Ten Reasons We Still Need / Don’t Need African American Advertising Agencies

10. The irrelevance initiative.

Now that Obama is as good as in office, some will deem African American (AA) issues, voices, and yes advertising as irrelevant. There will be mandates for it. The gap of marketing communication to a much needed audience base will widen. The current dollars allotted the AA segment are paltry. AA Agencies struggle to make the most their teeny budgets already. There will be voices that will point to the recent election as a substantiating claim for dissolving any such institutions. More people will be forgotten. More of a completely viable audience will be over looked.

9. The (getting into the) game remains the same.

Put simply, young black creative have nowhere else to go. The cowards that be are slow to change. The Ad industry will only allow for so many black people in the doors. Trust me there is subliminal and often times overt count being made daily. Someone is watching the gate and only so much color can be allowed in. There is a point at which the job of hiring people of color becomes satiated. That same satiety is never quenched for white creatives. Somehow there is always room for that hot new white kid or a good ol’ boy.

8. Deep Divers.
No one understands a community better than it’s denizens. It is the AA creatives who will be able to mine the culture and how it influences others to elucidate the values, faults and virtues. This may prove to air dirty laundry or to share hidden gems of wisdom or strengths and fragility of basic human nature. Ultimately it serve to educate us all.

7. The Niche Increase.

As the web broadens our spectrum of daily culture consumption it also allows us to intensify our interest. I can literally look all day at and talk about anything I’m interested in. Absolutely anything, let’s say... I don’t know Blacks Ads for instance. This web world widening can be overwhelming. I think people retreat to “safe” niches of comfort or interest. African Americans are no different in this respect. But what I find really interesting here is the break-out there in. We find with the rapid dissemination of the “Black Brand.” We find an unveiling, almost a blooming if you will. There are thriving subcultures of manifold ilk. There are black skaters, punk rockers, heavy metal heads, hikers, bikers, skiers, etc. Somehow amazingly they still hold on to the moniker of “Black” with varying degrees of pride and prominence. This is not to say some don’t gladly drop the moniker all together. I believe that even in the most diverse of endeavor we find some degree of racism that makes us hold that ground. Now, certainly some of these people simply love who and what they are. They see black as an inherent part of what they do and the way they do it. Black becomes merely a prefix that only enhances the suffix or said activity.

6. Diasporic Dominance.
We are still viewed by many people of color and other cultures as the look-to, as the most aggressive/progressive, innovative and accomplished Black people on the planet. There is an ability to inspire, help and serve other communities of color. We have influence and AA agencies at their best, know how to wield it skillfully.

5. Cultural Confluence.

We define where the dominant culture merges with our own. We certainly define the language though not always the conversation. (More defining the conversation is needed.) There are countless examples of the AA culture being laid over the dominant culture and completely remixes the latter. Example: President Bush uses the word “diss.” This is an inherent strength of the AA Agency that for the most part lies dormant.

4. Cultural Cluelessness.

The charades and the shenanigans that go on in the advertising and design industry almost daily are unbearable. If the same level of debauchery went on in AA shops, new laws and regulations would be enacted. Oft times when General Market Agencies attempt to express simple concepts of ethnic life the results have been less than great. When it comes to “sharing the wealth,” the rules get whackier and even change at exponential rates. I could go on for years, apparently so can they. High Jive at MultiCultClassics give a pretty detailed accounting of “Uncle Tom Foolery” here. (MultiCultClassics does it with a flair)

3. A Dream Deterred.
The best work is yet to be done. Their are too many constraints on current creative. The culture, hasn’t been fully tapped, the best of our inventiveness hasn’t been unleashed. We have yet to take the slop we are often given and turn it into delicacies. (see Chitterlings i.e. “chit’lins) The unique and valuable vision and creative purview the African captives brought to this nation are immeasurable. Nobody freaks the culture the way Black people in America do. I feel we have yet to do the same kind of things within the advertising space. Imagine what could be done if we truly felt comfortable in that realm and were given the freedom/opportunity to reinvent, reinterpret and re-imagine what marketing is. The results could be staggering. I know someone will say, well, Black Agencies don’t do that now. That’s because they are still in shackles. Sometimes mentally – self imposed, sometimes financially, often times creatively, but shackles non the less. They have little or no freedom from imposed ideas and practices. They are not totally free from blame either. I have sat in meetings and capitulated for the sake of an uninspired, less than challenged paycheck. In those instances I failed to live my own dream(s).

2. Good old fashion and some "brand" new Racism!
The daily crucible of intolerance. Racism is now mostly a buzz word, it gets peoples attention and increases blog hits and renders Twitter over capacity. That’s because we now confuse it with prejudice. Prejudice is the more common practice of prejudging a person(s) and acting from that stance. I’ve worked with prejudice people all my life. I’m just fine, I can live with that. I harbor a few prejudices of my own. Prejudice is a precursor to racism. Racism is prejudice’s powerful malignant projection. It is systemic. Therein lies the danger and rancor. Racism always comes from a position of power. Racism disallows or limits greatly my participation in institutions. Racism seeks to thwart any other outer beauty and brilliance. The Advertising industry is racist.

1. Orchestrated Obsolescence.

This is a very long term goal, but never the less a viable consideration. Unless we remain an active part of the initiative to re-imagine race and to embolden Black people as a whole towards their highest ideals, we should not take up the space God gave us on this earth. Our collective genius should be implored to a more inspired practice a more enlivened forms of commerce and art. It should be the inevitable task of AA agencies to bridge the chasms of communication and the utterance of understanding that will ultimately render themselves outmoded.
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