The McCann Time Capsule: Shonda Rhimes’s First Job
Next Monday in New York, McCann will be hosting 120 best-in-class talent from the 4A's Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP), the industry's largest and longest-running national diversity internship program for entry-level talent. It’s a program McCann has participated in since 1985, having hired a total of 109 MAIP fellows, with more than 30 still working in the company.
McCann also deserves an asterisk when it comes to hiring a communications superstar within the general framework of diversity. McCann’s hiring of entry-level talent in 1991 included Shonda Rhimes, the broadcasting creative powerhouse whose ShondaLand TV production company is behind “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Rhimes has also been widely recognized for her contributions to TV programming diversity, including winning the Directors Guild of America’s Diversity Award a few years ago. Last year, in winning a Producers Guild Award for her pioneering work, she delivered a speech that has been widely quoted on the subject of diversity:
“It’s not trailblazing to write the world as it actually is,” she said. “Women are smart and strong. They are not sex toys or damsels in distress. People of color are not sassy or dangerous or wise. And, believe me, people of color are never anybody’s sidekick in real life.”
While Rhimes’s career is now filled with multiple major achievements, a standard line in all of her bios has to do with her first “lowly” job after graduating from Dartmouth in 1991. That first job was at McCann in California, as recounted in a “Hollywood Reporter” profile six years ago:
“She moved to San Francisco after graduation and landed in ‘very lowly’ positions at McCann Erickson. The advertising firm had recently won the Barbie account and asked employees to reflect on their childhood experiences with the doll.
"’I wrote about how, as a kid, I kept all my Barbie high heels inside the head of my Ken doll,’ Rhimes recalls. ‘They filmed a test commercial based on that copy. It was cool to see my words said out loud. I thought, 'I have a knack for this writing thing.' "
Upon discovering that “knack,” Rhimes, 22, then left McCann in San Francisco to attend the USC film school in Los Angeles. A quarter century later, she eponymously dominates a whole evening of primetime TV with ABC’s Thursday night ShondaLand lineup of shows.