Chief creative officer
Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem?
Recent scandals at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana related to cultural misappropriation clue us into the fact that there still is not enough diverse representation, both brand-side and agency-side, to sufficiently vet everything from campaign work to creative aims. And to be even more frank, it shows a blatant lack of knowledge surrounding culture codes and the sensitivities which exist around them.
There’s truly no excuse anymore, considering that brands, not to mention everything they put out into the world, are supposed to represent today’s consumers -- designed for them and with them in mind.
How about something that proves we’re making progress?
In my early career days, I would go to meetings and get stopped at the front desk, as guards and admins assumed I was a messenger of some sort based on the color of my skin. But in reality, I was there to present to a client, asked to share my vision for their brand story to help them better understand what they should be communicating to, and with, the outside world. But the broader perception was never that I was there to lead the meeting. That happened too many times, to be honest.
But things are changing, clients have progressed. Now, people around the table are all quite different, each with their own distinct perspectives, look and beliefs. So I think it's easier, better now. Even with that being said, I am sometimes the only person of color at the table and it always surprises me. There must be a blockage somewhere, or something preventing new talent -- people of color -- from emerging on the creative side. There aren’t enough role models to look toward.
What else needs to be done to get there?
Taking a consumer-centric approach which demonstrates an understanding of culture is key, but the only way to do this better is to hire diverse, inclusionary talent who can craft creative products, communications and strategies.
That means hiring more than just one person to represent a whole demographic -- which also means that agencies and brands must really look at who they hire and why. They should also consider grooming talent in-house, through mentorship and internship programs to provide opportunities where they might not otherwise exist.