Tuesday, July 14, 2020

15077: Ogilvy, WPP And Dove Think Black Is Real Beautiful…?!

The hypocrisy of this patronizing pap from Dove is compounded by being credited to Ogilvy in Canada—a White advertising firm in the WPP network, where agency and holding company leaders openly admit to failure with Black representation in their own ranks. Also, why is a Canadian shop pontificating on the needs of America? Canuck you.

Monday, July 13, 2020

15076: Mark Robinson Represents—Covering 40 Years In 50 Minutes.

The Advertising Age Ad Lib Podcast featured Mark Robinson—who believes he might be “the oldest living MAIP graduate still working in the advertising industry”—presenting an extraordinary perspective on being Black in adland. This is not surprising, as Robinson is an extraordinary person whose thoughtful perspectives have appeared in countless conversations on diversity over the years. The culturally competent will gain insight and inspiration, while the culturally clueless will undoubtedly find Robinson to be very articulate. Regardless, it’s 50 minutes well spent for everyone capable of listening.


In 40 Years Not Much Has Changed, Says Author Of ‘Black On Madison Avenue’


Ad exec recalls being called 'too white' for a job at a multicultural shop, and recounts being interviewed by Spike Lee's father-in-law and sued by Zsa Zsa Gabor


By Judann Pollack


“We don’t hire Negroes in account management. Our clients would simply not accept it.”


That was an actual encounter experienced by Mark Robinson, author of “Black on Madison Avenue,” who went on to have a successful 40-year career in account management at agencies including the now-defunct Lintas, Grey, Uniworld, Carol H. Williams and Spike/DDB. Robinson, a guest on this week’s Ad Lib Podcast, says he walked out of that interview at now-shuttered Dancer Fitzgerald Sample after being instead offered an entry-level job in the media department.


“I was surprised I had the courage to actually turn her down,” recalls Robinson, noting that his interviewer told him, “‘You’ll find the same answer wherever you go.’ That was very much the way it was back then.” 


But then and now aren’t all that different. Robinson says not enough has changed in the ensuing decades. “We have not made substantial progress,” especially when it comes to Black representation at mainstream agencies, he says. Places like “McCann, Y&R and BBDO have more or less the same number of minorities working for them as they did 20 or 30 years ago.”


But it wasn’t just at general market agencies that he encountered racial bias. Robinson, who is light-skinned, says that in his initial interview at Uniworld with a director of client services he was turned down because “you are really not Black enough.” Robinson says he was told, “‘You spent too long at general market agencies. You are going to come into Uniworld and want to do things the white agency way.’”


He stewed over this for a year before writing to the director of account services asking to be reconsidered. This time, he was met by Byron Lewis, the agency’s founder, who had the letter on his desk. Lewis told him he had fired the person who originally interviewed Robinson, and hired him that day. Of Uniworld, he says, “I loved going to work every single day, it was tremendously fulfilling. It gave me an understanding of what my place in the professional world was really about.” 


Robinson has some strong opinions on general agencies claiming to be able to do multicultural work. “I have not in my years in this business found a general-market agency that has done even a passable job at multicultural marketing. They could do it, but none have,” he says. “The condition is that you have to be committed, make a full-throttled commitment that this is what I do and invest in the business. I have not witnessed a general-market agency making that commitment. They do it as a diversion, a way to claw back dollars for their clients they lost to minority agencies, and they do it with a level of cynicism and disingenuousness.”


Very much a raconteur, Robinson also talks about riding in a car behind Ed Meyer on the New Jersey Turnpike as the Grey founder chucked pitch materials out of a limousine window; being interviewed for a job by Spike Lee’s father-in-law; and how he once got sued by Zsa Zsa Gabor for $4 million.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

15075: COVID-19 499. BLM 0.

The crappy, contrived, clich├ęd COVID-19 Themed Ads collection is nearing 500 entries. And there’s still no sign of a Black Lives Matter Themed Ads collection…

Saturday, July 11, 2020

15074: Granite Links Is Rocking With Whiteness.

This golf resort campaign really reflects the venue’s exclusivity—and doesn’t help golf’s biased reputation either.

Friday, July 10, 2020

15073: Blacks In Advertising Not As Poorly Represented As Blacks In Advertising Industry.

Adweek ran a story titled, “Here’s What 500 Black Americans Have to Say About Black Representation in Advertising,” spotlighting a survey whereby Blacks criticized the representation of Blacks in advertising campaigns. Um, there would be far more than 500 irate respondents if folks learned about Black representation in advertising agencies.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

15072: Overreaction Of The Week.

Why the sudden interest in removing and getting rid of Black mold?

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

15071: Black & White Animal Lives Matter.

Leave it to Argentina to hijack Black Lives Matter sentiments in the self-centered pursuit of awards.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

15070: Is Wieden + Kennedy Two-Faced With Facebook…?

AgencySpy posted on the patronizing paradox of Wieden+Kennedy taking a bold stand on Black Lives Matter (depicted above) until its client, Facebook, landed on the wrong side of the matter. Then again, it’s not the first time the White advertising agency has done the cultural cluelessness cha-cha-cha. After all, co-founder Dan Wieden declared the industry was fucked up in terms of diversity in 2009—and he even collected an ADCOLOR® trophy. Yet nearly a decade later, current W+K Co-President Colleen DeCourcy felt compelled to challenge everyone in the shop to do the right thing better. Plus, there was the art director who claimed to be among only two Black women in the creative ranks at the 600-person company. Hell, it’s not even the first time W+K has been criticized for hypocrisy involving Black Lives Matter. It appears to be another classic case of talking the talk—and marching the march—without walking the walk. The official W+K statement expressed that publicly speaking about Facebook would be “unhelpful” and “unprofessional.” Okay, but doesn’t integrity integrate into the equality equation?


W+K Says It Would Be ‘Unprofessional’ to Weigh In on Industry Backlash Against Client Facebook


By David Griner


On June 17, Wieden + Kennedy released a statement not only in support of Black Lives Matter but also putting clients or potential clients on notice.


“If you do not support this sentiment as a client, we’ll gladly support you finding another agency,” W+K wrote in an animated post on Instagram.


The statement was bold, but the timing proved somewhat awkward. On the same day, six advocacy groups (including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League) launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign urging advertisers to boycott Facebook—a major W+K client—in July.


That effort, aimed at getting Facebook to curb the spread of hate speech and misinformation on its platforms, has since snowballed into one of the industry’s largest boycotts ever.


Some of the world’s largest advertisers, including W+K clients Ford and Coca-Cola, have joined the effort, which comes after weeks of scrutiny over Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s reluctance to fact-check political advertising or flag incendiary posts by President Donald Trump.


(For a relatively quick and easy refresher on how this boycott came together, you can check out Adweek’s newest bonus podcast episode with reporter Scott Nover, who’s been covering the story’s rapid development.)


Like most agencies, W+K has remained quiet on the boycott despite the movement’s clear traction with brands and equality advocates who normally find themselves marching alongside the outspoken agency.


But W+K isn’t like most agencies. It’s proudly independent (unlike the rest of the Facebook agency roster, including Accenture Interactive’s Droga5, Omnicom’s BBDO, Publicis’ Leo Burnett and WPP’s Ogilvy) and famously vocal on social issues—especially around race in America.


So, after saying it would drop clients who don’t support the “sentiment” of Black Lives Matter, will W+K stand by Facebook amid criticism of the network from much of the brand community and groups such as the NAACP?


Today, the agency sent Adweek an official statement, or rather an official statement declining to make a statement:


“There is no debate on the fact that Black Lives Matter to us. We felt it was important as an agency to make that statement public,” W+K agency leadership wrote. “That said, speaking publicly about the challenges our client faces right now is not only unhelpful; it’s unprofessional. Suffice it to say, the intense conversations taking place at Menlo Park are taking place at Wieden + Kennedy.


So there you go. Doesn’t sound like we can expect a high-profile client breakup any time soon, despite the agency’s tough talk on Instagram.

Monday, July 06, 2020

15069: How Things Have Changed—And Not Changed—In Advertising.

Jim Glover takes a break from writing fiction about the advertising industry to non-fiction by asking, “How did Blacks get into advertising anyway?” The insightful perspective and retrospective also begs the question, “How did Blacks get out of advertising anyway?”

Sunday, July 05, 2020

15068: Happy Belated Fourth Of July!

15067: The Breast Man For The Job…?

Job sites really need to adjust and refine the search algorithms. Then again, maybe this result for a ‘creative director’ role is actually targeting candidates like former McCann Health CCO Jeremy Perrott.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

15066: A Retrospective Recital On The Fourth Of July.

James Earl Jones reads Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Friday, July 03, 2020

15065: Raise Periscope, Abandon Ship, Extend Holiday Weekend.

Advertising Age reported on a walk-off by the entire staff of Minneapolis-based Periscope, who were protesting after parent company Quad/Graphics failed to fully support the employees’ racial injustice initiatives, even preventing the use of the term “Black Lives Matter” in statements and posts. The protest included Periscope staffers drafting a “Declaration of Independence,” which ultimately led to a public apology from Quad/Graphics. The staffers intend to return to work on Monday. If Quad is sincerely sorry, they’ll pay the employees for the time off—and view it as an extended holiday break. Hey, it’s a lot less cash than what Publicis Groupe is coughing up for its admission of cultural cluelessness and diversity dumbness.


Periscope’s Entire Agency Walks Off, Forcing Apology From Parent Company Quad


By Ann-Christine Diaz


After more than a dozen employees at Minneapolis-based Periscope walked off yesterday to protest parent company Quad/Graphics’ response to its efforts to address the country’s current racial strife, the rest of the agency has joined them.


Today, Periscope released a “Declaration of Independence” which announces that the remaining members of the agency are “walking off in solidarity,” as “we no longer have confidence in our interim President’s ability to lead our agency and represent our values.”


The interim president referred to in the statement is Eric Ashworth, Quad exec VP-product and market strategy, and president of agency solutions. He stepped in after the former President Liz Ross departed the agency in January. 


Periscope employees say Quad/Graphics, including Ashworth and CEO Joel Quadracci, made repeated attempts to undermine the agency’s racial injustice initiatives, including preventing the company from using the term “Black Lives Matter” in any of its statements and barring them from supporting and sharing posts of any company that uses that term.


“As an agency, we have prided ourselves on our fierce independence,” the statement (reprinted in full below) continues. “Since our acquisition, we have lost that independence. Today, we are reclaiming it.”


The statement ends with the words that until now, the agency could not publicly use: “Black Lives Matter.”


Sussex, Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics announced in late 2018 it would be acquiring Periscope for $132 million as part of its attempt to broaden its marketing capabilities after building a name in the printing industry. The deal was finalized in January 2019. This year Quad ranked No. 16 on Ad Age’s list of World’s Largest Agency Companies and No. 21 on its list of World’s Largest Consolidated Agency Networks. 


According to Periscope Group Strategy Director and 600&Rising President Nathan Young, one of the staffers who walked out yesterday, the agency had an all-hands meeting last night that lasted for about three hours. At the beginning of the meeting, Quad CEO Joel Quadracci addressed the group and gave what Young says was a very “corporate non-apology. He apologized for things nobody was looking for an apology for—'I’m sorry that we couldn’t move faster. I’m sorry we didn’t do enough and 13 of your employees felt they needed to walk off.’”


Young says he confronted him directly before the group about a previous hour-plus conversation they had and said, “I told you how hurtful it was to your employees of color that you took this stance, and for me personally as a Black man—that I had to delete ‘Black Lives Matter’ from something that I made. It does not hold water that it would take you this long to respond to this issue when one of your employees told you that to your face.”


After Quadracci signed off, Young says the entire agency remained on the call until well after midnight, during which they all came to the decision about the walk off and drafted their statement. 


“What happened last night was the most impactful thing I’ve done in my first days here,” he says. Young joined the agency in March as part of Periscope’s leadership overhaul designed to “provide marketers with a preferred alternative to the agency model.”


“I think we found our sense of purpose again and when we all return to work, we will be on a mission to do better, more impactful and bold work,” Young says. “A fire has been lit underneath us and we are going to see a difference in terms of the work we put out, the clients we select and our commitment to the values we hold dear.”


Periscope agency leadership added in a separate statement that “we are supportive of these employees and their desired outcome. The reasons behind their actions reflect our beliefs and culture at Periscope.” While the walk-offs may cause “disruption in our work, we believe the day is necessary for us to reaffirm our values and our commitment to real change—not only for ourselves but for our wider community,” the statement continued.  


“As a white leader a creative leader, it was a little scary what Nathan and the others were bringing but it’s the time to say yes right now and time to listen,” says Periscope Chief Creative Officer Peter Nicholson. “Part of the issue for us has been speed—how fast are you willing to do things, to commit, and Nathan’s inherent character is to go fast. That’s why he is able to make impact so quickly.”


The agency will return to work on Monday, when a new president, Cari Bucci Hulings officially starts her role. She previously served as president of MARC USA. “Many of us have spoken with Cari and are confident she’s going to stand behind what we said and lead us through this transformation,” Young says. 


Following the release of the Independence statement this morning, Quad/Graphics came out with a response to the recent events.


“Our integrated marketing agency Periscope in Minneapolis has witnessed first-hand the nation’s reawakening to persistent, systemic racism,” said Quadracci in the statement. “In recent days, our Periscope colleagues have made it clear that we, as a company, failed to act with the urgency, transparency and sensitivity required on this important social issue, and we agree. Quad can and will do better as we move forward on this journey together. Unfortunately, we were slow to communicate our position so, today, I want to unequivocally confirm that Black Lives Matter and apologize for any pain I may have caused our employees, clients and others for not explicitly stating this fact sooner. I am sorry.”


Quadracci also said that the company will be addressing the demands laid out by Periscope employees yesterday and will “support Periscope’s desire for freedom of expression, release Periscope’s full and accurate diversity data, and mandate diversity and inclusion training for all Quad leaders and managers.” He added the training will extend to all employees.


The company also stated it is re-issuing Periscope’s diversity data with additional details as the staffers requested yesterday. “Originally, we released data on the 1,100 employees who comprise our Agency Solutions group of which Periscope is an integral part,” Quadracci said. “However, as requested, we provided a breakout specific to Periscope. We respect the criticism and are responding to it.”


“I know not everybody will see it this way, but I think Quad is listening and acting,” Nicholson says. As agency leaders, “it’s our responsibility, and we’ve failed a little bit over the last few days to protect Periscope and remind Quad what makes it special here, what needs to be done. I think we’ve taken that to heart and can now move forward.”


See Periscope's full statement below.


Declaration of Independence 


For four weeks, the leadership at Quad has prevented Periscope leadership and staff from expressing our beliefs as an agency and taking the urgent action necessary to address systemic racism.  


On June 4th, [Quad/Graphics president and CEO] Joel Quadracci issued a video statement saying that the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests were a “wake-up” call, and that “It’s not going to get better until people like me, in my position, who think we do a lot to address the issue understand that a lot is not enough.” He pledged to do more and do better. Days later, he struck the words Black Lives Matter from a statement drafted by Periscope for release.  


We do not know why the leadership at Quad took the position that we could not post the words Black Lives Matter. We heard that it was because Black Lives Matter is too closely associated with defunding the police, and that making that statement is derogatory to law enforcement officers. We disagree. We heard that it was because Quad is a publicly traded company, and that they cannot make political statements. We disagree and so do hundreds of other publicly traded companies.  


Black Lives Matter is not a political statement—it is a fact. And to deny that basic fact, for any reason, is not just wrongheaded, it is morally reprehensible.  


Yesterday, 13 of our staff walked off in protest to stand for what they believe in. Today, the rest of the agency is walking off in solidarity with them, as we no longer have confidence in our interim President’s ability to lead our agency and represent our values. 


As an agency, we have prided ourselves on our fierce independence. Since our acquisition, we have lost that independence. Today, we are reclaiming it. 


We will never again compromise our values as an agency to make our parent company feel comfortable. Their actions and inaction have had an irreversible impact on our colleagues of color and we regret that we did not take stronger action sooner to right this wrong. 


On Monday, our new President Cari Bucci Hulings will take on the unenviable position of leading an agency that is deeply wounded and mistrustful of the management decisions of our parent company. She has the full support of all Periscope employees including the 13 who walked off yesterday. We are hopeful that Monday will mark a new chapter for Periscope: one where we move past doing things people love and start doing better. 


Black lives matter. 


Thursday, July 02, 2020

15064: Publicis Groupe Proposes $50 Million Diversity Fix…?

Advertising Age reported Publicis Groupe Chairman and CEO Arthur Sadoun addressed the White holding company’s true—and truly pathetic—U.S. diversity data exposed via a leaked memo. Additionally, Sadoun announced seven action plans for progress and pledged $50 million over three years to fund diversity, inclusion and social justice activities. Videotaping the presentation with Maurice Levy would have been more appropriate—two Old White Guys without a single cultural clue between them. In case anyone views the $50 million figure as generous, it might help to put things into perspective. To gain digital credibility, for example, Publicis Groupe spent $3.7 billion on Sapient, probably recording the acquisition of India-based employees as a diversity coup. To build AI doodad Marcel, Publicis Groupe allegedly coughed up $30 million. Somebody should demand a line item invoice to show how the money will be allocated—for starters, how will contributing to “social justice” initiatives actually improve minority representation in the company’s offices? Does the $50 million essentially constitute the Chief Diversity Officer’s 3-year operating budget? Please display the diversity vs. divertsity breakdowns. Sorry, there are millions of questions to answer with this latest PR stunt.


Arthur Sadoun reveals Publicis Groupe's U.S. diversity makeup in leaked memo.


By Lindsay Rittenhouse


Publicis Groupe CEO-Chairman Arthur Sadoun released the French holding company’s diversity makeup for the U.S. in a leaked internal memo on Wednesday, “despite French privacy laws, which ban under penalty of sanctions the collection and use of ethnicity data.” In the memo, Sadoun also said Publicis would be committing 45 million euros ($50 million) over three years on diversity, inclusion and social justice efforts.


“We have worked hard over the last two weeks on a process to properly disclose data for our U.S. workforce,” Sadoun said in the memo, noting that the following figures “includes close to 21,000 employees who self-reported their ethnicity.”


According to the memo, 5.4 percent of all of Publicis’ U.S. employees are Black; 1.9 percent of senior leaders are Black; 4.6 percent of mid-level employees in the U.S. are Black; and 8 percent of entry-level employees are Black. Per the memo, 4.5 percent of senior leaders, 7.6 percent of mid-level employees, 10.3 percent of entry-level employees and 8.1 percent of all employees are Hispanic or Latinx.


The memo reveals that 0.4 percent of all employees and 0.3 percent of senior leaders in the U.S. are “American Indian/Alaskan/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.” Per the memo, 10.7 percent of senior leaders in the U.S., 16.4 percent of mid-level employees, 13.8 percent of entry-level employees and 15.1 percent of all employees in the U.S. are Asian.


Publicis Groupe reports that 81.8 percent of senior leaders, 69.5 percent of mid-level employees, 64.8 percent of entry-level employees and 69.1 percent of all employees are white, according to the memo.


Sadoun said in the memo that the release of the data follows the company’s decision to close its doors on June 17 “to listen, learn and ideate ways in which we can move the diversity and inclusion mandate at Publicis forward.”


“Our collective effort has led to more than 7,300 contributions, which shows your incredible commitment and engagement to create the foundation for structural changes,” Sadoun wrote. “During this time, we also took a hard look at ourselves—our DEI strategies, processes, programs, leaders and culture. We analyzed why we have seen little progress on the diversity front despite our many initiatives with significant financial support.”


He continued, “What has become clear is that too many initiatives and disparate efforts without focus does not drive the necessary impact to truly change things. That is why today we deliberately want to take fewer but stronger actions with on-going measurement and accountability.”


Sadoun then revealed the seven actions Publicis will take to “drive diversity and inclusion in all its forms, across all minorities and identities”—the first step being to publish and monitor the company’s diversity data.


“Going forward, we are committed to measuring progress and releasing our data every year,” Sadoun wrote. “This means we want to improve the accuracy and completeness of our data, so we will be encouraging the employees who have not yet self-reported their ethnicity to do so in the near future.”


Second, Sadoun said Publicis will take “intentional” action to cultivate the careers of Black talent. “Through structured career development programs, mentorship and personalized coaching, we will invest in individual growth, career progression, and create clear pathways to leadership for Black talent,” he wrote in the memo.


Sadoun said the company will, third, be scaling and aggregating “current and new partnerships across historically Black colleges, local community schools and specific organizations” to “provide greater access for Black talent,” as well as taking steps to ensure leaders are “screening, interviewing and hiring with inclusion and diversity in mind.”


Fourth, Sadoun said Publicis will require all employees to undergo a three-track diversity and inclusion training program, expected to be available to all agencies by January 2021.


Fifth, Sadoun said Publicis would be investing $50 million over the next three years on diversity, inclusion and social justice efforts. He said, “In addition to our existing programs, it will fund our commitment to training our Black talent, allies and leaders. More specifically, this will fund the new training programs, extend proprietary programs such as MCTP, subsidize critical partnerships, pipeline and apprenticeship development and support our relationships with NGOs and institutions fighting against racism and inequalities,” according to the memo.


Sadoun said the sixth action will entail launching a new virtual apprenticeship on its AI platform Marcel, “that serves minority youth who typically do not have access or exposure to our industry.” He said the program will include guides, online lessons, live workshops, networking, mentoring and job opportunities. “In its first year, the Marcel Apprenticeship will target and be pushed to 1,000 young people in the U.K. and the U.S., with a commitment to hire 50 people each year,” Sadoun committed.


Finally, Sadoun said Publicis will establish a diversity progress council to “measure progress and evaluate our actions on an on-going basis.” He said the council will be comprised of Publicis Groupe members, key clients and academic and youth representatives; the first meeting will be held in September.


“I am conscious that these actions represent only the first step in a long journey, but you can count on my full commitment to implement them with all of you and create a truly diverse environment that we can all be proud of,” Sadoun concluded.


Publicis joins holding companies Dentsu Aegis Network and Interpublic Group of Cos. in releasing its diversity makeup in the U.S.


WPP, for its part, recently announced its commitment to taking “decisive action on each of the 12 points in the ‘Call for Change’” open letter by Nathan Young, a group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, and Bennett D. Bennett, who runs independent consultancy Aerialist. What began as an open letter calling for agencies to take specific, measurable actions to achieve true equity for people of color in the industry has evolved into an official nonprofit organization, called 600 & Rising and backed by the 4As, with the mission of holding the ad industry accountable over racial equality.


WPP also announced an investment of $30 million over the next three years to fund inclusion programs within the holding company and support external organizations fighting racism.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

15063: Overreaction Of The Week.

Why does the Pancake Pile-Up game pay no homage to Aunt Jemima—and features a pancake-cooking monkey…?!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

15062: Bill Cosby Proposes To (Pudding) Pop Out Of Prison.

Missed the news from CNN that Bill Cosby was granted the right to appeal his sexual assault convictions. Hey, hey—the legal team is probably lining up cartoon character witnesses for the hearing.

Monday, June 29, 2020

15061: Digiday Confessions Series Needs Conceptual And Executional Fixes.

The Digiday confessions series is amplifying, providing a pulpit and platform for Blacks in advertising and media. However, it seems odd to air grievances in a confessional format when the perpetrators being exposed are escaping penance. As the latest confessor remarked, “It’s almost as if racism can be forgiven.” If Digiday really wants to properly execute the confessions concept, shouldn’t the publication invite Whites in the industry to admit their sins of systemic exclusivity?


‘Almost as if racism can be forgiven’: Confessions of a Black creative calling out a willful legacy of oppression at agencies


By Kristina Monllos


In recent weeks, Black agency employees have called for change within advertising asking agencies via an open letter signed by 600 Black employees. The letter asked agencies and agency leadership to not only to push to be truly diverse and inclusive but to examine the missteps they have taken on that path. Doing so has spurred some agencies to release just how non-diverse their employee makeup is as well as to pledge to be better at fostering equality in their workplaces.


But the problems minority agency employees are calling out are not new and have been a constant and oppressive drag on their careers years before the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month ignited widespread protests and calls for justice and racial equality, according to a Black creative who is the only Black person in his department at an independent creative agency.


In the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we exchange anonymity for candor, we hear from the creative about what it’s like to be the sole Black person in his department, how this moment compares to the #MeToo movement and what agencies need to do now.


This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.


What’s it like to be the only Black creative at your agency right now? 


I’m a very vocal Black creative. I don’t hide how I feel. But I also don’t ask my agency to do anything, I just make my expectations very clear [and post other agencies statements on being anti-racist on Slack]. I’ve worked at a few agencies now and it’s the same way at a lot of places. At one agency, I was one of four Black people. At another, I was the only Black person period. [I’m not open to having agency execs] come ask me for help putting out a statement [saying they support Black Lives Matter]. 


Why’s that? 


There’s so much going on — like with mental health [it can be trying to do so] and I’m not just going to put myself out there and just work on Black Lives Matter initiatives [to help the agency]. You have two very clear roles to play as a Black person, or as the only Black creative at an agency: You can say you’re not going to be involved and be like, ‘I’m not going to tell you people how to talk to my people.’ Or you can be involved because there’s also the moral responsibility to your Blackness. You don’t want the people who come after you to be equally oppressed so you do feel that you need to want to show them how to respond.


That sounds like a difficult position to be in. How should agencies address that?


The major problem is inclusion. Black people do get hired but they leave. You do get hired, but you don’t fit in. Agencies are obviously not hiring [Black people] at a fast enough pace, but when your POV is unappreciated you feel less valued and you leave the agency. What Black people are addressing [right now] for the most part in Ad Age articles, in Forbes articles and with the [open] letter [signed by 600 Black employees], is that people are starting to speak to the ill treatment within agencies. As much as agencies are trying to talk about it, it isn’t as much about what they have to say [but what they do now].  


What is it about?


Instead of looking for an angle to market [agencies need to] look at where they have been inadequate and try to fix that. One of the major places we’re screwing up as creative enterprises is in production and the people that are behind the camera who make content as well as what our content looks like. Agencies are aware of this. The producers all look the same. I’ve never had people in my office talk about a female director. I’m just like, ‘What is going on? Why don’t we mention female directors?’ It’s always like, ‘Let’s look at this French dude.’ Agencies have definitely been aware. Now, people feel motivated to speak to it. 


We’re in a moment where agency employees are pushing for true change. Do you think that will actually happen?


Honestly, I feel like it’s in the hands of the press to hold agencies accountable. The press controls public opinion and how the stories are told. I’ve been thinking about that a lot: There are stories out there right now that easily could have been covered five years ago. What’s happening right now with people speaking about [the racism they’ve dealt with at agencies] that’s always been happening. I think about the #MeToo movement and how people were able to say how it is and then try to change it. 


Do you see this moment as akin to #MeToo?


The comparison is not totally accurate so it’s hard to say. At the height of the #MeToo movement, if any agency or anyone was called out few people spoke out in their defense. Right now, as people are being called out, people are coming to the defense of those who have been [racist]. It’s almost as if racism can be forgiven, but if someone comes out with a sexual harassment accusation everyone will run away from them.


How so?


It’s not the same with racism. People wait a minute. They want to analyze it. They want a record that shows your racism. It cannot just be said that this person was racist. You have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is a racist. What we need now is to become anti-racist and for agencies to say they are anti-racist. The minute we all accept that we’re anti-racist and anti-establishment then we can start to hold ourselves accountable and change for the better.