Black Lives Matter

Today is no different than yesterday or eight days ago, or even 8 years ago. Our country has a racism problem. We should have spoken up a long time ago, been more consistent with our support and advocacy.

You may have seen the term “generational pain” recently. This is the collective impact of 400 years of the reality for black people in the United States including exploitation, deprivation, and murder. Excerpted from the Center for American Progress:

White Americans have 10 times the wealth of Black Americans;15
Black women die in childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women;16 
One in three Black men will likely enter the criminal justice system at some point during their lifetime.17 
Nearly one in five Black Americans have experienced some form of voter suppression in their lifetimes.18

The numbers in our industry are equally bleak, only 9.7% of CMOs are multicultural. Using this as data for a project, I might craft a headline changing the figure to say 90.3% of CMOs are not multicultural. I’d also share that 85% of people in the advertising industry in the US are white, less than 9% are black. A graphic would be great to show that disparity. I hear the echo of advice to clients, “Slapping a photo of students of different ethnicities on your viewbook doesn’t make you diverse.” Diversity needs to be more than pageantry. When it is genuine, you can feel it.

A black female college students stand facing the camera in a Black Lives Matter shirt with her hand in a fist

SUNY Purchase invited several students to show up for a photoshoot in whatever best represented them. They were true to their word.

We pride ourselves on strong messages and compelling visuals, backed with statistics and research. We have, in this agency, worked hard, to be honest with our audience and our clients. We have not worked so hard at filling out a diverse team beyond gender and age. Pantone would mark us a solid shade of white.

Digiday has a series called, “The Confessions.” This is from one titled, “There isn’t a talent pipeline problem’: Confessions of a black advertising exec.

“Brands want to be able to pat themselves on the back, change their Instagram profile picture and think they’re done. Changing your profile picture is the laziest thing you can do. It’s the new status quo. I want to see money, I want to see checkbooks out and donations happening and I want to see receipts. Until I see that, I don’t want to see these companies changing their profile pictures for Black Lives Matter or for Pride. Pride started because of a riot.”

Today we want to submit to the black community and to our white peers, we are ready to be present. As our clients establish action plans for building toward diversity on staff and leadership, as communication plans and campaigns are conceived to create more inclusive environments and materials, we want to do our part. Partnering with clients to find models that reflect what they are striving to achieve.

A black family-two parents and three children, stand at the base of a mountain in ski and snowboarding gear.
The Donaldson family were infectiously happy models at a shoot for Hunter Mountain. Mom can be found here and dad can be found here.

Racism is still an issue in our industry. Stating the facts isn’t enough, committing to changing the stats is a start. This means being more thorough in our pursuit of a diverse team and in our goals for the pro bono work we do. Collaborating with other organizations striving to have their team match the people they serve.

A young black girls has a climbing harness put on her by a college-age counselor.
A Double H Camper being harnessed by a counselor for the ropes course. Campers and counselors forge life long bonds.

This is new terrain and things are always shaky in the beginning, but for us, it’s that: a beginning. We’ll keep learning and getting stronger. We’ll do our best to get more people involved, more voices, and faces at the table. We believe that black lives matter and will stand literally and figuratively alongside the black community in solidarity as we fight to dismantle the systems that have perpetuated racial inequities in this country.

  • Commitment to the diversity of both characters and stories within our work.
  • Commitment to increasing our hiring of black models, voice-over actors, illustrators, and other under-represented creators.
  • Commitment to onboarding and supporting black and minority-owned businesses as clients.
  • Keeping our copywriting and editorial language inclusive.
  • Providing a safe space (emotionally and physically) for our employees.