UNT Students Working to Diversify Advertising and TV - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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UNT Students Working to Diversify Advertising and TV

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    At the University of North Texas, multicultural students are bringing their voices to media and advertising, to turn out content that looks and feels like them. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016)

    All this week, NBC 5 is sharing stories about diversity in North Texas, in our series Different Shades of Texas. In this piece, we take a look at how that diversity is represented in media and advertising.

    At the University of North Texas, multicultural students are bringing their voices to the table, to turn out content that looks and feels like them.

    It starts with an idea – 30 seconds to capture a feeling and sell it.

    "I think that a huge power of advertising is to be honest and show the public how things are happening," said UNT senior Anila Ademi.

    That can sometimes be controversial.

    You may remember the 2013 Cheerios campaign that sparked initial backlash against the biracial family it depicted, followed quickly by an outpouring of support.

    UNT senior Monica Fernandez is biracial Latina and white. She says the media can't back away from representing everyone.

    "Seeing someone of my color on TV or in magazines and seeing the target audience look like me, it encourages, I guess it makes me feel incorporated into the community," said Fernandez. "I don't feel like an outsider."

    Professor Sheri Broyles often hones in on diversity in her advertising classes.

    "The advertising industry knows that we're not as diverse as we should be," Broyles said. "Who is in the room makes a difference, whose voice you're hearing."

    UNT is one place working to draw in those different voices. The student body is 47-percent multicultural and the School of Journalism, Advertising and PR has now tipped to 53-percent multicultural.

    For some students, campus is their first real exposure to people from different walks of life.

    Graduate student Brian Anthone grew up in Amarillo.

    "It wasn't exactly a largely diverse town," said Anthone.

    So he looked for community in what he saw in TV, movies and commercials.

    "As a kid, I was a huge Star Wars fan, so Lando was who I gravitated towards," said Anthone. "There is something to be said about seeing people who look like you in the media."

    But those representations also have to ring true.

    "There are still plenty of shows that have the token 'sassy black friend,' the token 'funny fat friend,'" said Ademi, who came to the U.S. as a child as a refugee from Kosovo.

    "That's something I'd want to work through with advertising, is to be able to show that just because a person's not exactly like you are doesn't mean that they're any less of a person," Ademi said.

    All the students with whom NBC 5 spoke believe that comes by diversifying the entire industry through race and gender, looking at who's writing and producing content, not just on camera.

    "Whenever you do that, you kind of get a broader worldview and a broader perspective," said Anthone.

    They are using media to sell a bigger message.

    "Being comfortable and confident in who you are, versus not fitting that typical image," said UNT junior Francisco Martinez.

    It's a message of acceptance, in a quickly-changing community.

    UNT also helps place students in new jobs to promote diversity. The school just sent a group of students to New York for the Multicultural Talent Pipeline Forum, which is working to diversify media and advertising agencies.

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