This Short Film From TBWA Explores What It’s Like Being Black in Advertising

A special edition of the agency's Backslash series

The video features candid conversations with black professionals in advertising.

Conversations about diversity in the ad industry have never been more prevalent. Over the past year alone, clients like General Mills, Verizon, HP and Airbnb have called for more women and people of color not only within agencies themselves but on the panels that give them awards every summer at a certain seaside resort in Southern France.

Several agencies also created projects for Black History Month, like Havas Chicago’s #BlackAtWork “jobstacle course.” Last week, TBWA’s internal media unit Backslash offered its own take on the singular experiences of black professionals working in the ad industry.

The following short features staffers from both inside and outside the Omnicom network … along with one big-name CMO.

Backslash launched last August as a way for TBWA\Chiat\Day to share topical materials with its staffers via both in-house videos like this one and a public-facing Instagram account.

TBWA Worldwide chief strategy officer Nick Barham described the project as “an internal inspiration” designed to reach all 13,000 employees around the world and share new points of view on marketing, brands and larger cultural concerns.

“We felt that, for Black History Month, it was important to think about African American culture as it relates to advertising,” Barham said of this project, noting that TBWA leaders in New York and Los Angeles have discussed the topic frequently.

Chay Lee joined the team last summer.

“We wanted to capture the broad spectrum of people in advertising,” said Backslash content director Chay Lee, who joined the agency in L.A. last summer after working in production roles at Fox, Univision and other media companies. “There are conversations that people of color in advertising have when they’re by themselves, and I wanted people to hear that.”

The film went out to the global network last week, and TBWA\Chiat\Day subsequently held a viewing in its West Coast office along with a panel featuring individuals associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I don’t think change is happening as quickly as it should,” Barham said, and Mildenhall has argued multiple times that agencies can’t simply wait for their teams to grow more diverse. “Change comes from people having conversations,” Lee added. “Once you’re on the radar, anything can happen.”

Until now, the Backslash project has been primarily limited to its Instagram account and internal materials like this video. But both leaders said the team has grown more ambitious over the past few months, and they expect to create more publicly disseminated content in the future.

When asked about the project’s goals, Barham said, “We want to represent what people are listening to, what they’re interested in and what brands care about.”


Content Director: Chay Lee
Executive Producer: Nick Barham
DP & Editor: Andrew Nethery
Associate Producer: Aeden Keffelew
Junior Editor: Pat McGuinness
Production Coordinator: Liz Alexander
Graphics: Kevin Reid

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