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Moving to Multicultural

Jan 10, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Joi Tyrell, in October named co-director of Carat Multicultural, spent most of her career in general market agencies.
That changed when she interviewed for a job at SpikeDDB, the ad agency headed by filmmaker Spike Lee.
“I never knew much about the ethnic agencies,” she said. In fact, she was between jobs and took the interview to hone her job-seeking skills, but did everything wrong.
“I went to the gym that morning, so I walked in with my gym bag, and I got coffee from the vendor on the street, so I walked in with my coffee cup.” But five minutes into the interview with Dana Wade, the agency’s president, Ms. Tyrell realized she wanted to work there.
“I loved the energy and I love representing this market in a positive way,” Ms. Tyrell said.
At Spike, Ms. Tyrell worked on the State Farm account, making the insurer one of the first sponsors on TV One and the Black Family Channel. She also worked on the Doritos brand, forging a deal that involved Vibe magazine, its award show, its syndicated show and local events including a concert tour starring Chris Brown, now one of R&B’s biggest acts.
“One of his first tours was our Doritos tour,” she said.
When people find out she worked at SpikeDDB, she says she’s often asked how involved Mr. Lee was in the business.
“Spike is a brilliant guy and a quick study and he is the creative vision for the agency. There’s a pretty dynamic creative team that handles the day-to-day, but everything gets cleared through Spike,” she said.
Mr. Lee even gets into details on media plans, which he would ask questions about from time to time.
“He’s a guy who cares that his name is on the door,” she said.
In some ways, multicultural media planning isn’t so different from general market media planning, Ms. Tyrell said. While the platforms change, metrics such as audience measurement and effectiveness remain the same.
“I think a lot of media is still an art and that is what people who are passionate about multicultural bring to the table,” she said. “It’s deeper than the numbers. It’s about cultural relevancy. It’s about what the right thing is for the market. It’s about different nuances within the market or trends to tap into. A general market team doesn’t necessarily have those sensitivities or that knowledge.”
Ms. Tyrell was brought into Carat because her predecessor, Lisa Contreras-Torres, left for MPG in April. Ms. Tyrell has tried to hit the ground running. She’s done some client work, but most of her activity has been in new business and internal fact-finding to see if there are different “multicultural touch points” that Carat can tap into for clients, she said.
A native New Yorker, Ms. Tyrell remembers being the kind of kid who knew every commercial jingle on television. That made her want to get into advertising. Her dad did marketing for the music business, and her sister followed him into that business.
After graduating from Barnard College, she answered an ad in the New York Times for a receptionist trainee at an ad agency, the Chester Gore Company. The job paid $180 a week, which seemed like a lot of money at the time.
One day at the agency, Mr. Gore said to her, “Hey kid, do you want to work in my media department?” Ms. Tyrell’s response?
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK.’ I discovered media and I worked my way out.”
She moved to Grey Advertising, then to the in-house buying operation for Seagram. When that closed, she followed the Captain Morgan Spiced Rum account to Saatchi & Saatchi. And when that media department was merged into Zenith, she moved to the agency handling the Rums of Puerto Rico account, Marti Flores Prieto & Wachtel. It was when the Puerto Rican government moved the business to Puerto Rico that she went looking for a job and found SpikeDDB and multicultural marketing. “It was like a new career for me,” she said. “There are still things for me to learn and there’s still things that give me little butterflies in my tummy.”
Ms. Tyrell, who is single, is a rabid music fan. She is addicted to her iPod, which contains an eclectic mix that includes jazz, blues, opera and hip hop.
Who Knew:
Ms. Tyrell is a brown belt in Muy Thai, traditional Thai kickboxing. “A friend came to visit from Florida and she had a sleeveless dress on. She said she was taking karate and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to take karate. I want arms like that.” She hopes to earn a black belt soon.
This article is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

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