By Morgan Miller
With almost 40 years of experience in the marketing and advertising industry, George L. San Jose has experienced the highs and lows of the ever-changing advertising landscape. At the beginning of his career, George landed a job as a salesman for a health and beauty company and was eventually promoted to regional sales manager. In this position, George became interested in finding new ways to promote directly to the consumer, so he took the initiative and set up a one man shop advertising agency. He quickly learned the ropes and developed a commercial for a shampoo product that resulted in a sell out of product across stores and warehouses. The thrill of this creative sales technique piqued George’s interest in advertising and led him to pursue a position at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (SAMS).
George started working as a trainee at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (SAMS), which at the time was the largest Hispanic advertising and marketing agency in the U.S. George was still not familiar with the world of advertising but was an expert in the wholesale distribution industry which played in his favor because he knew the right people to contact and how to get products in front of them. While discussing his transition from sales to advertising George said, “After I started I was sold, I couldn’t believe people would pay me the amount of money that they paid me to do something that I just love to do.”
Today, George is the Founder and CCO of the San Jose Group, a multicultural marketing and advertising agency. George has been operating the Hispanic-focused advertising agency since 1981 and mentioned that when he started his career in advertising in the early eighties it was nearly impossible for Hispanic people to breakthrough unless they were more Americanized. George stated, “Back in the day there was very little diversity in the business. Unfortunately, 40 years later there is still very little diversity with only a few agencies that have embraced multiculturality and really use it to their advantage.”
While discussing diversity and inclusion in the advertising industry, George provided an example of a business opportunity from American Family Insurance that the agency won two years in a row due to the number of diverse voices involved in developing the campaign. The agency’s ability to gather quality consumer insight led to the success of these campaigns because of the diverse team and the many focus groups conducted including people from all walks of life. George mentioned, “Consumer insight has always been our biggest asset as an agency. When our creative team sits down to create I have people from all over the world that will sit down and create. In this campaign, we were creating concepts and commercials that were in tune with the reality of where America is today.”
George mentioned that the downfall of agencies is that they hire the same kind of person across the board that usually come from similar backgrounds and share the same experiences. Not only are these people from the same group they also watch the same TV shows and live in the same neighborhoods making them out of touch with what is going on in the rest of the country. Many companies will hire a person of color and feel that is enough when it comes to their diversity efforts. George stated, “Overall companies in general whether on the communications side or the business side, have not fully embraced the benefits that diversity in the workplace brings you. It is only when you experience it that you can really see that you have a competitive edge over everybody else.”
George emphasized that hiring different cultures will bring different perspectives and hiring quality diverse talent will continue to be an advantage for all agencies. In a Smart Business article published in 2007, George spoke about his leadership style and the approach he takes when hiring people he feels will not only fit in but grow in his company. George gave a statement that said, “Hire for potential. I’ve learned that the vision that I had can be accomplished and that the vision we set out has really made a difference in the type of agency that we have become, the size of our organization and the quality of our work.” After speaking with George about his leadership style, I can confirm that the vision of the agency is to bring diverse voices to the table and that George is more focused on the quality of those voices than meeting a certain quota for a bonus.
In regard to the role diversity and inclusion will play in the future workforce, George advises companies to seek out quality diverse talent. He feels that currently, there is an issue with hiring people of color and then putting them in a position to promote diversity by giving them a title without providing actual resources for diversity and inclusion programs to succeed. George recommends that young professionals just getting into the communications industry seek organizations that have a diverse workforce because of the creative and competitive edge that will result in more opportunities to develop new, innovative campaigns.
Morgan Miller is a PR/Advertising grad student at DePaul University and is currently a consumer PR intern at MSL. When Morgan isn’t busy studying or working, she spends the majority of her time reading or watching the news and hanging out with her family in Naperville.