Shelly-Ann Scott: A responsibility to help the next generation of BIPOC marketers

—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—

Shelly-Ann Scott was drawn to the ad industry 25 years ago because of the unique people, great energy, and dynamic environment.

Like many other BIPOC professionals, it took her some time to break in. But after months of searching, she got a job in research before jumping to the account side.

Some of the favourite moments in her career came from working on the Boots business in the U.K., an experience that helped her when she returned to Canada and began building the EOS brand. “EOS was disruptive in the personal care sector,” says Scott. “And the creative itself also broke with category norms and disrupted the expected lip balm communications tropes.” The work that she and the agency did on EOS helped the brand grow from a start-up to a multi-million dollar business.

When she joined the industry, there weren’t many BIPOC marketers around. “I was often the only one who looked like me in a meeting,” she says. Despite that, Scott found non-BIPOC mentors who supported and encouraged her, and motivated her to succeed. And, she says, she was fortunate enough to succeed without encountering any overt racism or bias.

As for dealing with microaggressions, she takes a rational approach by turning them back on the aggressor. “Any microaggressions are usually people stereotyping,” she says. “I usually just turn any stereotype on its head, and that usually gives the individual pause to reflect. I believe it’s one of the ways to enable a change in perspective.”

Today, Scott says she no longer feels like the “only one,” as more BIPOC marketers enter the industry. That said, there’s still a long way to go to achieve true diversity.

She believes that it requires early outreach to youth to make the industry accessible, as well as mentorship capable of helping more BIPOC kids consider advertising as a career. “I didn’t have BIPOC mentors, but I do think we have that responsibility now, as organizations, and also as BIPOC individuals to connect with these younger generations through mentoring and exposing the endless opportunities of our industry,” she says.

Welcoming people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs is important, especially if they demonstrate a curiosity and passion for the industry, says Scott. At the end of the day, it comes down to hard work and commitment. “I believe in trying, going after something, not being discouraged,” she says. “And if you put in the hard work and effort, it’s possible.”

This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Aleena Mazhar, SVP and managing director, partner at FUSE Create, and a steering committee member of POCAM.