ERG Spotlight: AZNCY

In honor of National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Leo Burnett’s ERG, AZNCY co-lead and VP Brand Strategy Director, Sapna Shah, shares her hopes in elevating AAPI representation, advocacy and what’s next for programming in bringing awareness to the inclusive group.

AZNCY is committed to harnessing the vitality of Leo Burnett’s diverse Asian diaspora – through fellowship, partnership, and mentorship – to increase awareness of and celebrate Asian experiences. In commemoration of AAPI Heritage Month, we spoke to group co-lead, Sapna Shah, who reflected on their programming and her inspiration behind the work:

1. What are the origins of AZNCY? How did this initiative arrive at Publicis Groupe?

Sapna: Anita Puri, formerly in Account Management at Leo Burnett, founded AZNCY. She was one of the very few Asian employees when she started, and that’s what inspired this wonderful ERG. Anita wanted to create a sense of community, a sense of belonging among other Asians who may not have felt a culturally-driven comradery at work otherwise.

2. What does AAPI representation in advertising and marketing mean to AZNCY? In what ways does this group support AAPI professionals throughout this month and throughout the year?

Sapna: AAPI representation in advertising means different things to different people. For me, it means being represented, not only by others who look like me, but by an agency that is dedicated to understanding the cultural nuances influencing different Asian consumers and in marketing communications that bring those nuances to life in culturally relevant ways.

Throughout the year, we hold events representing different Asian cultures with that goal in mind. We participate in events, such as the “Breaking Barriers Summit”, for our membership to listen to others and talk about how to grow and thrive in our industry. We are constantly finding ways to engage with our membership in ways that are impactful and relevant to realize our mission – ultimately creating and fostering our community.

3. From your perspective, what are some of the biggest challenges that the AAPI community encounter professionally?

Sapna: Again, everyone has their own perspective, but the challenge for me has been me; not wanting to rock the boat, my need to please people, backing down at the slightest hint of confrontation or a difference of opinion. I think that all comes with the package of being raised by immigrant parents who left everything behind and thought they had everything to lose if they spoke up and, God forbid, rubbed those in power the wrong way. But, eventually, your own set of experiences as a first-generation Asian and circumstances inform how you conduct yourself as an adult. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve learned that you must be true to yourself and stand up for whatever that means to you.

 4. What are a few of the partnerships for AZNCY this year? How do these partnerships impact the overall ERG mission?

Sapna: The most meaningful partnerships are with other Leo Burnett ERGs. Interacting with other communities, especially if one defines another aspect of you (e.g., WomanKind), is such a rich experience. It’s those partnerships I treasure most.

 5. What inspires you the most about AZNCY?

Sapna: How informed everyone is about why they are who they are as Asians and the constant questioning and challenging to do what’s needed to show up for oneself and for others. I also am inspired by how our Board shows up for one another everyday – the comradery, support, understanding and embrace!

6. What’s next for AZNCY programming?

Sapna: We’ve been busy this year to include Lunar New Year, Holi, and a social hour event with Tuan Huynh of VietFive. As summer rolls around and schedules get a bit unpredictable, the next big event will likely be Diwali. We’re hoping to bring it back as an in-person event so people can truly experience the beauty of the holiday.