When Your Accent Is Not on Brief

I don't consider myself an outsider. But the ad industry does

five illustrations
Our accents also demonstrate a unique POV. iStock
Headshot of Gloria Concepcion

A diverse workforce is not a new ad industry mandate. But these past few months, practically all major businesses are rushing to become diverse.

Many may be doing so just to prove to the outside world that they’re not one of those “all-white-male toxic agencies” everyone is pointing fingers at. Of course, far too many do fall into the category of trying to look good without doing good on a meaningful level. I have worked at those agencies, the places where I was just a number, part of a ratio, a muted statistic to help them justify their diversity.

I have an accent. I grew up in South America, but my grandmother is Native American. So my Americanness is a big part of my upbringing. I don’t consider myself an outsider. But others do. 

Once, during a commercial casting review with a client for a spot about addiction, all the agency recommendations were approved except one: a very talented woman with an accent.

Something about her accent wasn’t working for the client. I thought to myself, “Addiction doesn’t really care if you have an accent.” After the call, the account lead said she could understand the client’s POV. After all, they were an American brand. I was puzzled. Does having an accent mean you’re not American enough? Was I capable of being on an American football brief? Or working on a campaign for an American dating app?

In my experience, the advertising industry can be particularly unkind. I’ve seen super talented creatives with accents be laid off first. I’ve noticed creatives with accents not getting promoted at the same rate as others with similar years of experience. 

And all too often, microaggressions take a toll as well. For instance, people making fun of other people’s accents or laughing at the fact that some of us are still learning English words—that’s a prime example. If you have an accent, someone will always question your ability to write as well, lead as well and understand an American brand as well.

But you have an additional perspective on everything: how you see the world, how you see life, and especially how you communicate. 

Hire us for non-Latinx projects

We are able to write more than identity stories. In fact, our stories are also American stories—stories of resilience, of liberation, of hope. Stories of business owners chasing the American dream, little girls that one day will be president or work for NASA, war veterans, nurses, musical artists and fashionistas. Stories are powerful. Stories change the world. Let’s get on the right side of history so we can continue to create needed change and tell captivating stories together.

Because we are steeped in the dominant culture, we speak at least two, if not more, cultural languages. We are as well versed in yours as much as we are in ours. Our voices and our perspective will undoubtedly enhance yours and that of all Americans.

We will continue to demand an industry that sees us, hears us, and values our contributions so that the world will do the same through the stories we tell. We have more than one perspective, and our ideas transcend cultures and languages in a way that can only come from us. That is always on brief. 


Gloria Concepcion is a senior copywriter at MullenLowe LA.
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