Thursday, February 29, 2024

16561: BHM 2024—BBH.


It’s probably not a BHM stunt, but is this internship promotion from White advertising agency BBH an indicator of progress—or performative propaganda?


After all, it’s hard to forget how BBH handled the 2009 Diversity In Advertising Career Day, setting up an empty table with a sign requesting candidates drop off résumés.


So, is the BBH Barn demonstrating an authentic attempt to reach out to non-Whites—or will “Black sheep” literally be herded into a manure-filled facility for faux friendliness?

16560: BHM 2024—Verizon.


For BHM 2024, Verizon presented performative propaganda, delegating matters to: 1) corporate ERG BOLD (Black Originators, Leaders and Doers—a group marking its 40th anniversary); 2) Verizon Public Policy (whatever the fuck that team does), and; 3) streaming services hyping special BHM programming—which essentially translates to any movie or TV series starring Black people.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

16559: BHM 2024—Karen Blackett.


Although it’s technically not a BHM 2024 moment, MediaPost reported President of WPP UK Karen Blackett is leaving to pursue “other interests and opportunities”—which is actually a monumental Black history event for Adland. The “other interests and opportunities” will greatly benefit from Blackett’s genius.


Longtime WPP Executive Blackett Stepping Down After 29 Years At The Company


By Steve McClellan


WPP announced today that Karen Blackett, UK country president, is leaving after nearly 29 years with the company.


Blackett is set to depart this summer to pursue other interests and opportunities, according to the company.


She joined WPP via media agency MediaCom (now part of EssenceMediacom), rising to become UK CEO.


Blackett also spent three years as COO of MediaCom EMEA. In 2020 she became UK CEO of GroupM, and is credited with leading the company through a time of significant transformation and uncertainty due to the global pandemic.


Blackett has been a staunch advocate for greater industry diversity and business generally. She played a central role in WPP’s response to the murder of George Floyd and its repercussions around the world.


In 2011, she introduced the first government-backed apprenticeship program in the media sector, and in 2018 she was appointed by the UK Prime Minister as Race Equality Business Champion. More recently she was instrumental in the creation of the UK Inclusion Board to share learnings and elevate best practice policies around DEI companywide.


And her contributions have been recognized beyond the advertising and media industries. She has topped the UK’s EMpower, HERoes and Powerlist rankings, and been featured in the Vogue 25 Most Influential Women in Britain. In 2014 she was awarded an OBE for services to media and communications.


CEO Mark Read stated: “Karen has continually been a positive force for change in our industry and her commitment and unwavering loyalty to WPP and our clients have benefitted the company in many ways.”


Blackett said: “I will miss our brilliant people in our agencies, our clients and the creativity of our teams. I am always on a growth journey, and the time is right to pursue this outside of WPP.”


Separately, in the U.S. today EssenceMediacom confirmed a leadership change.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

16558: BHM 2024—Blaxit.


It’s technically not related to BHM 2024, but The New York Times published a story on Black Americans moving to Africa. Expect White advertising agencies FCB/Six Toronto and Forsman & Bodenfors to credit their 2019 Black & Abroad campaign for inspiring the migration.


Blaxit: Tired of Racism, Black Americans Try Life in Africa


Black people make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population. Many of them are wondering what it would be like to be part of a majority.


By Colette Coleman


Jes’ka Washington lives in a six-bedroom house on a hill with avocado trees and a spectacular view, not far from the rabbit farm she runs. For less than $50,000, Shoshana Kirya-Ziraba and her husband built a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house on family farmland with goats, turkeys and about a thousand chickens. Mark and Marlene Bradley now call themselves islanders and the owners of three homes cooled by ocean breezes.


All of them are Black Americans who found their new homes in Africa. They are enjoying the substantially lower cost of living and, more important, they said, the absence of the racism and discrimination they experienced in the United States.


The Covid pandemic and the racial reckoning in the wake of the murder of George Floyd led some Black Americans to seek a different way of life abroad, in a movement that some are calling Blaxit.


Those moving to Africa are also looking for an ancestral connection. Their migration is less about money and more about acceptance, a path that many intellectuals and artists have taken before.


Today, a new life in Africa is open to people of varied professions who can work remotely. Immigration has been fueled by vocal proponents on social media and by government programs like Sierra Leone’s path to citizenship and Ghana’s Beyond the Return campaign; according to the Diaspora Affairs Office of Ghana, at least 1,500 African Americans moved to the country between 2019 and 2023. Despite the potential concerns for newcomers — including a wave of extreme anti-L.G.B.T.Q. policies across the continent — Black Americans are still making the trip.


Ms. Washington, 46, of Houston, relocated to Rwanda in 2020. Mrs. Kirya-Ziraba, 40, moved to Uganda from Texas in 2021. The Bradleys, who are in their 60s, settled in Zanzibar in 2022.


Ashley Cleveland, 39, a mother of two who runs a company that helps foreigners invest in and grow their businesses in Africa, relocated from Atlanta to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2020 and is now based in South Africa. She said she appreciates that in much of Africa, race is “an abstract concept.”


“Seeing Black African people on the money, on the billboards, you immediately eliminate your Blackness,” she said. She welcomed this change for her children, who were 9 and 2 when they left the United States. Her older daughter, whose skin tone is deep brown, was no longer “bullied because of her complexion,” she said.


‘We’re at Home’


The Exodus Club has been helping people in the African diaspora move to the continent since 2017. R.J. Mahdi, 38, a consultant for the group, moved from Ohio to Senegal 10 years ago.


Mr. Mahdi said he had seen an increase in the number of Black Americans relocating to Africa in the past several years. “There are 10 times as many coming now as there were five or six years ago,” he said. By his estimate, demand for the Exodus Club’s services has grown at least 20 percent every year since its founding, when it had about 30 clients.


Becoming a “repat” felt empowering to Mr. Mahdi as a Black Muslim, he said. In the United States, about 14 percent of the population is Black, and just 2 percent of Black Americans are Muslim. In Senegal, however, nearly everyone is Black and Muslim. “For more reasons than one, we’re at home,” he said.


Mrs. Kirya-Ziraba, who is Jewish, said that when she moved to Uganda to join her husband, Israel Kirya, she went from being “a minority within a minority” to being surrounded by those who share her race and faith. Mrs. Kirya-Ziraba, who worked for a commercial real estate company in Texas, now runs Tikvah Chadasha Foundation, a nonprofit supporting Ugandan women and disabled children. She and her husband live in Mbale, a small city that is home to the Abayudaya Jewish community, which has about 2,000 members.


In the United States, Mrs. Kirya-Ziraba said, her identity came with qualifications: “Other Black people try to qualify my Blackness because I’m Jewish, and other Jews try to qualify my Judaism because I’m Black.”


In Uganda, she no longer faces “a thousand cuts” of racism, she said. For years she had made accommodations, big and small, to try to control other people’s perceptions: smiling to appear nonthreatening, buying nicer clothes to avoid being mistaken for a domestic worker, and straightening her hair to be seen as more professional. She knew she had been acquiescing, but, she said, “I didn’t know the extent until I didn’t have to do any of that.”


Mrs. Kirya-Ziraba also went from a one-bedroom apartment in the States to a two-acre family compound in Uganda. Her home is a stone’s throw from the homes of her parents-in-law and her sister-in-law and the large chicken coop. Her in-laws helped her husband build their house. “It’s just so nice having all of this additional family support,” she said.


Africa isn’t a refuge for all, though. Anti-L.G.B.T.Q. sentiment is sweeping across the continent. In Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Act enacted last year punishes gay sex with life imprisonment and in some cases death. Similar bills have been introduced in other African countries, such as Ghana and Kenya.


Some L.G.B.T.Q. people interviewed countered that the United States is no safe haven either. They pointed to violence against transgender people, a growing number of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. bills and the Human Rights Campaign’s declaration of a “state of emergency for L.G.B.T.Q.+ Americans.” These interviewees said that depending on what a person was looking for, and with discernment, Africa could still be a good option for L.G.B.T.Q. people.


Davis Mac-Iyalla, 52, an L.G.B.T.Q.-rights activist and the executive director of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, suggested that instead of deterring immigration, the grim trends could drive it, “if our African brothers and sisters are coming knowing the challenge and want to join us in the struggle.” Just as international volunteers headed to Ukraine to offer support, he imagined, Black Americans might feel called to help in the fight for L.G.B.T.Q. equality.


But many people make the trans-Atlantic exodus to stop fighting. Mr. Bradley, 63, who moved with his wife, Marlene, 69, from Los Angeles to Rwanda in 2021 before settling in Zanzibar, said that arriving in Kigali felt like “a load off my shoulders.”


Mr. Bradley, who noted that he and two of his four sons had experienced fraught encounters with the police in the United States, said he would never forget the “lighthearted feeling” he had when approaching an armed officer in Kigali to ask for directions. The officer greeted him with a smile.


Mrs. Bradley also felt relieved and safer in Africa. “You don’t feel like you’re looking over your shoulder,” she said.


The Bradleys, who have retirement visas and live on retirement income, now reside in a newly developed planned community on the island of Zanzibar, about two hours by ferry from Dar es Salaam. Most residents of their development were not born in the country.


The community’s homes range in price from $70,000 for a 430-square-foot one-bedroom to $750,000 for a 3,000-square-foot oceanfront villa. With the money the Bradleys would have spent on one home in Los Angeles, they were able to buy their three-bedroom, two-bath townhouse; an investment property; and a home for two of their sons to eventually live in.


Ms. Washington is still in awe of her new life in Rwanda. She works as an online teacher with students in South Carolina and has an agricultural visa that allows her to run a rabbit farm near her home outside Kigali.


She shares her six-bedroom house with her 76-year-old mother. “I just never thought that a single woman with a teaching salary would be able to live in a space like this,” she said.


Her home on an acre of land with avocado trees costs $500 a month and required an initial six-month payment. Stipulations for upfront rental payments of several months, a year or even longer are common.


The move has given Ms. Washington more room, physically and emotionally. “One of the things I wanted to get away from for just a little while was being a Black woman,” she said. The expectation that she be strong — “because in America, Black women are supposed to be strong” — exhausted her. “I just wanted a space to be me.”


While in the United States a $500 monthly rent may seem cheap, in Rwanda it is a significant amount. In some cases, the large wealth gap between American immigrants and most Africans leads to friction, but in other cases, locals embrace the infusion of cash. Many governments court the diaspora for this exact purpose.


Justin Ngoga, 39, the founder of Impact Route, a company in Kigali that offers relocation services, said that there is little tension between expatriates like Ms. Washington and locals. Unlike Portugal and Ghana, where an influx of foreigners drove up costs, Rwanda does not have enough newcomers to produce such a negative economic impact, Mr. Ngoga said.


“We are still, I think, at the stage where we need more people to come,” he said. “We need people to come and do active retirement here. We need investors. We need talents.”


Rashad McCrorey, 44, acknowledged that he left his humble beginnings in the Polo Grounds Towers, an Upper Manhattan public housing complex, far behind when he relocated from Harlem to Ghana in 2020. “Here, we’re rich,” said Mr. McCrorey, who published a guidebook for people moving to Africa. He said he tries to give back: He started a scholarship fund and built a soccer field for neighborhood children.


Standing on his balcony in Elmina, Ghana, Mr. McCrorey recalled the injustices he said he experienced in New York that spurred him to leave. Top of mind were the frequent stop-and-frisks, he said, which felt like the police groping and violating him and sometimes left him in tears. “I’d rather have the moral dilemma of being in a higher class in the system of classism, rather than being marginalized in the system of oppression and racism,” he said.


‘Not for Everybody’


Some Black Americans who move to Africa never get the resolution they sought. Adwoa Yeboah Asantewaa Davis, 52, a therapist who moved from Washington, D.C., to Accra, Ghana, in 2020, said that Black Americans considering the move to escape racism should try therapy first — because the trauma of years of discrimination will not disappear with a change of setting, and may even resurface when they are foreigners in Africa.


“You’re coming here and you’re expecting that everybody’s Black, so I’m going to be OK,” Ms. Davis said. “But then you get here and then you’re being ‘othered’” — viewed as different and separate.


The “othering” goes both ways. Some Ghanaians feel discrimination from Black Americans, said Ekua Otoo, 36, a Ghanaian in Accra. Black American communities there can be insular, she said, and their businesses often prefer to hire Black Americans, or Indians and Lebanese, for senior positions, while qualified Ghanaians are excluded or underpaid. “If you’re leaving the U.S. to come to Ghana thinking about ‘I’m coming to the motherland,’ at least treat us right,” Ms. Otoo said.


And then there’s the exodus back to the United States. Despite big plans for new homes and businesses, many Black Americans who move to Africa do not stay.


Omosede Eholor, 31, moved to Accra in 2015 after becoming enamored of the city while studying abroad there. But she decided to leave in 2020 because she felt she was missing out on life back home in New York and the big events of family and friends. And she began to feel that the daily stresses around frequent power outages and cultural differences were changing her for the worse, making her quick to anger.


“How much of yourself are you losing in the process of trying to adapt to a culture?” Ms. Eholor said. Ghana was not going to adapt to her.


Erieka Bennett, 73, the founder of the nonprofit Diaspora African Forum, said that Black Americans came to Ghana “in droves” in 2020 — and they are still coming. But Ms. Bennett, who has lived in Africa for 40 years, said that many Americans are not cut out for life in Africa, and she urged those considering the move to visit first. “Africa is not for everybody,” she said.

Monday, February 26, 2024

16557: BHM 2024—TRG.

TRG—the White advertising agency formerly known as The Richards Group—appears to be acknowledging BHM 2024 by promoting its pipeline partnership with an HBCU. Wonder if Stan Richards might think this is too Black… Also, which educational institution has received more financial support from TRG—Paul Quinn College or Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations?

Sunday, February 25, 2024

16556: BHM 2024—ADCOLOR®.

For BHM 2024, ADCOLOR® managed to churn out two promotional social media posts. Maybe the awards show organization is also feeling diminishing interest for Black culture…?


Saturday, February 24, 2024

16555: BHM 2024—4As.

For BHM 2024, the 4As celebrates—and delegates—Black teammates.

Friday, February 23, 2024

16554: BHM 2024—C+R Research.


C+R Research is seeking to capitalize on BHM 2024, with its CultureBeat team offering to help brands authentically connect with Black consumers. Guess they haven’t heard that White brands and White advertising agencies are deprioritizing DEIBA+ initiatives, performative PR, and heat shields.


Black History Month 2024—A Time to Check Your Brand’s Pulse


By Angela Roberts, Vice President, Administration & Project Support


This Black History Month, we begin with a question for you to consider: “Where is your brand today with its efforts to connect authentically with the Black consumer?” Are you in a better place this year than you were last year? Than two or more years ago?  A successful marketing strategy calls for a review of where you were, a look at where you are today, and a sustainable plan for the future.


During Black History Month 2023, our CultureBeat team, you may recall, provided our point of view on what brands should be doing to connect authentically with the Black community. We encouraged thinking past Black History Month in your marketing efforts, educating yourselves about Black culture and making it clear that you value this community, while also leaving no doubt that your commitment to cementing their loyalty is unceasing. If your focus on this vibrant community is centerstage because it’s February, we encourage you to come back to this blog at other times during the year.


As marketers, there are some facts about the Black community that should not be overlooked.  For instance, when it comes to brand loyalty, the Black community is among the most loyal of all ethnic groups with some reports indicating that upwards of 65% of Black consumers are likely to return to a brand that authentically reflects their culture. According to a recent fact sheet shared by the Pew Research Center, 47.9 million people in the U.S. self-identified as Black in 2022, and that marked a 32% increase from 2000. Nielsen projects that Black buying power will reach close to 2 trillion dollars by 2025. These are stats that a marketer would be remiss to ignore.


Although Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions that the Black community has made to our country, it might also be a good time to take a measurement of your brand’s success with connecting with this vibrant community all twelve months of the year. Our CultureBeat team and its multicultural experts are here to guide you in that effort. Keep an eye out this month for what our team will share directly from consumers about Black haircare and beauty and the significance of food to the culture. But return for content past February, as we will be sharing more throughout the year—again directly from the consumers’ mouths—including touching on the sensitive topic of disparity in the healthcare industry.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

16553: BHM 2024—ANA.


Advertising Age reported on a new ANA study indicating diversity in Adland dropped for the first time in years. Now, this is technically not a BHM 2024 event—but it is sad that the study results were released during Black History Month.


Although to announce diversity has dropped for the first time in years is slightly misleading, as everyone damn well knows that DEIBA+ experienced a momentary spike in response to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement. The “drop” is nothing more than reverting to exclusive normalcy—a return to systemic racism.


More outrageous is that ANA once again conducted a study to reveal what has been common knowledge—and regularly verified via ANA surveys and reports—for a long time. Hell, ANA need only scan its own membership to expose reality. Instead, the trade organization prefers performative PR, inane videos, and heat shields promoting White women.


Ad Age opined that the figures are “potentially signaling an industry-wide deprioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.” To underscore the point, it must be noted that the ANA has not yet acknowledged BHM 2024 through social media posts.


Diversity in the marketing industry drops for the first time in years


People of color made up 30.8% of industry employees in 2023, the ANA found, with some ethnicities being particularly underrepresented


By Ethan Jakob Craft


Diversity within the marketing industry dropped for the first time in several years, potentially signaling an industry-wide deprioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, a new study by the Association of National Advertisers has found.


Across the board, people of color made up 30.8% of the marketing industry last year, down from an all-time high of 32.3% in 2022, according to the ANA’s annual Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry, which was published this morning and is produced in tandem with its Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) and SeeHer divisions.


It is a critical reversal from recent trends, with diversity in the industry enjoying regular growth since it bottomed at 27.9% in 2019—the lowest since the ANA began conducting this survey six years ago.


“I think the headline this year is that diversity in the ad industry takes two steps forward and one step back. And unfortunately, 2023 is a step back,” said Bill Duggan, ANA group executive VP.


He pointed out that while the industry’s long-term progress on diversity in the past few years has been “a net positive,” this latest slip sets ethnic representation among agency and client teams back to 2021 levels.


“The population of the country is about 42% diverse, and ideally the ad industry should reflect that,” Duggan said, referencing 2020 U.S. Census data.


While the percentage of industry employees who identify as Black, 7.2%, remained unchanged in 2023 compared to 2022, most other groups listed in the survey, including Native Americans and those who identify as “multiracial,” saw a reduction in their overall percentage of the industry’s workforce. Hispanic and Latino employee representation registered the largest decline in 2023, dropping nearly 1.4 percentage points to 9.5%, with cuts seen across almost all seniority levels.


Citing AIMM hypotheses, Duggan reckoned there are a few core factors at play contributing to Hispanics’ representational decline, including a widespread focus on Black hiring and retention, possibly at the expense of Hispanic creatives, and corporate America’s “last in, first out” mindset that disadvantages newer hires during restructuring periods.


Conversely, Asians—a group that the ANA categorizes separately from Pacific Islanders—were the only racial demographic besides “other” that saw an uptick in their percentage year over year, climbing slightly to 10.3% of the industry’s employees in 2023 from 10.2% in 2022.


Despite the outlook that the industry may not be as full-steam-ahead on DE&I efforts as it was a few years ago—particularly given the Supreme Court’s recent move to end affirmative action and what the ANA report calls “transgender marketing dilemmas”—Duggan noted that there are “pockets of opportunity”—silver linings of the study that show progress is being made.


For example, diversity within senior-level marketing positions, which the ANA estimates as the top 5% to 10% of a company’s executive team, saw a marginal increase to 27.9% last year, up from 27.4% in 2022; diversity among ANA member chief marketing officers also rose nearly 3 percentage points, from 14.6% to 17.3%, year over year.


Gender breakdown


Women also remain disproportionately overrepresented in the ad industry workforce, accounting for an average of two-thirds of employees across all seniority levels.


Per the ANA study, women’s majority in 2023 skews to 68.9% of entry-level staff, while of the most senior roles, 57.7% are held by women, according to the study. Last year did not mark a representational record for women in either job level, though the most recent numbers are still up from 67.7% and 46%, respectively, when the ANA first began conducting this research in 2018.


There are a number of “macro issues” at play affecting this statistic, according to Duggan, such as the fact that far more females tend to enroll in higher education each year than males.


Additionally, this gender mismatch is also evident across some racial groups; in 2023, the ANA found that Black women make up a larger share of the marketing industry than Black men, 7.1% to 6.2%.


“I do believe the industry needs to do a better job of attracting and retaining men,” said Duggan, who added that women have been the industry’s dominant gender throughout his nearly quarter-century working in advertising. “Gender equity should be a consideration as well. That’s an issue that companies need to think about,” he said.


The core survey the report’s findings are based on was conducted between June and December 2023 of 88 ANA member companies, representing nearly 20,000 marketers in total.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

16552: BHM 2024—Güd Marketing.


Güd Marketing based in Lansing, Michigan, celebrates BHM 2024 by quoting iconic Black artists. Did the White advertising agency secure permission to use such copyrighted content? Regardless, the concept is not very güd.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

16551: BHM 2024—President Joe Biden & Vice President Kamala Harris.


The Hill spotlighted a BHM 2024 campaign for President Joe Biden & Vice President Kamala Harris, including radio and digital spots. The radio spots—Reflect and Remarkable—open by declaring, “Black history is American history.” The digital spot—Possibilities—hypes support for HBCUs.


Wow, what’s next—a Black inventors ad?



Biden, Harris celebrate Black History Month with ads touting promises kept


By Cheyanne M. Daniels


The Biden-Harris campaign is launching a series of radio, print and digital ads targeting Black voters in battleground states. The ads, according to the reelection campaign, will highlight promises President Biden kept to Black Americans over the last four years.


Two radio ads — “Reflect,” which runs for 30 seconds, and “Remarkable,” which is a minute long — will run Feb. 14-26 in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit, Phoenix, Raleigh, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C.


The ads play up Black History Month themes by highlighting the history made when Vice President Harris became the first Black female vice president, when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin became the first African American Pentagon chief, and when Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black female Supreme Court justice.


“Black history is American history,” the ads say. “Our sacrifices make this country stronger.”


“Remarkable” goes on to say that under Biden, the Black unemployment rate is the lowest it’s ever been and that more than $130 billion in student loan debt has been forgiven.


“President Biden and Vice President Harris are delivering on their promises to Black America by ushering in historically low Black unemployment as well as overseeing the fastest creation rate of Black-owned small businesses in decades,” Quentin Fulks, Biden-Harris principal deputy campaign director, said in a statement.


While print ads will run in Black newspapers across battleground states including Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona beginning Feb. 19, the campaign will also air a 15-second digital ad “Possibilities” across streaming platforms during the 2024 NBA x HBCU Classic.


“Possibilities” will focus on the commitments the administration has made to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including a historic $7 billion investment for campuses, grants and debt relief.


When Biden was elected in 2020, he promised racial justice would be at the forefront of his administration’s agenda. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order to allocate funding to HBCUs and Indigenous tribes as well as new programs to help close racial disparities in job and housing opportunities.


But Democrats at large have failed to succeed in securing additional protections on voting rights and passing police reform, two issues of top concern for Black Americans.


These new ads now come at a time when Biden’s and Harris’s approval ratings are falling among Black voters.


Earlier this month, an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that Biden’s approval rating among Black adults has fallen to 42 percent.


“We know there is more work to do,” Fulks said. “The fundamental choice in this election is between Joe Biden, who wakes up every day thinking about how he can make Americans’ lives better, and Donald Trump, who wakes up every day thinking about how he can make his life better — even if that comes at the expense of hardworking American people.”