizel, adding that she hopes T.E.A.M. Woo opens doors—and inspires some of these young students to consider future studies and opportunities in the world of advertising and marketing.
Moizel also hopes that other agencies will be inspired to do similar programs to get more diversity into the advertising pipeline, which she said can be inspirational for those already in the industry.
“This program was created to inspire kids to get involved in advertising and marketing, but one unanticipated outcome was how much the kids inspired us. For many of our team members who’ve worked in the ad and marketing world for decades, these kids provided such a fresh enthusiasm and they had such wild and unencumbered creativity that it truly inspired and re-energized our own work,” she said.
The Woo Agency recently celebrated its 25th year in business with a campaign featuring Dr. Ruth Westheimer.