Native American Heritage Month? A POV by Michael Gray, President/CD, G&G
As we leave November behind, we look back on the celebrations held during Native American Heritage Month. The celebrations of America’s First People, Native Americans. November was also an election time in America and we saw some very unique successes and challenges in 2018. Two states sent the first Native American women to Congress. Another elected its first Native American lieutenant governor. A Navajo candidate won a pivotal county race in an area long dominated by a white minority. We also witnessed the challenge of voter registration as Native Americans living in North Dakota were not qualified to vote due to where they lived, on Reservations. Like the elections many changes have happened in the last several years in what we call “Indian Country”. The Native American population has been growing at a rapid pace; according to the US Census there are over 6.4 million. Native American buying power has increased 164% since 2000, according to a 2016 study by the University of Georgia. It’s these things that have caused a shift in the way we need to look at this population.
Here to help those understand the Native American market is G&G. G&G became the first Native American owned and operated agency in 1995. In 1995 founder of G&G, Michael Gray was the marketing director at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), where he met David Kennedy of ad agency Wieden+Kennedy. You know their work. Nike has always been a client. Both Kennedy and Gray had been working together for the American Indian College Fund, doing various creative projects to raise awareness about the College Fund. During that time IAIA happened to lose most of their congressional funding so Gray learned what RIF (reduction in force) meant. As one door was closing another opened. At the time of IAIA reducing their staff, David told Michael, “I know of Hispanic, African American, Asian agencies, but really never heard of an American Indian ad agency.” No pun intended, David said “just do it.” He said that Michael was young enough that if it fails, go and get a job, but he didn’t see it failing.
Over the years G&G has come to the realization that what we really do is tell stories. The stories are of organizations, businesses, and individuals who are doing great things and want to share their stories with others. The stories evolved and grew from simple ideas, complex histories, large and small communities, great causes and the will to change things for the better.
Because of who G&G is and their in-depth experience working for and with Native communities, organizations, non-Native organizations and businesses, there is no agency that has worked as extensively in this area as G&G. From a small village in Alaska to large Native communities in the Southwest and everything in between, including the Hawaiian Islands, G&G has been fortunate to help clients navigate Indian Country. G&G understands that everyone has a voice and a seat at the table. G&G respects that everyone comes to share their story no matter the resources being many or few. G&G sees it as their job, together with their clients, to make those touched proud, stakeholders reaffirmed, staff to feel good, and to reach others, with a sense of education, knowledge and respect.
G&G provides formative research, evidence-based strategy development, campaign development, and marketing/communications services. We work locally, regionally and nationally. Services include marketing, web development, digital, research, media buying, placement, tracking, creative management, events and public relations.
G&G developed the first and only DMA (Designated Marketing Area) for American Indians/Alaska Natives. G&G sample client list includes; US Census Bureau, 2000/2010/2020 Census, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Center for Disease Control, Small Business Administration, The Ad Council, Food and Drug Administration, Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola Fountain, American Indian College Fund, National Museum of the American Indian, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, Isleta Pueblo Casino, Santa Anna Pueblo Casino, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial and Montana State Tourism.