—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—
Even if you haven’t heard of Tyson Kuteyi, you’ve certainly heard his work. That’s because he’s been one of the ad industry’s go-to audio professionals since the early 2000s.
Starting out as a DJ when he was 17, Kuteyi was attracted to advertising because it offered steady, consistent work while also being less of a hustle and grind compared to the music industry. “Advertising gave me an outlet to express myself creatively, but in an environment that was a bit more structured and consistent when it came to the remuneration component,” he says. “I was able to bring my gifts as a musician and record producer into my role as well.”
He admits, however, that he knew very little about the industry in those early days. “I had no idea the role of engineer, voice director and composer for ads even existed.”
Recognizing that many others might not know about these opportunities, Kuteyi and his team at Grayson Music Group have made it their mission to make the next generation of audio professionals aware that the ad industry exists, and is an incredibly vibrant and colourful place to express oneself creatively. “If people in all communities know that our industry exists, our industry will continue to evolve and champion voices from all walks of life,” he says.
Though he never had a mentor, BIPOC or otherwise, Kuteyi has always been the type to watch and learn how things work from the sidelines, while studying and planning how to carve his own path—one that was tailored to his style, and reflected how he felt business should be conducted.
“For me, it’s pretty simple: Use the gifts God has given you to always lead with kindness, maintain an attitude of servanthood and open-handedness,” he says.
Always wanting to remain humble, Kuteyi would often disregard the value he brought to each project, and failed to recognize the impact he had on people, the companies he worked for, and the work he was part of. But thankfully, throughout his career, he’s had many peers to encourage him, acknowledge his strengths, champion his contributions, and trust his leadership.
“I am grateful for that,” he says. “It’s proof that the people in our industry can look past my ethnicity, and only see a human willing to partner with them to do everything in their power to make the work incredible.”
Kuteyi believes our industry can become more inclusive by being more intentional about attracting talent from less obvious communities, and highlighting itself as a place with a vast number of positions catering to a wide variety of skills in both creativity and business.
For young Black talent wanting to break into advertising, Kuteyi’s advice is to gain exposure to the industry on every level possible: Learn what happens in an agency, educate yourself on all the positions that exist, or even reach out to people on LinkedIn to set up a discovery call. All of these actions can lead to new opportunities.
And for those who want to break into the music side of advertising, reach out to him directly. “I love to teach and firmly believe there is something gained for both student and teacher during the transaction of education,” says Kuteyi. “The more we teach, the more we learn. Not just about the subject, but about each other.”
This POCAM BHM 2023 profile was written by Erik dela Cruz, a creative director at Midnight Circus, and a POCAM steering committee member.