Delly Dyer wants to showcase Black talent and ‘make things better, not worse’

—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—

At 17, Delly Dyer thought she was going to be a psychiatrist when she saw What Women Want and it blew her mind. Instead, fascinated by the work it took to make a TV ad, and by how brands rely on psychographics, she decided to pursue a different career.

“I really wish I had a video of me telling my immigrant parents their eldest child and only daughter now wanted to make commercials,” she laughs. Her career began at college, when an instructor encouraged her to apply for her first agency job and helped her switch majors so she could earn credits for her full-time work.

Fifteen years in, Dyer is thriving as senior manager, consumer brand marketing at DoorDash. “I’ve gotten to do some of the best work of my career, and I feel like I’m just getting started,” she said.

She doesn’t have a BIPOC mentor, but has had many white mentors, and describes her current director as “one of the most amazing mentors and sponsors I’ve ever had.”

She sees DoorDash CMO Kofi Amoo-Gottfried as a BIPOC role model. “He’s one of the most brilliant, wise and genuine people I’ve ever met,” she said. “He has this ability to put everyone at ease, be entirely present, and zero in on the exact push needed to elevate the work.”

A sticky note on her monitor quotes another role model, American businesswoman and former Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John: “Life over Fear.” Dyer loves how Saint John empowers women to embrace what makes them stand out.

What happens when she encounters racism, bias or microaggression? “I am comfortable in my Blackness in and out of the workplace, and that helps me address comments or ask questions that spotlight bias or correct a microaggression,” she says.

Dyer recently came across the term “low-key white person” in an article—anti-racists who don’t exhaustingly flaunt how not racist they are, but “simply let you exist in your Blackness and humanity.” She wishes the concept could guide recruitment, agency selection, casting and campaigns, and is practicing being a low-key person herself.

She pushes for authentic representation and diverse talent in her work—not to check boxes, but because the work is outstanding. Last February, Dyer led the launch of #BlackFoodEnergy—a DoorDash platform that showcases Black chefs and Black-owned/led restaurants across Canada year round. “I’m building a platform that showcases Black talent without the usual trauma tropes or stereotypes,” she says. “I’m intentionally trying to ensure what I do makes things better, not worse.”

Dyer’s advice for young Black talent who want to get into advertising? “Do it! Do it because you love it, and do it as yourself,” she says. “There is no single way to be Black. However you show up each day is Black enough. And… do what you can to make room for others. There’s enough space for all of us.”

Dyer guides herself with these words: “Protect your peace. Nothing is worth the continual disruption of your personal peace… you may need to switch jobs, end relationships, say no, or something else entirely. But once you find your peace, protect it fiercely.” Amen to that.

This profile was written by Gavin Barrett, CEO and chief creative officer of Barrett and Welsh, and a member of People of Colour in Advertising & Marketing’s steering committee.