By Alfredo A. Weeks VI
What if the advertising and design industry could start teaching the rest of the world how to work towards inclusion? The ad and design world is far from perfect but I can honestly say more agencies are starting to make an effort. More than ever before there are ads and marketing materials that are aimed to show diversity. The question is, how can there be an authentic example of inclusion when there is a complete lack of diversity in leadership roles in advertising and graphic design firms.
There have been some serious ads in the past year, like that amazon piece that showed how the Muslim imam and the Catholic priest have common interests. These ads weren’t just put out there as a cool ad campaign, instead, they were strategically placed for the times we live in.
The more and more we talk about issues regarding inclusion, the more abstract things become for individuals who aren’t affected by the lack of diversity. It’s great to shout “equal rights” and “I don’t see color” when it’s comfortable. The issue is, when we hear these chants of equality and inclusion there aren’t many out there who pair these words with actions.
The effects advertisements have on the perception of people could have a real impact on where our society is heading. People in the creative industry need to start taking responsibility, like, yesterday.
Far too many times there have been conversations, tv shows and movies about racism and diversity. The confusing part is why does it look as if things aren’t getting any better when we live in a time where access to information is available to almost everyone. There are more ads containing people of all types of minority groups but why does it feel as if society’s growing perception of inclusion is beginning to shrink. The decades of working towards a society that thrives on diversity have only been met with a rise in racist sentiment. It’s as if time is rewinding to show you a short clip from your ancestors past. There have been too many attempts to explain how many minorities feel, yet, there still seems to be a divide in the narrative. Are minorities lying about their experiences? Are we looking for attention? Are we just delusional? Because when I hear the argument “it’s 2017, slavery has been dead, get over it” I set site on a new kind of racism on the horizon.
There are more hate groups forming than ever before, and they don’t want to only target people of color, they’re looking to push anyone under the bus for even thinking differently. Politics are screwed from every angle and now you can’t even get opposing sides to agree that the sky is blue anymore. What happened to that old school racism when people knew they were racist, they were proud of it and didn’t deny it. Nowadays you have this modern racism that is trying to redefine what is bigotry and what is not. it’s all crazy.
While you have billboards along highways picturing a biracial family, you have white supremacists running for governor. Oooh, and it’s not only in America, the “anti other” movement is taking over the world.
In another frame of mind, what if advertising started the mission of inclusion decades ago? Not to just say we have a diverse kind of commercial up for the day, but more so to say hey people of the world this is where we need to go. I get the marketing aspect of it and all, but instead of working only for the now, work towards the future. The effects advertisements have on people could have a real impact on where our society is heading. People in the creative industry need to start taking responsibility, like, yesterday. How many narratives about minorities are told by a non-inclusive group of creatives?Its only pushing the same story line where its business as usual if we don’t change.
Let’s kick off spring with a fresh start to focus on a more inclusive dialogue in the workplace while going through our day to day engagements. Post-Black history month (aka February), I ask: will the conversations about social justice, diversity and initiatives geared to promote the greater good cease to exist? Because we all know how a hashtag movement gets old really quick. There have been agencies that invite the conversation about diversity and the minority experience. A great example I came across was the Havas ad agency from out of Chicago where they promoted the #blackatwork obstacle course.
Havas focused on ways to communicate problems with under the rug types of racism. I think it’s a great idea, but how would this reflect in hiring? What about clients, and actively seeking minority groups’ points of views on addressing a particular target market instead of reading, study, or watching a documentary and feeling terrible about it afterwards? It’s all about engagement and finding ways we can all sit at the same table to build solutions in making this world more livable.
The ad world is far from perfect but I can honestly say if more agencies start making an effort towards actions regarding diversity, we can make strong strides towards understanding each other.