Internships advance diversity in marketing

Katy Smith
Rick Milenthal, CEO, The Shipyard

Rick Milenthal says he wishes he’d made a more concerted effort to hire Black interns at his marketing agency, now called The Shipyard, during the past decade. “By now we could have trained dozens of talented, Black professionals. I feel a strong responsibility to get it right this time and do something now,” he says.

So he’s welcoming two paid interns this summer, thanks to a collaboration with the Black Advertising and Strategic Communication Association. The group, founded by Osei Appiah, a professor and associate director of Ohio State University’s School of Communication, has a mission to advance Black students into careers in advertising, public relations and marketing.

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Appiah, who created the association 12 years ago, says he is not aware of other Columbus region internships dedicated to improving Black representation in the advertising field specifically, and the hope is this will lead to more such programs. “There is a pressing need for companies in partnership with academic institutions to rectify the under-representation of Blacks at advertising and marketing firms,” he says in response to questions from Columbus CEO. “Addressing this issue is one of the primary reasons I created the Black Advertising and Strategic Communication Association student organization at Ohio State University. 

“The internship The Shipyard has created will help students acquire skills and experience, thereby increasing the pipeline of attractive Black candidates from which local and national agencies can choose.”

The marketing industry’s employee makeup doesn’t reflect the general population, which is its audience, Milenthal says in response to questions. “Black professionals are woefully represented across all levels of agency staffing. We are no better. This must change. 

“We intend to inspire other agencies and marketers to do the same. Frankly, action is long overdue. Together, we can foster hundreds of new professionals over the coming years and change the face of this industry forever.”

Osei Appiah