Question: Can Creatives of color thrive in Ethnic shops?

I was scheming when I wrote this so forgive me if it goes astray. I had a friend tell me recently, that I'm not doing the work I could be doing. He said I've 'never really spread my wings.' It made me wonder, does working at a black agency, with black centered work allow black creatives to really get creative? Does the pressure of always having to answer the question, 'what's black about your concepts' hinder you from doing work that you really believe will have legs and gain traction? Is having conceptual thinking and strategic ideas constantly corralled onto the smallest box possible kill any chance for true creativity? All these questions probably give light to my opinion on the matter, but maybe not.

Sometimes creativity is borne of confinement. When you know you don't have the world at your disposal you are forced to focus and simultaneously edit to the marrow of what's relevant. The best ideas are always referred to as 'elegant solutions' which generally means the essence of a thing has been made plain. So in this situation what does that mean? Should the 'laboratory of scarcity' infuse multi-cultural creative with purpose and subsequently help forge brilliant creative? Like a race horse with blinders, shouldn't we see more ethnic creative that forges ahead of the crowded beaten track and resonate with its intended audience? This atmosphere creates the opportunity for blindingly creative output that the market is dying for. And I don't just mean award show metal collection-type creative either, I still maintain there is a double tiered hurdle for any ethnic creative to leap to win in the bigger award shows. Namely, culturally unaware judgement of ethnically specific work makes that race doubly difficult to run. I digress. It seems there would be way more really good stuff out there. There is some interesting work being done and clients are seeing the results, but it's rarely really interesting work.

As an ethnic creative have you really had the chance to spread your wings? Is it a budgetary issue? After all the extremely delicate fractions of budget ethnic shops get are far from commensurate with the general market counterparts. I still believe general market marketing dollars deserve to be bigger. Because when folks figure out that the general market IS multicultural, I want to see the Multi-flavored shops get their fair share of the crops and stop share-cropping. However the allotment for all other agencies don't even come close to matching census percentages. Is all the creative mandated from the client? Is that our fault due to the way we approach clients with the message of 'you gotta sell to Blacks/Asians/Hispanics differently?'

The HBCU theory is one that professes nurturing of young diverse talent with like minds makes them stronger. Those training wheels don't seem to help many creatives leave the early training grounds of ethnic agency experience. We don't see the progression to more diverse shops. That is not inherently a bad thing, but we often hear of it being a career trap or a dead-end path. From the big shops we see campaigns that range from the ridiculous to the racist, we also see many brilliant things too. Why is Black, Asian & Hispanic brilliance so much less visible? I'm not suggesting it doesn't exist, BECAUSE IT DOES EXIST, merely stating it's hard to find. Is multicultural braininess, talent & creativity squandered in ethnic advertising shops?

Lars Wunderlich Illustrations

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