How people of colour will transform advertising

—The future won’t be about ‘unique’ perspectives, but more perspectives, says Juliet’s Denise Cole—

I have a prediction: People of colour will save advertising. Does advertising need saving? Yes. Ads have grown more and more homogenous. Decades of the same voices in every product category isn’t working anymore, and everybody knows it—especially consumers.

What better way to break through and become part of culture than by changing the voices doing all the talking?

And here’s the thing about culture:

  • The largest debut for an original horror film: Jordan Peele’s Us;
  • The best director 2020: Bong Joon Ho for Parasite;
  • The top selling music artist in 2020: Drake;
  • The hottest new Netflix series (just renewed for season two): Never Have I Ever;
  • The most streamed song of 2020: Blinding Lights by The Weeknd; and
  • The most nominated woman in Grammy history: Beyonce.

Modern culture as we know it would be unrecognizable without BIPOC voices.

Now close your eyes and imagine if companies had the people who birthed that culture built into the DNA of the company itself. Authenticity? Check. Authority? Check*. Campaigns that connect with real people? Check. Happy clients with bottom line growth? I’d wager a big old check on that, too.

The asterisk in the middle of this checklist depends on companies supporting the BIPOC voices they bring on board. Forcing conformity to existing agency structures is pointless.

People of colour drive culture. And the more people we bring in, the better the outcomes will be.

This is why the future won’t be about unique perspectives, but rather about more perspectives. “Unique” sounds positive on the surface but is rooted in a belief that the rarity of these voices is somehow the benefit.

A breadth of different perspectives will be the real change agent. Everyone bringing more of who they genuinely are to the table needs to be the final outcome. This is only amplified when you see you’re not at the table alone.

People who know they can bring truth into the workplace with them have a superpower like no other.

Not only will people of colour make the work better, they’ll make the workplace better. Think about what kind of city you want to live in. Now think about our advertising community as a small version of that. It makes sense that all employees benefit when there are different folks in the room.

It provides a broader vision of the world. The world that we are supposed to be connecting with.

People also behave better when they are aware of other cultural groups around them. That behaviour has a way of turning into something much more permanent. We see it in our most progressive cities. It’s not geography or proximity to the coasts that makes a city progressive, it’s the mix of people within it. It’s always been the people.

We are on a journey toward a turning point for this industry. The roots are growing. The juniors from marginalized communities who fought their way in years ago are rising in the ranks. Like the quiet and knowing Black salute of a head-nod as we pass on the street, I see you.

There’s a current of change in the air that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. I’m placing a big bet that we’ll collectively look back on this period and say, wow, what the hell took so long and when did the work get this good.

Denise Cole is co-founder and creative director of Toronto agency Juliet. This column originally appeared on