It may have seemed forward-thinking when Don Draper, who pioneered an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in the 1960s, hired a black secretary Dawn Chambers.
It is a scene from AMC’s TV show Mad Men: At the time, Draper’s firm posted a classified ad saying that they were seeking for black employees but they seemed shocked when applicants actually showed up for the job. The receptionist had to excuse the black applicants: “You are free to leave. I mean, you are welcome to leave. You may go.”
The awkward moment maybe slightly exaggerated in the drama, yet it perfectly reflects the history of that time. A half-century later, much has changed—diversity is now more celebrated and welcomed in the workplace; “globalization” has become more than a buzzword.
Taking advantage of that social shift is Gravity Media, “one of the rapidest-growing multicultural advertising agencies in the country,” ranked by Advertising Age. It holds itself up as a model of how multiculturalism can spell growth in a changing world by not only celebrating the diversity but also elevating it.
“People from our team share a wide range of ethnic backgrounds,” says Monique Tapie, vice president of Gravity Media, an advertising agency that provides a full service in marketing, public relations and business consulting. “We are also made up by people who speak more than 20 languages, Hindi, French, and Chinese and so on.”
Founded in 2009, Gravity Media was a team of five who merely had initial $30,000 invested. The firm, headquartered in Chelsea Manhattan, now has turned into a prominent star in the industry in five years, leading in the company growth as the fastest growing full service marketing firm.
According to Inc. 500 list, Gravity Media ranked as the 250th "fastest growing private company of the U.S." last year. From 2009 to 2012, the agency experienced an exponential growth rate of 1,723.5 percent and reached a $12.4 million in billings in 2012—nearly doubling its revenue from 2011 to 2012. The agency currently has 45 employees and offices in two locations: New York and Los Angeles.
“We believe that multiculturalism has been the major element that helps us become successful,” says Tapie, a Danish descent who is also fluent in French. She has been working in communications and public affairs for several world leading companies nearly 20 years before joining Gravity Media.
“I used to live and work in Paris and had to deal with a lot of clients from occidental Europe.” That’s how Tapie and her team started realizing the significance of being knowledgeable about “cross-cultural communication” that resulted from “the development of technology.”
“Just think 10 years back, (if) you were in New York, were you able to video chat online with people all over the world?” says Tapie. Innovation provides consumers with alternatives; in the meantime, it connects people and shapes how they think and behave.
“Nowadays, multiculturalism sounds like a buzz word,” says Dr. William James, a Marketing and International business professor at Hofstra University. “To better analyze the demographics of consumers by hiring people with various backgrounds, however, could be helpful.”
According to a demographic estimation projected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, non-white population in the U.S. would reach 38 percent in 2015; and will continue by another 5 percent a year until 2025. The data not only demonstrates the ingredients of future consuming market, but also represents a trend of ethnic diversity which gradually shapes the future labor pool.
Seeing a great number of “well-educated American immigrants,” Tapie and her team couldn’t resist “being multicultural.” She says that when recruiting employees, it’s not necessary, yet they would prefer people who either have international experience, or are bilingual. “Decision-maker level, in particular, (needs to have hybrid experiences)” she added, “Because they are able to bring in insights and knowledge to help design the ad campaign and brand the culture.”
Regarding to Gravity Media’s rapid growth has been driven by multiculturalism, Dr. James who teaches consumer behavior in the global environment continues to explain, “Especially when their (Gravity Media) clients mainly deal with global consumers,” he emphasized, “It allows their clients have a better understanding about their audiences.”
The young mixed crew carries a broad industry with clients ranging from finance, sports, healthcare, to telecommunication, resort gaming, entertainment and cable. Yet the business strategies that conducted by Gravity Media are “niche-focused and customized.”
Tapie currently manages Triomphant Communications, a sister company of Gravity Media, to help branding its image and maintaining its public relations. “Regardless whom you are targeting to, we’ve been portraying our brand recognition by providing our service with fair quality,” says Tapie, “It could be a challenge if we failed building that.”
How to keep employees motivated in a long run has made Tapie and other team leaders scratch their heads. “We actually provide a warm working environment,” says Tapie, “and we respect the differences among their cultures.”
2013 was a profitable year for Gravity Media, yet how to remain the future growth rate at the same level concerns the decision makers. “The thing is we started with almost nothing, it’ll be really hard to make our achievement at that level again,” says Tapie, “But we will continue being multicultural.”