Candid Conversations: Being Black in Advertising

Advertising agency TBWA launched a cultural editorial series called ‘Backslash’ last year, curated by 200 creators from across the global network. TBWA describes Backslash as “your daily edit of cultural trends”, and all of their employees receive a daily two-minute video about a range of topics, e.g. VR in medicine and science, social media’s responsibility of their users’ mental health, drone taxis, kids and technology… the list is lengthy and diverse. The project was created with just an Instagram account and internal content for employees, but TBWA believe that the team has expanded so quickly that they are hoping to create more publicly distributed content in the future, like the one above.

Richard Stainer, chief executive of TBWA\London said:

Creating at the speed of culture requires a deep knowledge of culture, and this is what Backslash gives us. It turns TBWA into a global knowledge and creativity network.

Diversity in advertising has been an enormous topic of discussion recently, and many agencies have explored this dialogue through different projects. TBWA’s Backslash looks at black professionals working in the ad industry in the short film above, featuring employees from the Omnicom network.

Nick Barham, TBWA Worldwide chief strategy officer said:

We felt that, for Black History Month, it was important to think about African American culture as it relates to advertising. I don’t think change is happening as quickly as it should. We want to represent what people are listening to, what they’re interested in and what brands care about.

As someone who is very switched on and actively interested in diversity in all aspects of life, I surprised myself with how little I had considered the lack of black creatives in advertising. The conversations in this short film about diversity are absolutely evident and relevant. Hopefully those who had never considered the lack of black talent in advertising think differently about the way agencies embrace inclusion.
It’s important that agencies consider and discuss diversity in the workplace, rather than those who feel like the minority discussing amongst themselves. Creating content for purposes other than client projects is a great way to start a conversation about race, as it becomes more human and less like a storyline created to jump on the equality bandwagon.

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