This is a first-person narrative from UT Austin student Nafisa Hassan, who calls Dallas, Texas, her home.
A dusty dictionary might tell you advertising is the practice of amplifying a brand’s message. But to me, advertising is about the meaning behind those messages and the positive values it can produce to change the world.
I’m Nafisa Hassan, a changemaker and recent addition to the Most Promising Multicultural Students Program. This recognition from the American Advertising Federation honors the United States’ top multicultural college students and helps prepare us for successful careers in advertising. MPMS provides me with valuable experiences to help navigate a predominantly white industry and opens doors for candid conversations about diversity with other passionate students and professionals.
Growing up, I didn't see myself represented in mainstream advertising. Now, I champion meaningful campaigns that welcome diverse perspectives. My honor from AAF encourages me to push the advertising industry toward a positive direction with equity and inclusion.
It is important to keep in mind that systemic issues will not be solved by one person. It is a collective effort.
I enjoy participating in spaces that actively advocate for a more inclusive advertising industry. You can find me leading and teaming up with other passionate visionaries at my school’s Equity Student Council. Since we briefly touch on social issues in my classes, the council continuously opens my eyes to the industry’s needed change and the power student voices hold in knocking its inequities down.
Conversations about including more voices in advertising must be linked to purposeful action. Accountability and engagement are important values to promote this inclusion and diversity. So let’s ask questions like, “Does your company really care about the people and messages in your campaigns?” “Who is represented in your agency?” “Let’s see honest diversity reports.”
But I hope the industry’s representation of all people becomes so accurate and positive that these discussions will no longer be necessary. We should move past the conversations and performative campaigns to take part in more proactive efforts that fuel positive change.
We have a long way to go in forging substantive progress. But the work must be done, and I'm ready for the challenge.