About That ‘Here Are All the Black People’ Advertising Week Event…

By Patrick Coffee 

You may have heard about/seen a very unfortunate image from today’s Advertising Week events that would appear to depict a group of white people discussing why there are so few black people in the agency world.

It does not.

In short, this odd combo (which definitely demands some explanation) came about due to an overlap between two connected but distinct events: this morning’s “Here Are All the Black People” and the “Advertising for Good” session/panel discussion. The former is “a highly anticipated annual multicultural creative career fair” for students run this year by the One Club and BBDO, and the latter was part of today’s larger #HAATBP fair.

You can see why there was confusion. Some more context via Grey:

Here is the full “Advertising for Good” video, which obviously includes several black people like keynote speaker/lawyer/The Source publisher Londell McMillan. Again, this was part of the bigger networking event. A quick glance at the One Club’s Twitter feed demonstrates that the cast of speakers was indeed multicultural. The panels both preceding and following the one pictured in the top tweet included African Americans.

The “Here Are the Black People” agency executive team also includes several non-white people, as one can see here and below.

Here’s a set of crowd pics via FCB Health.

So this mini-controversy was really a case of misinterpretation: the panel in the image tweeted at the top of this post was not discussing a shortage of non-white people in the ad industry.

That said: the image does make for a very awkward juxtaposition; the decision to leave the banner up was maybe not wise; the name of the event could be too clever for its own good. And the agency world still has a diversity problem.

Finally, the iffy title comes from a self-deprecating joke that a black ACD at GS&P once made to Jeff Goodby regarding the very problem we’re sort of discussing here. Goodby writes:

“Ed Crayton said to me at a Christmas party, ‘Where are all the black people?’

I suggested these words to the One Club as a name for this event, which was cooked up in conjunction with my friend Jimmy Smith and One Club icon Mary Warlick—and about which I am VERY PROUD and thankful. The club has since changed it to the less provocative but admittedly bone clear ‘Here are all the black people,’ but I hesitate to complain because the event is so important.”