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Where Were All The Black People?

Here we were. As a representative of both Black Creatives and bdot. An Integrated Branding Agency, I and a number of colleagues attended the event now known as Here Are All the Black People to help a group of mostly students of color looking to get into the advertising industry with advice on setting their career tracks, bettering their portfolios and to answer questions on what it’s like, as a person of color, to work in this crazy advertising world.

You see, the event was formerly called Where Are All the Black People, a title that rubbed a number of people the wrong way, but intended to make a point: the advertising industry, for the longest time was using the excuse that they did not know where to find qualified people of color to hire. The new name is designed to be more of a statement than a question and while we can debate about the name, for the purpose of this particular article let us focus on the facts that 1) the advertising industry (along with many others) has a lot of work to do in regards to becoming more diverse and; 2) this multicultural career fair is designed to provide opportunities for people of color to connect with decision makers at major agencies to further their careers.

And everything at the event seemed to be going along so smoothly until this happened…

I know what you’re thinking, and to be perfectly honest, I agree. However, optics aside – because there is certainly something to be said about the eye test – let us get a couple of facts out of the way since this image got so much run that Digiday and Adweek wrote about it.

  1. The panel was not called Here Are All the Black People, the event is;
  2. The panel was not on black people/people of color in media it was on advertising for good;
  3. The claims of an all-white panel are easily refuted by the Asian man in the middle;
  4. The event is about diversity which includes women and non-black people of color; and
  5. There were five chief creative officers from some of the largest agencies: Grey, BBDO, DDB, Droga5 and Y&R; and one of the well documented issues surrounding diversity in the advertising industry is that of diversity at the top.

Thus, while I personally agree that the addition of at least one black person on this panel would have been great, mention of the black man who delivered the keynote for the conference; the black men and women who moderated and participated in the live talent pitch and other panels; the black men and women who joined other men and women of color to mentor hundreds of aspiring, diverse young people and the insights these young people of color received along with the facts listed above must be addressed to have the real discussion that HAATBP is actually attempting to lead.

Please note: I do hope that Adweek and/or Digiday will see to it to attend next year. No disrespect, but it is important for the trade magazines to be there to cover events that are only of benefit to this industry.

Please understand this: a discussion about diversity in any industry is necessary because, as we all know, it is an issue in this country. The purpose of me talking about this is not to deflect the negative sentiment directed towards this event because of one picture mostly by people who were not there. As someone who was there I and many of my colleagues not only got the chance to prove that there are indeed people of color who are ascending in this industry, but also got to experience the family like atmosphere of many of the younger mentors who once were attendees looking for opportunities that returned to give back to those now coming up and conversing with young people looking for help all of whom I was able to help. That is hope.

So, as a representative of Black Creatives, as we told numerous members of The One Club yesterday while at HAATBP, we are more than happy to help this event become bigger and better and welcome any and everyone who is truly interested in making this industry that we have chosen to be in more diverse as it can only make things better. I mean, let’s face it, we as creatives of color are representing a multi-trillion dollar industry. More diversity will beget better representation, more opportunity and better clarity of message. I defy you to find anything wrong with that.

The Gary J. Nix® | @Mr_McFly