Gadsby’s Star Keeps Rising

Mar 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Monica Gadsby seems surprised at how much things have changed since she was asked to provide clients with insight into Hispanic consumers 20 years ago.
This month, Ms. Gadsby was named head of SMG Multicultural, a unit that oversees multicultural communications at Starcom MediaVest Group. SMG Multicultural consists of a new division, Forty Two Degrees, which will work with MediaVest clients; Tapestry, which will concentrate on Starcom clients; and a multicultural division within GM Planworks.
SMG’s philosophy is to have multicultural specialists working side-by-side with the agency’s general-market experts to deliver a total market picture inclusive of a multicultural point of view.
“In order to be true to that model and truly offer it to all of our clients, we must have two brands that are fully embedded with Starcom and MediaVest, respectively,” Ms. Gadsby said.
Twenty years ago, when she was a founding member of Leo Burnett’s Hispanic media unit, it had one client: Procter & Gamble.
“As corny as it sounds, little did I know back then that if you fast-forward 20 years, we would have such a great level of success,” she said.
Ms. Gadsby was something of a citizen of the world growing up. She was born in Brazil and grew up in Brussels. When she was 18, the Belgian company where her father worked asked him to head up its U.S. operations in Houston; Ms. Gadsby wound up at the University of Texas, where some cultural adjustments were necessary.
“My first week on campus going through orientation, I met with my counselor and they gave me my course schedule with the 120 credits I needed to graduate,” she recalled. European schools don’t use a credit-based system, so Ms. Gadsby was confused: She thought she needed to complete all 120 credits in that first semester. “I just remember calling home in tears, telling my parents that there was absolutely no way I could manage that. I felt totally lost, and it was just very comical, because it took a second meeting with my adviser to explain to me that 15 credits at the most would be sufficient for one semester.”
At Texas she discovered the marking communication department, found that interesting and wound up with advertising as one of her majors.
When Leo Burnett came recruiting on campus, she landed a job as a planner on the P&G team. “As I was learning the ropes and going through the training program, it became apparent I might be able to help the company get a better understanding of the cultural nuances and the language nuances of Hispanic marketing,” she said.
The agency had success in the Hispanic market, but “we were not doing justice to the other segments of the multicultural market,” she said. In 1999 Leo Burnett expanded its multicultural efforts to include African American, Asian American and other ethnicities under the Tapestry umbrella.
“While it was somewhat revolutionary back then, certainly today part of what has fueled our growth and continues to fuel our growth is the belief there is no such thing as general-market any more,” said Ms. Gadsby.
“You’re not really doing justice to the true consumer landscape” if you don’t include all segments.
Ms. Gadsby met her husband in her Burnett training program. He’s since left advertising to do computer animation. “He happens to be British Canadian, so we have a very fun family with a Latin side and the British. It all adds to the multicultural flavor,” she said.
They have three kids, age 14, 12 and 5, and enjoy traveling internationally. “My 5-year-old has already been to many European countries, to Japan and South America,” she said.
She also stays busy keeping up with her kids’ activities-driving them to soccer and volleyball practices, dance classes and recitals.
Who Knew: When she started college, Ms. Gadsby thought she would be a professor.
“I thought my real calling was in the study of Latin and Greek literature,” she said. “The minute we relocated to America, the capitalist society very quickly got the best of me and I realized I needed to actually look for something that not only had my interest but that could hopefully be a little more financially rewarding.”


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