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Female Disruptors: “How Lisette Arsuaga is helping to make the media more diverse and representative of the US population”

…Pride — as a blue-eyed blonde Hispanic woman from Puerto Rico, I can “pass” in White American. No accent, no discernable “Latina” characteristic. As a child, PRIDE in who I was and where I came from was drilled into me. My roots, my family, my heritage. My career has been about the growth, wellbeing and maximization of the Hispanic market.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisette Arsuaga, Co-President of Dávila Multicultural Insights (DMI), founded in partnership with Gilbert Dávila in 2010. In her role, Lisette provides strategic guidance for companies like McDonald’s, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg, Coca Cola, Aetna, Ulta and others. Lisette is also the co-founder for the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), bringing together nearly 90 corporations, agencies, media/research companies and trade organizations to address challenges in the Multicultural media, advertising and marketing space today. The representation of Latinos is forefront in her work. Prior to DMI, Lisette headed strategy, communications and venture philanthropy efforts for companies and national organizations. She created strategic alliances and programs with media/communication companies (i.e. Harpo, Univision, Time Inc., Warner Bros.), government entities (FBI, ICE, LA City, NYC) and celebrities to effectively reach multicultural groups in a relevant way. She developed bilingual campaigns, tailored experiential programs designed to effectively target acculturated and non-acculturated Latinos.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Lisette! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career started in the Hispanic market with Univision and Telemundo. That shaped the lens through which I’d view all my work moving forward — even when it centered on the general market. My strategies were always inclusive and considered all perspectives and demographics. In 2009, just before the results of the release of the U.S. Census, a number of entities approached me — they realized the exponential growth opportunity represented by the exploding diverse segments in the U.S. Alongside my husband and business partner, we opened a business specializing in connecting with ALL segments. That was 10 years ago — and the ride has been incredible.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Until recently, “general market” efforts meant targeting white non-Hispanic consumers — all other population segments (it was thought) would be swept up in the halo effect around this reach. This meant growing and important audiences were invisible — not seen in casting, in representation, or even employment consideration. Given the explosive growth of these segments today, marketers can no longer afford to ignore them. It’s time to #SeeALL.

With AIMM (Alliance for Multicultural and Inclusive Marketing), we build that voice — though data, new metrics and alliances that did not exist before representing Hispanic, African-American, Asian, LGBTQ and People with Disabilities. We help shift the thinking to a more inclusive approach.

Most recently, we took over NYC’s Times Square on September 23, the first day of Advertising Week, and launched the #SeeALL campaign. In addition, our Open Letter in the New York Times signed by 48 of America’s top CMOs put a stake in the ground.

Today, C-Suites are beginning to take notice and to reprioritize groups that were once invisible or less important to them.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

While it may sound hokey, I must say my greatest mentor is my business partner and husband. We approach things differently and are deft at different things, which makes us good business partners. From him I have learned diplomacy, eloquence, and how he makes connections outside of work with employees, clients and others. He has never met a stranger; is able to deliver bad news to a colleague who ends up thanking him. I’ve learned that these qualities are as important to business success as building a strong strategy, or sitting in front of a computer for hours without end because the work seems to never end. I’ve also learned that taking a step back sometimes gets you further than two steps forward.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Determination — Know in your soul what you are doing is the right thing to do even (and almost more importantly) when facing naysayers. Our work with AIMM is a perfect example. We were told Multicultural is dead. It’s now more important than ever.

Pride — as a blue-eyed blonde Hispanic woman from Puerto Rico, I can “pass” in White American. No accent, no discernable “Latina” characteristic. As a child, PRIDE in who I was and where I came from was drilled into me. My roots, my family, my heritage. My career has been about the growth, wellbeing and maximization of the Hispanic market.

Self-Assurance — To leaving the stability of a 9–5 job and open a new business is never an easy decision– especially when made alongside your husband and soon-to-be business partner. After 20 years on the corporate side when we decided to take the leap, starting the company from our home office. We believed that our experiences, knowledge, drive and commitment to the prioritization of diverse segments was a journey we were excited and committed to embark on next. The 2010 census gave us the ammunition we needed to speak to executives and encourage them to think of their work differently than they had before. For the last 10 years we have been fortunate to work with America’s top companies to redesign how they think about, see and approach diverse audiences. It all started by simply believing in ourselves.

How are you going to shake things up next?

The #SeeALL movement has just begun. Like all good movements we’ve turned it over to our 200+ members to carry forward while we shepherd it. We are building from B2B and into employee resource groups and communities. To this end, I am addressing United Nations later this month about #SeeALL and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas about the upcoming Census.

We are taking AIMM’s message global in 2020 with an engaging presence at the Cannes Lions Festival. This is only the beginning.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I read the Steve Jobs bio when it debuted. It had a profound effect on me — and in many ways he personified the 3 words we discussed: determined to shake things up; proud of what Apple stood for; and self-assured (bordering on arrogance). But he put the customer experience first and as a result he was a visionary and a real leader. His employees were often surprised at what they were able to achieve as his expectations surpassed even their own. He raised the bar for others — and elevated the technology industry to a new level. After reading the book, I found myself defying my own limits and boundaries, raising my expectations and settling for nothing less than the best I could deliver.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

You know, I’m fortunate to say that I am part of a team already launching a movement to do just that! #SeeALL is a movement demanding that the brand advertising and programming we see accurately reflects all consumers. Not in casting alone, but in culturally relevant ways. We’ve already proven to brands that this approach works with our CIIM — the Cultural Insights Impact Measure — a new algorithm we created in partnership with NBCU, that measures the impact of cultural insights in ads and programming. High CIIM scoring ads show 259% increase in brand relevance; a 228% increase in Word of Mouth and a 276% jump in purchase intent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente”. Which roughly translated means… “A shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.” Ideally, it means something to me because the time is now to act, make decisions, grow a business and affect change. We will never regret working hard to get things done but we will regret the missed opportunities we didn’t take advantage of throughout our journey.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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