Good Morning McCann: Our lens on black Culture in the Ad world
Not another panel about diversity. Not another panel about how advertising falls short of enacting and reflecting “diversity initiatives.” The topic is beginning to sound like that track the DJ plays too long at the club. I didn’t want to be that played out song, another reason to tune out the conversation around diversity.
So I flipped the topic on its head and exhausted every angle that I believe had and had not been addressed. Sure enough the angle was in my face all along. My experience was the story. As the only Black woman within my department, getting my viewpoints and nuances regarding my culture reflected back is challenging. I don’t believe that it’s deliberate. It happens because we pride ourselves on being well versed on cultural experiences, so when that belief is called into question, the conversation can become uncomfortable. I needed help getting my message across by tapping into the expertise of those that have dedicated years to the industry as the hands and brains at their agencies – Black strategists and creative.
I thought it would be beneficial to bring this expertise to McCann at one of our “Good Morning McCann” learning sessions. The topic, “Adjusting Depth of Field: Our Lens On Black Culture In The Ad World,” came from a film producer/screenwriter friend who was sick of seeing the wrong people type-casted for roles in Black films.
I thought a number of discussions would be relevant to the agency around our focus on Black culture in the ad world. Discussions like, “Blacks leave the industry because the culture of booze and parties, don’t appeal to them”; “Change up the character roles. All Black people don’t listen to hip-hop and live in Section 8 housing (aka “the hood”)”; “Steps towards better creative product comes from having the uncomfortable conversations and getting to real people. It’s not just data you find from a Google search”; and “Give credit to the originators of a cultural trend, rather than appropriate it.”
These five superstars all agreed to be on the panel to discuss these topics and more:
- Keni Thacker, Sr. Event Technology Specialist, J. Walter Thompson
- Kimberly Noel, Freelance Strategist
- Bryan Lattimore, Founder + CEO, Superglue
- Shannon Ross, Senior Art Director, R/GA
- Sharon Winston, Freelance Associate Creative Director
The panel went even better than anticipated. I believe that tackling diversity issues gets overwhelming and cloudy, but we were able to make the conversation relatable and action-oriented. Some key takeaways:
Diversifying Every Story
· The answer isn't always to make a specific ad for this demographic. The answer is to represent diversity in every story you tell
Reliability Through Representation
· We're not all one shade of black. We notice when advertisers go the extra mile to acknowledge that and avoid choosing one look to represent all black women and men. If I don't see someone who looks like me in your ad—if I can't see myself wearing your product—I can't see myself buying it.
Reviewing Ads With Black Creators
· Sometimes you just don't know unless you're part of this community. Have someone who's part of the community crafting the ad story with you.
I hope each individual who attended was truly impacted and took something away from the discussion that’ll stretch them, their team and their work.