It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing Gavin Barrett’s short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry—marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Barrett writes the profiles as a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better.
When asked about his BIPOC role model, Scott Pinkney, executive creative director of Publicis Hawkeye, names his dad, Jerry Pinkney, without hesitation. Scott’s 35-year career began on the floor of his father’s studio, surrounded by photography and design books. Art soon became his way to express himself with confidence, and his parents supported his choice of a life in the arts.
Scott’s father did illustrations for a lot of ad agencies. “I was always fascinated by how he turned a blank piece of paper into… a masterpiece,” he says. “And I wanted to do it as well.” Scott learned from his dad that passion for the craft could fuel a successful career in the arts.
Scott’s career saw him launch two agencies, Mosaic Direct & Interactive, and Publicis Hawkeye, where he has been for seven years now, and has taken him from New York to London to Toronto, with his wife Kimm as his “number one supporter and my compass,” he says.
Scott is grateful for real friends he could lean on when confronted by racism over his career. When people tried to tear him down, he quickly moved on. And he confesses, “I probably spent too much time trying to win over people who were unwinnable, but I don’t regret it.”
These experiences primed Scott to tackle leadership roles in an industry that didn’t look much like him. And he has, clad in his personal armour—once a suit and tie, and now a trademark jacket and pocket square.
On his journeys, Scott learned how the creative process unfolded for people from different cultures. To be more inclusive, Scott says the industry must look past names and faces. “Leaving biases at the door takes time, work, discipline and commitment,” he says. “Hiring only the people who look like you will simply not get you there.”
We work in a problem-solving industry and, he says, being “focused on unity, resolution and success… we’ll solve this.”
Scott has high praise for the mentors who guided, encouraged and showed him how to excel and be a leader. And to young Black talent, Scott says: Find your mentors, because their advice will last you your entire career. “Be confident yet humble, and take the support,” he says.
Scott is proudest of “This Is The Job,” a platform designed to “change the complexion of our industry.” A personal passion project turned Publicis passion project, it aims to help Canada’s agencies reflect the way Canada looks—“wildly and beautifully diverse” in Scott’s words—by connecting with high school students who aren’t aware of the incredible opportunities available in advertising. “We built them a platform that matches their passions with real jobs,” he says. Three school boards have signed up, and more are in the pipeline. It’s just one step, says Scott. “But I hope we are on our way.”
Canadian advertising and design, Ladan Nur says “Hey!” Currently a designer at Feed, Ladan’s been in the industry for about four years, starting in the nonprofit sector. I discovered Ladan because we‘re both members of POCAM—another example of how our POCAM community is growing and connecting us.
It was Photoshop’s lasso tool that first captured young Ladan’s imagination in Grade 9, and she has been hooked on design ever since. Her wonder only grew once she learned how ads make the creative journey from raw ideas to fully fleshed out executions, and she wanted to be a part of shaping that evolution.
Ladan is filled with gratitude for the Black educators who guided her in her school years, and encouraged her to follow her dream of a creative life. “It was a turning point in my life,” she says. “I cannot stress how important it is for young Black kids to have that kind of support in their lives.” Because of that experience, Ladan has dedicated herself to mentoring a few Black undergrad students in design/advertising programs. “I definitely want to take that further for even more young Black talent and students… and be a dependable presence (for them) wherever this journey takes me,” she says.
When faced with bias, microaggressions or outright racism, Ladan is a believer in calling things out and letting people know that something wrong has been done or said. Speaking of missteps made by the industry, Ladan says: “Once every couple of months, we see creative… misrepresenting the Black experience, and the cycle of apologies and ‘listening and learning’ goes on and on.”
It’s clear that not enough diverse perspectives were in the room when those ideas were being shaped, she says. “As much as there is an effort to represent us in front of the camera, we also need to be fully represented behind the camera.” Ladan feels fortunate to be working at an agency that puts real effort into implementing its DE&I initiatives, and where she is surrounded by great peers and fellow creatives.
For work she is proudest of, Ladan has chosen to share the brand identity and design for Gradient Spaces—a non-profit committed to building affirming, generative, and joyful spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ people in tech to grow and innovate together.
“Working with the rest of the Gradient Spaces team has been absolutely amazing,” she says. “And I’m excited to see what’s in store for Gradient Spaces in 2022.”