The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


What Adland Needs To Learn From Oprah …

Adland talks a lot about diversity and inclusion.

It talks about wanting to make a difference.

But while I appreciate the intentions are genuine, the actions often aren’t.

Too many superficial acts designed to make us look good without actually doing much good.

Self-indulgent acts that are designed to change nothing but make us feel like heroes.

Pieces of work that tell people what they already know so we can claim we are ‘living our purpose’ at the next global conference get together where the loudest applause is for ourselves.

I wrote about this recently when I found out Cocoa Girl – the magazine for little girls of colour in the UK – was the FIRST magazine for little girls of colour in the UK.

The first!!!

Well here’s another example of how poor we are as an industry following through on what we so loudly and proudly claim.

The top of this post features one of the 26 billboards Oprah has purchased around Louisville, in the US.

For those who don’t know the story of Breanna Taylor, you can read it here … but in simple terms, it’s another case of US Police racism that resulted in another innocent African American being murdered with – initially – no implication on the officers involved.

[And then, after a huge protests, the officers involved were arrested but ended up facing a fraction of the justice they deserved … meaning it was another insult to the Taylor family]

This is a case that has shaken America and beyond.

This is a case that needed pressure putting on the authorities to investigate rather than look in another direction.

This is a case that showed again the deep disadvantage people of colour have in America and all over.

What Oprah did is amazing but I can’t help but think adland could have done this.

Should have done this.

But we didn’t.

And while I am pointing fingers at us, I’m also pointing them at myself … because if we are serious about D&I, it’s about doing things that are in the best interests of the people we want to connect with rather than making it all about what is easiest for us.

Or said another way:

We have to commit … rather than just show interest.

Go out of our way … rather than make others go out of theirs.

What this brilliant act by Oprah reminds me is that creative and cultural inspiration does not come from just looking at ourselves. If we want to survive, we can only do that by letting more diversity in and letting them thrive on their terms rather than ours.



If You Don’t Like The Blues Brothers, Be Like A Supermodel …

So this is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

Specifically in terms of people in a position of power creating the physical and economic conditions for people of colour to prosper.

I don’t just mean giving people of colour a job, I mean fighting for them to have the platform to win in terms of respect, influence and pay.

Yesterday I wrote how Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi ensured the musicians in The Blues Brothers kept their performing rights for all the music they wrote/played, so they – and their families – would continue to profit every time a song or the movie was performed.

Well I recently heard of another example of this.

Naomi Campbell is an icon of the modelling industry.

But it wasn’t always like that.

In fact, if the industry had its way, it would never have happened.

In an interview, she said this …

“I used to have to fight for the same fee as my [white] counterparts doing the same job”.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Still happening each and every day in each and every way.

In fact it’s worse for the average person of colour – or woman – because they don’t have the scale of awareness or influence an international model has. So when they speak up about pay discrepancy, they immediately get labelled a ‘trouble maker’ or a ‘not a team player’ and find themselves either sidelined or, in some situations, fired.

But back to Naomi …

You see after she’d talked about the situation she faced in the early days of the industry, she went on to add …

“Thankfully, my friends Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington called out this treatment and told designers that if they didn’t hire me, they wouldn’t work for them”.

It is important to note this is not white saviour shit.

Or charity.

Linda and Christy never talked about what they did, nor have they ever sought credit or payment. In fact, had Naomi not talked about it, it may never have come out at all. But it is important it did because like yesterday’s post, it’s another example of people in a position of privilege – ie: white people – recognising and valuing the talent of someone they know the industry will chose to ignore and actively using their power to force a situation where they will be treated and paid well for their talent, expertise and influence.

There are some other examples I’ve heard – blues great, B.B. King said Elvis did a similar thing to ensure he cold play in the profitable venues of Las Vegas – but frankly, it’s still the exception rather than the rule and the situation is not getting any better.

In fact I could argue it’s probably getting worse because there is more awareness and supposed openness than ever before and yet things are still not happening.

But here’s the thing, it’s not enough to want to change the situation.

Just like it’s not enough to not be racist.

The reality is you have to hate racism enough to act against it.

Not just with words, but with actionable behaviour … where we use our inherent white privilege to not just talk about diversity and inclusion, but actively fight to create real, sustainable, economically prosperous opportunities for people of colour to win.

Not because we want to look good.

Not because we want people to be in our debt.

Not even because it’s the right thing to do.

But because their talent, their way of looking at the world, their understanding of what culture and creativity is – and can be – and their understanding of others will make us all better.

Literally.

And what’s more, they’re happy to share the benefits of this with all of us.

Maybe giving the industry we all work in a chance to not keel over and die.

Hell, we don’t deserve any of it but they still are willing to do it.

Christ, we don’t even have to give anything up, we just have to make space for them to be respected and rewarded for their talent, expertise and influence.

Which means there’s now only one thing to decide.

Are you going to be a Blues Brother or a Supermodel?



When You Only Serve Those Above You, You Become The Enemy Of Those Around You …

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a police officer.

I was OBSESSED with becoming a police officer.

I read books. I talked to the coppers on the street. I looked up to them literally and metaphorically.

And while I absolutely believe the Police do an important job that is often undervalued, I also think the system they are made to operate in encourages behaviour that is not representative of the values and standards we have all been told they follow.

That is not a justification for wrongdoing – if they do the crime, then they should experience the full force of the law with absolutely no leniency whatsoever – however as police wrongdoing is happening on such a consistent basis all around the World, it does suggest the environment they are being asked to work within, is contributing to the situation in some way.

Which is why I found this comment on twitter interesting …

Now, I would imagine it was said with mischief in the eye … but there is truth in it.

Because where the Police are supposed to protect us, they have evolved into something that often feels more about controlling us … often for the good of the wealthy or the powerful.

I can’t imagine how difficult the job is … it must be a thankless task, especially with government leaders encouraging them to execute aggressive action rather than community integration … but something is obviously broken deep within.

Are all Police bad?

Of course not, just like criminals don’t follow the cultural or economic stereotypes the media, government and white people like to present us with.

And while blaming individuals or entire groups of people may make us feel better … safer … superior … more in control … the reality is so much of what goes on is because of the systemic and institutionalised systems so many people have to live and work within. Until that is accepted, investigated and fundamentally changed – rather than brushed aside as some sort of ‘liberal nonsense’ – we’re going to continue experiencing this pain, and quite frankly too many people have needlessly died and too many families have been needlessly destroyed to not accept there is a problem.

However much that puts the people in control in fear.

However much that shines a light on what we’ve all been complicit in creating.

However much that means governments become scared of the people rather than vice versa.



If You Want To Know How Crap Adland Is At D&I, Look At This …

Adland goes on a lot about diversity and inclusion.

They write about it.

They talk about it.

They even have people who have job titles about it.

But is anything changing? Really, properly, truly changing?

Is the ad industry a more open place for people who come from different backgrounds?

Is the ad industry giving more positions of authority and power to people of colour?

Or women?

Is the ad industry paying the same base salaries to people from different backgrounds?

Don’t know … but I doubt it.

Now this is not an anti-adland rant, I love this industry and still believe it can do a lot. However it is an anti-superficial claim rant that, sadly, adland still seems to love doing.

I am sure there are people who can inundate me with facts about how things are improving.

Well there’s 2 answers to that.

1. It’s not hard when it’s from a low-base.

2. It’s not happening quick enough.

And one thing really highlighted this fact to me and it’s this …

Cocoa Girl is THE FIRST magazine in the UK specifically for little girls of colour.

The first!!!

Think about that for a second??

Prior to this, little girls of colour had NOTHING to represent them, reflect them or inspire them in a way where they could feel they are already good enough.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Cocoa Girl wasn’t created by a publisher or a research company or an ad agency that talks up their D&I policies in the media every second of the day … but a Mum, Serlina, and her 6 year old daughter, Faith.

It’s absolutely brilliant – they also do one for little boys of colour as well – but that is not the only reasons we should all support it and champion it.

You see apart from the fact Serlina and Faith have just shamed our whole industry in terms of spotting D&I issues and doing something about them … they’ve also reminded us WHY D&I is one of the only things that might be able to save our industry from disaster.

Too many people in adland still think their reality reflects everyone’s else’s reality.

Of course it’s bollocks … and yet we keep on doing the same thing over and over again.

Hiring the same people.
Putting the same types of people in power.
Acting like everything is fine when everything isn’t.

What Serlina and Faith have done with Cocoa Girl is show our blinkered blindness.

Our inability to see what is not in our bubbles.

The act of being deliberately blind and ignorant.

We – as an industry – should have done this.

We – as an industry – should have supported this.

We – as an industry – didn’t.

If you have any desire to make any difference, you then can start by signing up for a subscription to Cocoa Girl.

Then you can help get clients to sponsor the amazing Boys Smile project.

Then you can show this post to your colleagues and discuss how this is what really adding to culture means.

Thank you Serlina. Thank you Faith.



Eurphoria In Disappointment …

My last day at R/GA was great.

That might sound weird, but it was.

Part of it was because I started the morning with the brilliant Brixton Finishing School listening to a bunch of students answering a brief I gave them with passion, mischief and possibility and part of it was because I got to spend significant time with my brilliant planning gang to say goodbye.

But there was another reason, which is that the first thing I did when my life at R/GA was over – literally within 30 minutes of being officially made unemployed – I was doing an interview with Faisal Ahmend about diversity and inclusion in adland.

And while it is an issue I am very, very passionate about …

And while I continue to feel the industry only gives a superficial response to it …

And while my headphones and wifi makes me sound like I’m Darth Vader speaking from a tin box with intermittent wifi …

…. even I’m slightly suprised how upbeat I sound on such a significant day in my career.

But then, as I said in the post that announced it, not only was I glad this happened to me rather than a person of colour, a woman or a youngster starting out in their career – who are often the first victims in these situations – the reality is the last time this happened to me, it led to the most exciting and creative time of my career and so I felt no reason to feel anything other than optimistic about the future.

Now I admit with hindsight, that may have been naive of me – especially with all the shit going on in the World with pandemics and political fighting, not to mention my old, old, old, old, age – however based on all that has happened to me since that I announced I’d been made redundant, my hunch has been proved to be right.

So far. Hahahaha

Normally I hate listening or reading things I say.

I spend the whole time slapping my head either muttering, “why did I say that?” … “why didn’t I say that?” … or “why am I jumping about and rambling like I’m a loon?”

However this one is a bit different.

Sure there’s things I wish I rephrased.

Sure there’s things that I might have got slightly wrong.

But at the end of the day, I say the one thing that I feel had to be said … the one thing to counter the excuse I continually hear why there is not more diversity in adland today.

When asked how do I find the people to add diversity to my team, I respond …

“You don’t have to ‘find them’, they’re everywhere … you just have to want them.”

You can listen to it here.

You can listen to far more intelligent and articulate people here.

And, as usual, I huge thank you to all the people who have – and continue to – help me on my journey to being a much, much better human. Especially Maya, Breanna, Chelsea, Lani, Hannah, Amar, Omar, Erika, David, Sue, Jorge, Karrelle, Jason, Tahaab, Charinee, Leon, Debi, Tina, Kate, PQ, Rodi, Jay, Akua, Yaya and Bayyina.