Why This Aspiring Copywriter Titled Her Cover Letter ‘Your Agency Hates Black Women’

Her bold pitch seems to be paying off

Alysia Lewis

The ad industry is abuzz over a cover letter posted on Facebook this week that opens with a line sure to make any talent scout do a double take: “Your Agency Hates Black Women.”

Aspiring junior copywriter and recent Fashion Institute of Technology graduate Alysia Lewis shared the post in a Facebook job group. She followed her remarkable opening salvo by using the recent Pepsi Kendall Jenner controversy as a symbol of the ad industry’s seeming inability to avoid shooting itself in the foot.

In a concise summary of every creative’s worst nightmare, Lewis wrote, “You don’t think it’ll happen to you. But one day you and your team will be sitting and brainstorming and someone will say: ‘Why don’t we use ‘finna’ in this headline?’ And it will all come crashing down.”

The post essentially doubles as an ad for Lewis herself. It also lightly scolds agencies for their history as “echo chamber[s] of ass patting and cigar smoking,” includes confessions like, “I won’t be bright-eyed because I’m already dead inside,” and details the ways in which Lewis’s talents can benefit the company that hires her.

Most ad agency job applications don’t get noticed by recruiters, much less trade journals. Some rare exceptions have included an account services intern’s cover letter starring a Lego version of herself, and Wunderman DC chief creative officer Tuesday Poliak’s decision to turn her application into a series of wallets customized to appeal to creative directors.

Adweek spoke to Lewis about the note, her ambitions and what Jenner exposed about today’s agencies.

Adweek: So your ad, if we can call it that, is getting a lot of attention in the agency recruiting world. What were you thinking would happen when you posted it?
Alysia Lewis: I wasn’t going to post it at all. I made it to be my cover letter because my resume is kind of boring and I don’t have much copywriting work. Then I sat on it for a week, applied for a few jobs and thought, maybe if I post it on Facebook it will get a little attention.

Well, it definitely worked. The headline itself is very…
Provocative?

That’s the word I was going to use! Was it aimed at “generic white male” creative directors or talent scouts?
Agencies are very white, but I didn’t mean to tell them, “You’re a terrible person.” It’s more of a joke like, you’re awful, sure, but you’d be 10 percent less awful if you hired me.

Ha! It then opens with an aside about the Kendall Jenner Pepsi fiasco, which felt very appropriate.
When that happened, the first place I read about it was a gossip site, because that’s what I do with my life. Then it was a conversation for like two weeks. My classmates wondered, who could possibly be so shielded and tone deaf to think this was a good idea? Agencies think they’re doing something so great, but it turns into a laughingstock that you can’t get away from. Nobody ever wants to think they’re racist; that’s a white person’s greatest fear. And I didn’t put it out there to make anyone feel too badly about themselves. Everything I do is twofold, and I put in a layer of humor. That’s kind of who I am.

You also included a line about tracking down “the 10 black female copywriters in New York City.” Was that based on anything in particular?
I don’t think that advertising, from what I’ve seen, is something that black women get into. I was the only black person who graduated from my [advertising design] program at FIT. Everyone was in fashion design or the business of fashion.