Native-born Hawaiian. State champion for her girls’ wrestling team. Journalism and media studies student in Las Vegas. It wasn’t until Nikki Davis attended the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Conference in New York City in February that she grasped that sharing these and other experiences in her life could enhance her creative work.
A Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies student, Davis focuses on integrated marketing and communication. Last fall, she was selected as one of 50 of the Most Promising Multicultural Students of 2016. Those students come from 35 different schools and have an average GPA of 3.6. The conference focused on the importance of having employees from diverse cultures and backgrounds work at ad agencies.
“It helped me understand that just simply being me is what being diverse is all about,” Davis said. “I always shied away from expressing who I am, but didn't realize that by doing so I was actually hiding the unique and rich culture that I grew up with and I wasn’t sharing valuable insights about where I come from to help people understand.”
Davis attended the AAF conference to accept her award and to network with top ad agency executives and copywriters. (She met the brains behind Superbowl ads.)
We asked her to tell us more about the experience.
On the importance of diversity in advertising
Having people from different racial, cultural, or social backgrounds in the industry gives advertisers the ability to reach a wider audience. It is important to connect with people across cultures to understand certain norms. Diverse perspectives in an advertising agency help to ensure that the message you are trying to convey is not misinterpreted or offensive to the audience.
Being a native Hawaiian informs her creative work
Diversity isn’t about your skin color; it’s about bringing your ideas on life, how you were raised, and sharing those experiences with others.
Advertising doesn’t represent the way the world is today. The media struggles with an accurate representation of Hawaiians. When Hawaiians are portrayed, they are depicted as laid back or savages. They are a very strong culture and hardworking people. I hope to share my stories and make an impact — even if it’s a small one.
Lessons from the AAF conference
Advertising is about working under pressure and having a lot of eyes on you. I met recruiters and found out what inspired them. Advertising is 100 percent passion.
What drew her to advertising
I love producing something that could impact someone else’s life. You can always learn skills and programs, but loving what you do isn’t something people can teach.
How advertising is evolving to attract her generation
This generation is less persuaded to give into something quickly. Now, advertising campaigns are more genuine and have real-life stories to reach people. It’s creative storytelling or creative problem solving, which I love. Brands and companies use real-life issues to connect consumers to their brand. The companies aren’t outright saying, “buy our product” but they are becoming closer to consumers’ lives. There’s of course a bad side, and that’s capitalizing on things negatively to get someone’s attention.
Why the ad campaign Always Like A Girl resonates with her
I have always competed with boys (in wrestling when I was in high school, judo when I was in elementary and in high school, and when I used to train MMA at Wand Fight Team in Las Vegas during college) so I never saw myself as being less capable of doing something just because I was a girl. It just never crossed my mind.
But the fact that I grew up hearing phrases like the ones repeated in the Always Like A Girl commercial like "you throw like a girl" or "you run like a girl" surprised me since I never took offense to those statements or even noticed them as being derogatory to women even though that pretty much goes against everything that I represent. That campaign made me realize that people say stuff sometimes without even understanding the meaning behind it.
I was inspired by that campaign because it made me have a deep moment of self-realization and impacted others to do the same, no matter what age or gender they were, and that is rare.
Why she focused on the integrated marketing communication track in journalism
I found that it’s like a combination of psychology, business marketing, and journalism. I think it matches perfectly in the journalism department because as a journalist it is your job to be the “watchdog” for the people and integrated marketing communication kind of has the same effect. I think this form of “advertising” or messaging allows companies to be more intimate and genuine with their consumers.
Companies are not only trying sell product, but they are also bringing up issues people care about or using the advertising platform to deliver those messages. It’s about driving social change. That’s something really new and IMC is not focused solely on being money driven. Some companies are making a difference in the world and using their brand to reach the consumer.