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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 10, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 34
Ethnic-Marketing Class Strategizes for 2004 Campaign

Guest critic Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli, director of specialty media for the Democratic National Committee, with Adam Segal, who developed and teaches Ethnic Marketing and Political Communication.

By Jessica Valdez
Special to The Gazette

As one of the nation's leading authorities on Hispanic voting, faculty lecturer Adam J. Segal is sharing his expertise with master's degree students enrolled in the Communication in Contemporary Society program, part of the Krieger School's Advanced Academic Programs based at Johns Hopkins' Washington Center.

As part of Ethnic Marketing and Political Communication, a course he developed and introduced this semester, Segal recently transformed 18 students into political consultants and advertising executives for a day--and brought in actual 2004 presidential campaign advisers to evaluate the students' simulated campaign communications plans.

Framed by blue and red balloons and patriotic bunting, two student teams of consultants--one representing President George W. Bush and the other, presumptive presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry--laid out detailed marketing strategies aimed at Hispanic voters across the nation. Powerpoint presentations and story boards helped each team make its case that its project offered the client a winning strategy.

"A lot of Hispanics don't know who [Kerry] is," said student Celinda Gonzalez, a Mexican-American who made the case on the Kerry team that the campaign needed to focus on introducing the candidate to Hispanic voters.

The presentations were the culmination of the 14-week course. During the semester Segal had brought in marketing and advertising experts to talk about ethnic-marketing strategies for utilizing television, radio, print publications, the Internet and events with specific attention to the three top targets of ethnic-marketing campaigns: Hispanic, African and Asian Americans.

A sign created by the class's Bush team.

The guest speakers included David Wellisch, vice president and executive director of AOL Latino; Kelli Richardson Lawson, executive vice president of marketing and communications at Black Entertainment Television; Jennifer Ahn from Image Media Services, an Asian-owned agency; and Joseph Matos, creative director of ZGS Communications, a Hispanic agency.

"That's exactly the kind of engaging sessions students are looking for: to bring real world experiences, real industry experiences into the classroom," he said. "I want my students to understand that with more skills and experience they are just a step or two away from a successful career in the same fields as our guest speakers."

Students gained knowledge of the many layers of ethnic media in the United States and learned about strategies for helping corporations, government agencies and even politicians effectively reach ethnic communities. Segal devoted entire class sessions to ethnic magazines--there are hundreds--and ethnic television networks or stations like Univision, Telemundo and BET, to name a few.

As founder of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins, a nonpartisan research effort that grew out of his master's thesis in Hopkins' government program at the Washington Center, Segal has brought attention to a growing but often disregarded subject: minority voting.

J. Gabriel Rendon

"He's somebody who has taken a lot of time to learn about the Hispanic community," said Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli, director of specialty media for the Democratic National Committee. "Though he's not Hispanic, he gets it. He understands the importance of marketing to the Hispanic community."

Said student Stefannie Bernstein, "The amount of knowledge he has made this class so valuable."

In his class, Segal sought to integrate ethnic marketing with political communications in an academic package not often available at other institutions.

"Is there a need? Absolutely," said Rodriguez-Ciampoli, who said she found a lack of such programs when she first came to Washington. "Ethnic marketing is becoming increasingly important, even at the corporate level."

Peter Decherney, associate chair of the Communication in Contemporary Society Program, said, "It's an increasingly important subset [of marketing]. And you wouldn't find many [of these courses] around the country."

The class brought real-world applications to the classroom and also fostered the development of professional contacts for students, as some of the speakers made themselves available after class. One student, in fact, said she is currently in communication with a speaker about a possible position.

"From the students' perspective, it was also an unexpected opportunity to make some career contacts beyond gaining some career skills," said Segal, a media consultant who has recruited two of his students from this semester for a new Spanish-language media monitoring project.

One goal of the course, Segal said, was for students to understand the growing importance of the minority vote and effective communications strategies that can be used to reach them.

"Even for students who didn't understand the strength of minority voting coalitions before the class, they walked away with a keen interest in the issue and a knowledge of many of the steps that are necessary to take in order to increase minority turnout," he said.

Celinda Gonzalez

The class's final project--simulated ethnic marketing strategies for the political campaigns--allowed students to become marketing professionals for a day in front of experienced campaign advisers, such as Rodriguez-Ciampoli. Sharon Castillo, director of specialty media for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, and Raul Damas, director of Hispanic grassroots development for the Republican National Committee, also joined the final class session and critiqued the team presentations.

"What they did was what a campaign would do when they're hiring an outside consultant who would present them with a complete package," Rodriguez-Ciampoli said. "And I think both teams were very professional."

But more than anything, Segal's passion for ethnic marketing defined the class and engaged the students. He is an avid consumer of news and advertising related to multicultural marketing campaigns and said he finds that mainstream media is reporting on the topic more frequently each year.

"It adds value to the entire master's degree process whenever a faculty member is able to bring their own research and their own passion about a topic into the classroom and personalize it in a way that they can get students excited," Segal said.

Jessica Valdez is an intern in the Office of News and Information.


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