This commercial for Norwegian Postal Service Posten presents Santa as gay.
Campaign published a perspective from Engine Creative Senior Strategist Alpesh Patel—and although Engine is based in the UK, Patel’s rant reads like it could’ve been drafted in and for the US advertising industry.
For starters, the piece opens with a likely unintentional nod to Wieden + Kennedy Cofounder Dan Wieden, declaring that cultural cluelessness in the UK ad industry is “fucked up.”
Next, the editorial presents the racial/ethnic composition of creative teams behind the latest sleigh load of Christmas campaigns—clearly exposing White exclusivity—which virtually mirrors a report on the creators behind Super Bowl advertising that was delivered by Cyrus Mehri and The Madison Avenue Project in 2010.
The viewpoint also veers into a contemporary critique, noting how the spiked inclusion of non-White characters in advertising campaigns doesn’t even accurately reflect the racial/ethnic figures of society at large. That is, the rush to appear anti-racist is producing a false picture of reality. The reparations don’t match the representations.
So, the sad story is repeated like a classic holiday tale—except it’s not a wonderful life for people of color in Adland. It will be interesting to see Patel’s fate, provided he isn’t totally ignored. Will his bold voice be revered or reviled—and will he experience the common backlash that other revolutionaries have received before him?
How is it still a White Christmas?
By Alpesh Patel
It’s fucked up that Christmas blockbuster ads came out on Diwali.
Experiencing this exclusion first-hand had me asking how adland managed to overlook the largest visible ethnic minority population in the country.
Had the agency teams asked any British Indians about the date, or even Googled it? It made me curious about the diversity of the teams behind this year’s crop of Christmas ads.
Adland rightly celebrates the brilliance and craft that goes into every ad created for the season. But there is an elephant in the room, and it’s about time to point it out.
It doesn’t take much to see on social media how our “inclusion”-infused Christmas work lands with the nation. It brings out the “I’m not racist but” brigade, who ask “Why, when black people make up 3% of the UK, are they in about 80% of the ads?”.
The answer is clear. We’re firmly in the middle of change in representation. The Black Representation in Marketing group (BRiM) found that 58% of marketers made decisions that have increased black representation in marketing in the past year.
On the other hand, Facebook for Business also published a report revealing that 54% of minority ethnics don’t currently feel represented in advertising.
When questioned on this representation gap, our defence as an industry tends to be to point to improvement in on-screen “inclusion”. The problem with this is that, at worst, we’re solving racial diversity issues in casting and passing it off as “inclusion” and, at best, we’re making our own interpretation of how a minority might feel. I am not saying Engine is perfect either, no agency is. We all collectively have a long way to go to reach the truly diverse workforces envisioned by BRiM and other outreach initiatives.
This shortfall became obvious when I looked at the teams behind this year’s Christmas ads. Below is a broad breakdown of the diversity of the agency teams credited on 28 different Christmas ads. The data is limited by a binary interpretation of race.
After two years of “inclusion”, it is still firmly a White Christmas. We have only 9.9% diversity when it comes to delivering Christmas ads. It’s even more dire when you consider that London, where most of adland is based, has an ethnic diversity of 40.2%. It’s clear that representation is changing far faster in front of the camera than behind it.
There is a shameful irony in failing to have multi-ethnic teams delivering Christmas while still attempting to be authentically representative in the work. According to BRiM, 25% of marketers said they rarely or never take steps to ensure there is Black representation in key roles across the creative process.
It’s no wonder we make crude interpretations of how a different race might act or overlook important multicultural events for the launch of our Christmas ad. It’s not surprising when the rest of the nation questions our performative inclusion. The worst part is that we’re placing minorities as sitting ducks at the very front of the nation’s racist “culture war”.
It’s cool that it’s trendy to be “inclusive” but you should be disappointed at how little has changed in our industry. Christmas being launched on Diwali is a microcosm of a much bigger picture. While the industry is taking measures to be more inclusive, it’s incredibly easy to make exclusionary mistakes when you aren’t representative in the make-up of your teams.
Please don’t tell me you can’t find talent among minorities. If you can’t, maybe that says more about you than it does about minorities. Speaking to underrepresented people within agencies, they don’t just want to be the sounding board for performative inclusion, they want to be included in making great work.
It’s sad to see that the All In survey found 32% of Black, 27% of Asian and 26% of minority ethnic respondents are likely to leave the industry due to lack of inclusion.
Perhaps next Christmas, instead of a crude and tokenistic approach to diversity, try working with a diverse multicultural team. You’ll probably find more authentic insights, truth in your representation, and you’ll sure as hell avoid launching your Christmas blockbuster on Diwali.
Alpesh Patel is a senior strategist at Engine Creative
Hostess HoHos are now even better tasting…? Seems like a pretty low bar was raised. Moister chocolate cake is another vague boast, as it’s unlikely that there’s an official moist measurement for cake. Hell, do HoHos even qualify as cake?
(Which makes Google and BBH all the more annoyingly offensive…)
Advertising Age spotlighted the second annual Google holiday heat shield—Black-Owned Friday—including an interactive video created by BBH USA that promotes Black businesses. Hyping Black-owned businesses is hardly original. But coming from Google, the hype is hypocritical. Coming from BBH, the hype is heinous. In short, a White mega-corporation presents patronizing pap for people of color—and hires a White advertising agency to produce it. What better way to demonstrate respect for Black-owned businesses…?
Oh, and the campaign features T-Pain as a rapping elevator attendant. Is that a salute to Mad Men’s Hollis?
You Can Shop In Google’s Video For ‘Black-Owned Friday’
Google and agency BBH USA launch shoppable video and search tools to support Black-owned businesses
By Parker Herren
For the second year, Google swaps its celebration of Black Friday for “Black-Owned Friday” with shopping. Last summer, as to protests over racial injustice as well as statistics indicating over 40% of Black-owned businesses closed due to the pandemic, Google launched its Black-owned business badge and later that year, “Black-Owned Friday” with U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. and agency BBH USA.
For its second year, Google’s “Black-Owned Friday” centers on a shoppable music video featuring artists T-Pain and Normani, directed by Daps, who’s created videos for Migos, Iggy Azalea, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar. Singer Tanerélle plays a shopper who becomes inspired to get off her couch and do some bargain hunting when she sees an infomercial segment, starring comedian Desi Banks. What she discovers is not only a world of over 100 products from over 50 featured Black-owned businesses, but an entire “Blade Runner”-esque galaxy of Black-made goods.
T-Pain appears as a rapping elevator attendant, the guide for Tanerélle’s journey, and Normani joins Desi Banks in his faux-infomercial, humorously disrupting lyrics both informative and inspirational such as “it’s about time to start helping each other and that’s that, whatever you need, you can get that Black and that’s facts” and “God didn’t make a mistake, that’s why he painted you strong.”
While watching the video on , each of the products featured, from shoes to art to cosmetics, line up across the bottom of the screen with an image, title and price. Clicking on the product populates additional information, like the seller, and a button that links directly to the Black-owned business’s website.
“I was thrilled when Google reached out about the second annual Black-owned Friday,” wrote T-Pain in . “And I was especially excited to write a new track to celebrate Black-owned businesses.”
Google’s badge campaign allows shoppers to search for Black-owned businesses near them or online year-round. Especially for the shopping-based holiday, Google hopes to promote economic equality for marginalized business-owners. , last year’s campaign received half a billion social impressions, 300% increase in online conversation involving Black-owned business and a shop featured in the campaign experienced 3000% sales growth.
Advertising Age published responses from “several ad industry experts” opining on the University of Texas’ decision to keep Stan Richards’ name connected to its advertising and public relations school. Interestingly and semi-ironically, none of the alleged ad industry experts have nearly as much industrial expertise as Richards. Indeed, any legitimate Adland leaders openly criticizing Richards may risk looking hypocritical—it would constitute the pot calling the kettle anti-Black.
Also ironically, Ad Age revealed that the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations is struggling with diversity like the White advertising agency bearing Richards’ name. And in the past year, both institutions hired a Black woman to leadership roles. Of course they did.
Finally, it’s interesting that Richards reportedly pleaded in favor of keeping his name on the school. Yet he fired himself from the agency that fortified his iconic status. Perhaps more introspective soul searching is in order.
Reactions To The Stan Richards School Of Advertising Keeping Its Name: Agency Brief
By Brian Bonilla and Keira Wingate
The University of Texas announced this week that The Richards Group founder Stan Richards will remain the namesake of its advertising school. The news came more than a year after Richards made a during a client meeting that forced him to step down from his agency.
In the aftermath of Richards’ comments, UT students were divided on what should be done with the school that bears Richards’ name. Jay M. Bernhardt, dean of Moody College of Communication, of which the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations is a part, this week acknowledged the decision will “perpetuate feelings of pain or anger within our community.”
Ad Age spoke with several ad industry experts, all of whom said they weren’t surprised by the university’s decision.
“The folks running the show at Texas’s Moody College of Communication and the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations chose money over integrity,” an associate dean who formerly taught at UT’s advertising department said. “It’s not surprising … funding is important and many programs would probably do the same. But the price becomes a lingering relationship to racism, to white privilege, and to business as usual in Texas. The industry needs a reset. If ever there was a time to stake a stand against racism, it’s now. And they chose not to.”
“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, I think Stan has done that to himself,” added Christopher Parr, who once worked for a former Richards client and is now the CEO of Pursuitist.com. “This is Texas, not a surprise.”
Others recognized the polarizing situation and the lessons that must be taken from it but said it’s important to remember both sides of his legacy.
“I’m not surprised they’re keeping his name on the school, they’re not changing the name of his agency either,” an agency CEO said. “While what he said was profoundly stupid, his racist comment will be a sad footnote in the story of an octogenarian founder who overstayed his welcome—an object lesson in the need for more proactive succession planning. But his legacy will be, and should be, about building a durably successful creative agency in an unusual place.”
While UT admitted a record number of underrepresented students in the school’s history this academic year, there is still work to be done in terms of diverse student representation for Moody College and the Stan Richards school. In total (graduate and undergraduate combined) 4.5% of the Stan Richards school’s students are Black and 29.4% are Hispanic. Moody College lists 5.2% of its students as Black and 30.2% as Hispanic. In the report, Bernhardt outlined plans around improving diversity, including supporting research related to diversity in advertising and PR, expanding representation of underrepresented groups at the school, implementing diversity-related academic programs and providing support to underrepresented students.
Adweek reported on an Asian American Federation campaign from Droga5 that plays off the culturally clueless question often posed to Asian Americans: “Where are you really from?” Regarding this pro-bono campaign, Droga5 could reply, “Where are we coming from? We’re really just trying to win an award—while falsely positioning ourselves as diversity defenders—and don’t really give a fuck about Asian Americans.” Really.
Advertising Age spotlighted Corleone Fine Italian Foods, a company that taps The Godfather films franchise to sell its products—all of which inspired a few Mafia-related lines in the trade publication’s story. Has anyone asked the Italian American One Voice Coalition and the Order of Sons of Italy to weigh in?
Advertising Age reported Stan Richards will not be expelled by the University of Texas, as the educational institution decided to keep Richards’ name attached to its advertising and public relations school. Hey, UT instructors ought to use the old man’s fiasco as a case study in PR courses. Given that Moody College of Communication—which features the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations—hypes its strong commitment to diversity, perhaps Richards should enroll for a few classes to gain enlightenment. In August, incidentally, Moody hired a Black woman to lead as school director and professor. Of course they did.
The University Of Texas Keeps Stan Richards’ Name On Its Advertising School
The school released findings of its more than year-long investigation following agency founder’s racist remarks
By Brian Bonilla and Ann-Christine Diaz
The University of Texas today announced that The Richards Group founder Stan Richards will remain the namesake of its advertising school. The news comes more than a year after Richards made a during a client meeting that forced him to step down from his agency.
Richards’ remarks during an internal meeting that a Motel 6 ad campaign was “too Black” for the motel’s “white supremacist constituents” triggered a hemorrhaging of clients including Motel 6, Home Depot and Keurig Dr Pepper. Since then, the agency has been trying to rebuild, recently winning agency of record duties for fiber-optic provider MetroNet.
The news was announced in an internal report released today by the school’s Moody College of Communication, of which the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations is a part.
“While we strongly denounce Richards’ remarks, we also acknowledge his remorse and his condemnation of racism and bigotry in all its forms,” wrote Jay M. Bernhardt, dean of Moody College, in the report. “When considering Richards’ offensive comments and subsequent apology on balance with his many significant contributions to the field and the College, we have decided that his name will remain on the school.
“We understand that this outcome will perpetuate feelings of pain or anger within our community,” Bernhardt continued. “We will do our very best to listen to all voices, offer support, and continue making positive changes that bring us together. Our excellence and our culture are not based on names or labels but are firmly grounded in the quality of our people, community, and values.”
Bernhardt sent a letter to the school community today addressing the steps the school has taken in the wake of the Richards incident. The letter did not acknowledge that the school was retaining Richards’ name. Rather, it referred the community to the report, titled “Response and Reflections on Stan Richards’ Racial Remarks of October 2020 and a Path Forward to Strengthen our College’s Community and Culture.”
The decision to retain Richards’ name on the school did not appear until the
According to a school representative, Dean Bernhardt wanted the school community to “read the full report and understand the background and thinking behind the college’s response to the incident.”
The Department of Advertising & Public Relations in the Moody College of Communication was first renamed the “Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations” in 2014, following a $10 million fundraising campaign to support the school that included a significant gift from Richards.
The Moody report noted that the school began an investigation in October 2020 by two outside consultants, following the college community’s strong reaction to Richards’ comments.
The report said that one of those consultants was an outside journalist, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and opinion columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, who was tasked with gathering information on Richards’ remarks, his gifts to Moody College, and his history within his company.
The second was a consultant who regularly provides race and equity consultation and professional development, conducted voluntary and confidential listening sessions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni and prepared a report summarizing the findings from the seven listening sessions and provided his personal recommendations for addressing the concerns raised in the sessions.
“Within hours of the first news report and continuing for several weeks, many students, faculty, staff, and alumni from our community expressed anger and outrage toward Richards and his comments,” Bernhardt wrote. “Others voiced sorrow, hurt, and disappointment, particularly considering the already focused attention on racial justice issues on campus and in society in the summer and fall of 2020.”
Soon after the incident, Richard recorded a . “In that moment, I wiped out years of trust,” he said in the video. “I’m sorry and I ask for forgiveness.”
Bernhardt noted in the report that he met with Richards in July 2021 for the first time since the 2020 incident.
“I presented and discussed the consultants’ draft reports, described the feedback we received from our community, and shared the strong opinions that many hold related to the School bearing his name,” Bernhardt stated. “During our meeting, Richards expressed his profound regret for his remarks and remorse for the pain it has caused, and he condemned white supremacy, as he had during his prior apology. He asked for our forgiveness and expressed his commitment to helping repair the damage made by his remarks and to earn back our community’s trust over time. He also maintained his strong desire for the school to continue to bear his name. After hearing his perspectives, I let Richards know that we would conduct additional conversations within our community to determine the potential for future reconciliation.”
Dean Bernhardt also outlined in the report planned actions that the school will take around improving diversity, including supporting research related to diversity in advertising and public relations, expanding representation of underrepresented groups at the school, implementing diversity-related academic programs and providing support to underrepresented students.
“To the best of our ability and within our authority, we have tried to turn this negative incident into a positive impact for our college and especially our students,” he wrote. “Richards’ remarks provided us the opportunity to carefully listen to our community, learn about their experiences and challenges, and develop new actions that will make our College better.”