North Thinking
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North Thinking


A monthly look at the marketing and advertising industry from NORTH’s point of view.

This month, we wanted to shine the light on Black History Month. It’s important education, and it’s crucial that we continue to amplify Black voices, history, and all marginalized voices. This month’s Trending North was written and posted while Russia invaded Ukraine. Please see here for a list of ways you can help Ukraine.


Celebrating Black Inventors
Nicole Shockley, Media Director

The contributions Black people have made to this world are unequaled. These are just a few stories that greatly impact daily life in America.

Frito-Lay owes a huge thank you to George Crum, also known as George Speck, for inventing the potato chip. Easily one of America’s favorite snacks, and a food group (according to my husband). The legend goes that in 1857a customer was upset that the “fried potatoes” he’d been given with his meal were too thin. Crum was the chef for the restaurant, and to spite the customer sliced them as thin as possible. The customer loved them, and thus the potato chip was born.

Security cameras are very popular today. From Ring, Simpli Safe, Nest and Arlo — just about every house in America has a camera these days. We have Marie Van Brittan Brown to thank for them, she is credited to be the inventor of the first home security system and the first closed circuit television. Marie was a nurse and lived in Queens, New York City. Her hours didn’t follow the typical nine-to-five, and crime was rising in her neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, when she called the police they were slow to respond. She feared for her family’s safety, and built her own security system. She patented the technology in 1966, and her system became the blueprint for the modern two-way communication and surveillance technology.

In the marketing world, content is king — but it should be ruled by Lisa Gelobter. She is a genius. Not only did she serve under President Obama, but she is also credited with pioneering internet technologies like Shockwave, which was the invention of animation online. Shockwave was groundbreaking, and Gelobter actually wrote that code that led to the ability for people to upload videos to the Internet. Essentially, she made it possible to upload and watch online videos. She played a major role in the development and launch of Hulu as well. The next time you’re watching something online, remember that a Black woman made that possible.

Amplifying Black Leaders and Creators
Madelyn Brennecke, Senior Performance Marketing Manager

The biggest mistake that many brands make during Black History Month, is making statements and promises that are performative and only work to promote their own brand. The best thing that brands and businesses can do during Black History Month is use their platform and their wide range of followers to promote Black thought leaders and Black owned businesses. Consider giving your feed or your stories over to a Black business leader or thought leader so they can represent themselves or tell their own story. Use your platform and clout to amplify Black leaders rather than adding to the noise and drowning them out.

This year, Target launched a new collection for Black History Month to “address the needs and interests of Black guests,” with 90% of the collection’s inventory coming from Black business owners or designers. Target has committed to spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025. I would give this attempt a B. While I appreciate the dollars being spent with Black businesses and designers, it’s hard to forget that Target is ultimately making a profit off of this. However, I appreciate that this commitment goes beyond just one month a year.

Local companies tend to do a better job at uplifting Black leaders without receiving anything in return. Local Portland workout studio, MegaBurn, used their social and email platforms to highlight Black-owned businesses around town such as: Seeking Space Yoga, a judgment-free all welcoming yoga studio; BMBB, a lifestyle apparel brand looking to empower individuals and build a community; BODI, a Black-owned self-care brand; and Drink Mamey, a Black-owned wellness brand specializing in cold-pressed juice and superfood wellness products.

Another company that I believe succeeded in celebrating Black History Month is AdAge, which highlighted the careers of talented Black creators across the industry. This allowed guest editors to showcase pivotal projects from their own careers and also give the stage to other talents helping to shape the advertising and creative community.

When planning for next year’s Black History Month, take a leaf out of these brand’s books and use your reach and influence to help amplify Black leaders and creators.

How Black Americans See Themselves in Advertising
Stephen Lawrence, Media Planner

It comes as no surprise that advertising does not represent the American population in the ways it should, specifically around showing diversity of Black individuals. In 2020, Burns Group did a research study, asking 500 Black Americans “How are you represented in advertising (if at all)?”. In turn, Burns Group was able to share the responses with the world, in hopes of continuing the conversation and pushing the industry forward to action. Check out some of the responses below.

“I usually don’t see dark skin black women shown in much advertising so I don’t think people that look like me are really seen.” — Female, 34, Missouri

“Most of the time when there is a story about black people, we are all lumped together in the same category. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s very sad and unfair.” — Female, 55, Georgia

“Always their roles are of people of great physical ability as athletes.” — Male, 59, Texas

“When black people are present in advertising, it is in such a minimal way that it appears insignificant or as an afterthought.” — Female, 27, Florida

How 600 & Rising Helps Make Meaningful Change
Stephen Lawrence, Media Planner

Making a meaningful difference in the industry was never going to be easy. After the killing of George Floyd and the outcry across the country around racism in the United States, most individuals saw the black square pop up on their social media accounts, as well email newsletters and PR statements from brands big and small. However, now almost two years later, it is a great time to look back and see what changes have been made and how we can continue to propel the industry forward. That’s where 600 & Rising steps in. 600 & Rising was “was formed at the intersection of civil rights across the US and the Black talent crisis facing talent throughout marketing and communications. We address transparency, policy, and advocacy opportunities throughout the industry, so that the change leaders committed to in 2020 will be fully realized.” Throughout the past few years, 600 & Rising has continued their mission by committing to improve Black representation, working to expand bias training, working with agencies, brands, and media to build more inclusive workplaces, and more.



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