Tell us about yourself and your current role.
I’m a Group Business Director and the Managing Director of our Cultural Marketing capability at Anomaly. Yes, a long title, I know. I’ve been in advertising for about 20 years now - and it’s right where I want, and am meant to be. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a child watching after-school cartoons and breaking down why those commercials were wrong...or boring...or just sucked. I wanted to make them better.
I’m essentially ‘a suit,’ as they say, aka, an Account Person. In my opinion, it’s the best job there is in our industry, if, and only if, you’re great at it. Because if you are, it affords you the liberty and license to be any and everything on any given day - a Creative, a Strategist, a Producer, Biz Dev...literally anything. But again, only if you’re great at what you do. If you are, you’ll find that people will actively look for, expect, and respect that you can step into all of those roles effectively.
What was the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome since you began working in advertising?
Being fired. In 2010,I lost my main client. It was at no fault of the people who worked on the business. The client simply chose to shift the way they engaged with agencies, and ultimately how they produced their communications. Therefore, I was left with no real role for months, and ultimately was let go. That was devastating to me, as it had never happened before. Ever. I was once told everyone will eventually be fired at some point in their life. Whether it was from McDonald’s or their dream job. But I never thought it would happen to me until it did.
It was difficult, because it made me question everything about my career to that point, and going forward. Was it my fault? What could I have done to prevent us from losing the business? Should I have done more? What now for my professional trajectory? Was I as good as I thought I was at my job?
It turns out, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. It not only humbled me, it pushed me to be incredibly resilient, and work even harder than I’d ever worked before. In order to prove to myself that I could have a long, successful career in the field.
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity within the industry?
It can be a bit tricky or misleading. If you’re not careful, you get lullaby’d into thinking things are closer to how they should be than they are, or markedly better than they were yesterday. Where diversity and inclusion is an active mission on everyone’s mind. You’ll look around and see a few more faces of color and women in C-suite positions. More new faces that look like mine in leadership roles where there were none just a few years ago.
But then you’re hit with a dose of reality, that in a company with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, you’re still the only Black person in the meeting. That there’s only one...(one!!) Black Creative in the department? That there are far more male, white men in leadership roles, than there are women or folks of color. And at that moment, you realize that there is so much more for us all to do, and we have a ways to go still. As they say, change is a process, not an event.
What do you think causes agencies such difficulty when attracting, retaining, and nurturing people of color?
Agencies must actively recruit people of color. Don’t simply talk about it. BE about it. Ensure it’s a priority. Fish where the fish are. Attend conferences. Be present and active in the D&I community. Make sure you’re interviewing people of color. Make the agency attractive to peopleofcolor. It may seem like a chicken or the egg, but you know what’s attractive to people of color when selecting a desired place of employment? ...Seeing other people of color succeeding there. Knowing that D&I is important to that company, and that they will have a real seat at the table, a voice in the room, and an opportunity for growth. The more proving vs. simply saying companies are about inclusion, the more they’ll be able to attract top tier, diverse talent pools.
That’s a great business move. Not just a race, gender or numbers play.
The advertising industry has for years been talking about its many diversity issues, what do you think a long-term solution could be?
The long-term solution is identical to the short-term one: give a damn about changing the way things are. And then commit to realizing that change.
How has your own agency tried to improve diversity?
At Anomaly we’re actively dedicated to first, effecting change within our own house. For example, throughout the year we dedicate moments (and in some instances months) to cultural appreciation across a myriad of backgrounds and topics. This encourages us all to learn about, and gain a deeper respect for one another. Usually done in an incredibly interesting, educational way.
We’ve also taken it upon ourselves to significantly diversify our talent pool across gender and ethnicity. This includes improved hiring briefs, and relooking at where and how we recruit. But also improving efforts to attract, foster, and retain that talent once they’re in the building.
Lastly, we’re strengthening relationships with key diversity partnerships and organizations (e.g., MAIP, ADCOLOR, & The Marcus Graham Project) dedicated to finding paths for people of color in the industry. This not only helps build a pipeline to future talent, it also gives existing talent opportunities to experience the fulfillment that comes with mentoring others.
How do you plan to inspire the next generation?
It may sound cliche, but work extraordinarily hard, set a great example, and mentor whenever I can. Show them what’s possible if you remain hungry, dedicated and passionate about whatever it is you do. If those that come after me have like-minded values, they’ll respect the hustle and follow suit. But they have to care, and want it! I once read ‘the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.’ Truer words...