Esther “E.T.” Franklin has changed the way the advertising industry looks at multiculturalism. By encouraging marketers to take what she calls an “inside out” perspective, she’s helped iconic brands understand cultural identities and media consumption habits of local and global audiences.
As EVP, Managing Director of Strategy and Cultural Fluency at Spark Foundry, Esther develops and drives the agency’s strategic vision in the marketplace and within its own agency’s walls. With her pulse on what’s next and the ability to synthesize trends, Esther leads her team in the ideation and execution of cutting-edge approaches that deepen relationships between brands and high-growth, diverse audiences. As a result, clients do not merely respond to culture, they comfortably engage with it.
Before transitioning her expertise to Spark Foundry in 2016, Esther led the creative vision for Starcom Mediavest Group’s (SMG) Human Experience Strategy, and most recently, the multicultural division of Publicis Media. At SMG, her passion for culture and identity inspired the creation of Beyond Demographics, a proprietary research exploring the role of subculture in redefining communities—notably African-American, Latino, Asian-Amerian and LGBT—and guides clients to better engage with these audiences. Additionally, Esther pioneered Cultural Communication Anthropology, which explores cultural behaviors and communication consumption patterns to understand the impact on people’s adoption of brands, services, message engagement and content development. She also spearheaded the creation of Consumer Context Planning, which transformed SMG from media company to marketing partner with a stronger emphasis on emerging communication vehicles and human understanding.
Esther spent the early part of her career at Leo Burnett working on various Philip Morris brands as VP, planning director for Marlboro USA. She was instrumental in launching several corporate trend initiatives, including LeoShe, Foresight Matters and 20Twenty Vision, focused on the female consumer and twenty-something audience.
From being named an Advertising Age “Women to Watch” to receiving the “Changing the Game” honor from Advertising Women of New York (now She Runs It), Esther is celebrated industrywide for shifting the paradigm on how marketers view and communicate with consumers. Black Enterprise named Esther one of the Top Women Executives in Advertising & Marketing in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016, and in 2011, AdColor honored her with its “Legend Award.”
Esther is a board member of the Family Institute at Northwestern University and the Chicago Urban League. And was previously chair of The HistoryMakers National Advisory Board's Advertising/Marketing Committee.
A Chicago native, Esther received a bachelor of science in business administration from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and her master's of management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Business School.
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