Creativity is Poppin’ in New York’s The ADVERTISING Club

Gina Grillo, President & CEO, The AD Club of New York
Gina Grillo, President & CEO, The AD Club of New York

What role does The AD Club of New York play in the modern advertising industry? AD Club President & CEO Gina Grillo discusses the Club’s impact on the industry and the evolution of creativity over the years. (As originally published in Madison Avenue Insights, April 10, 2014) 

By Ronald R. Urbach

1896 was a big year – the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece; the first x-ray was taken, and, of course, The ADVERTISING Club of New York was born. Located in the heart of Manhattan, The ADVERTISING Club is the industry’s premier venue for networking and creativity and professional development. As such, the club plays a vital role in cultivating advertising professionals of tomorrow and supporting the thought leaders of today.

While The ADVERTISING Club may be best known for the International Andy Awards, which recognize creativity and innovation in advertising around the world, it has garnered its most recent attention for its “I’mPART” initiative, which celebrates diversity within the advertising and marketing industry and works to recruit a wide variety of fresh young voices and talent to the business. That goal is embedded in last four letters of the name – Promote, Attract, Retain, and Train. I’mPART was recently featured in The New York Times, which celebrated I’mPART’s success in making the advertising industry more inclusive and more reflective of the diverse and increasingly global market it is trying to reach.

The Way I See It:

  • I see The ADVERTISING Club remaining an important pillar within the industry, and a symbiotic relationship forming between the older and younger generations. We will continue to see millennials mentoring the older generation on emerging technology and how to best implement it, and the older generation providing seasoned advice that only experience can provide.
  • I see The ADVERTISING Club playing a strong role in continuing change within the industry on the topic of diversity, not just from a race and ethnicity perspective, but a gender one as well.
  • I see The ADVERTISING Club paving the way for young people and creating a more inclusive industry.

The Way The Industry Sees It:

I sat down with Gina Grillo, President and Chief Executive Officer of The ADVERTISING Club of New York to discuss the impact the Club has on both the industry and the members.

Q: The ADVERTISING Club (The AD Club) of New York has been engrained within the industry since 1896, and encompasses thousands of industry professionals. In terms of membership, have you seen members you’ve attracted at a young age stay active within the Club throughout the duration of their career? What’s the longevity trajectory like?

A: Our membership of four thousand strong includes many legacy members who joined The AD Club as young professionals and have grown up and progressed in their career with us over the years. While the industry focuses on recruiting new talent, we see retention as just as big of an issue and believe it is critical to nurture talent after they have entered the field. Part of our mission as an organization is to support members along their career journey – as they move up the ranks – keeping them active both within the industry and within The AD Club. We also have a Young Professionals group that is designed to help advertising, marketing, and media professionals ages thirty and under grow to become tomorrow’s leaders. It is truly inspiring to see this ambitious, philanthropic, and outgoing group of future industry leaders develop themselves as professionals and people.

Q: It’s no secret that The ADVERTISING Club has a myriad of impressive initiatives. Are there any initiatives that the Club is especially proud of?

A: Advertising is about experimentation in communication. It is the business of inventing ideas to be discussed, debated, assessed, and adjusted daily. The AD Club exists to support this process through a number of initiatives around our core pillars – access, creativity, professional development, and diversity. We are proud of our efforts in all of these areas, but I am especially proud of our diversity initiative, i’mPART. It’s our belief that diversity of people, ideas, culture, and craft is a major driver of creativity and creates better work in our business. i’mPART is a fundraising effort that aims to raise awareness of the benefits of diversity and support the nation’s leading diversity programs.  i’mPART employs an acronym that represents the four pillars of the initiative – to Promote, Attract, Retain and Train diverse talent. It’s a movement to make diversity a priority and increase accountability for this issue through a ten-year-long benchmarking survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which will track the progress of diversity programs to ensure long-term success. We are committed to supporting diversity of thought and seek to inspire a diverse mindset in the advertising industry.

Q: What I find to be interesting about The ADVERTISING Club is that it acts as a hub for members of all different seniority levels to come together – ranging from high-power CMOs to junior staff members – what roles do members play?

A: The AD Club has always and will always serve as a resource for all advertising professionals at any age, level, or discipline. With this in mind, we have designed a variety of premiere training courses, speaker sessions, and workshops that unite a wide array of members. Our programs and events give members access to a network of thought leaders, the fuel for creativity, greater diversity, and the best training for professional development. Established leaders have the opportunity to come together to exchange ideas and best practices for business, while fresh faces can partake in the educational and mentorship programs we offer. The AD Club’s objective is to create connections between members from all corners of the industry. This diverse mix of experience is how we raise the bar for collaboration and creativity and ensure the industry is truly forward thinking.

Q: As they say, the future of tomorrow is in the hands of the youth of today. How can young people entering the advertising industry make a difference?

A: I believe the success of our industry directly correlates to the caliber of our talent, so the future lies in the hands of young professionals. They bring a new energy and passion for learning the industry that can both spark renewed interest among more senior professionals and introduce fresh ideas to the table. To make a difference in our industry, young people can invest in their professional development through courses and training. But, I believe mentorship is a critical part of career success, no matter how old you are. If young people can identify a mentor who provides candid advice and knows how to help nurture unique talents and skills, they will have a leg up in the industry. Today’s youth generation grew up with technology, and with a more diverse population than ever before. Through this upbringing, they hold a lot of power. They aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and make things, an attribute that will allow them to truly make an impact at a young age. We encourage young people to embrace and harness their own diverse ideas and backgrounds, and leverage them to make our industry better. Don’t hold back and throw yourselves into the business. There are more opportunities than ever to be heard.

Q: What is the coolest object in your office right now?

A: The coolest object would have to be the first ANDY award statue. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of The ANDY Awards, a major milestone and yearlong celebration. The ANDYs have always recognized the brave process of creativity, and in their 50th year, we will unite the industry to celebrate the past five decades of advertising and usher in the future with a platform centered on bravery. Final judging took place in February in Shanghai, and it was an inspiring experience for our esteemed group of judges led by The 50th International ANDY Awards Chairman, David Droga. The ANDY is a good reminder of the transformative evolution of creativity and tech over the past fifty years and gives me hope for a better and braver future industry.


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