Paris Agency Rosapark, Led by White Founders, Faces Scrutiny on Twitter

By Minda Smiley 

If you’re not already familiar, Rosapark is a French agency owned by Havas. Nathan Young, president of 600 & Rising and group strategy director at Periscope, tweeted an image of its three founders—all of whom are white men—today with the following comment: “Advertising’s race problem in one image.” 

For context: Rosapark was founded in 2012 by Gilles Fichteberg, Jean-Patrick Chiquiar and Jean-François Sacco (Full disclosure: the agency was named Adweek’s International Agency of the Year in 2018). One might reasonably assume the agency’s name is a nod to civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.

But the founders have said otherwise, at least via their employees: In a 2016 interview that the Epica Awards did with Mark Forgan, former creative director at Rosapark, he said the agency isn’t deliberately named after Parks.

“The guys wanted to name it after an urban location, and they liked the idea of  ‘park.’ Then they felt that ‘rose park’ or ‘rosa park’ made it feel a little less masculine since they were three guys,” he said. “The link to Rosa Parks was almost incidental.”

No word on whether that’s true, but we’ve reached out to Rosapark to get more detail.

At any rate, Young’s tweet prompted a response from someone named Louis Duroulle, who—according to LinkedIn—holds the title of directeur conseil for #HavasPariSocial at Havas Paris (the tweets appear to have since been deleted).

Young responded by asking if Duroulle would be interested in sharing his thoughts on the “right” way to advocate for racial equity. 

Durouelle’s response? #TrashTalking is not the solution.

“How is it trash talking?” Young tweeted back. “It is literally the 3 white male execs of an agency with 1 Black employee standing in front of the logo for their agency which is named after a Black civil rights icon who fought for racial equity. I couldn’t think up a better metaphor if I tried.”

As far as we can tell, Duroulle has stayed quiet since their last exchange. In the meantime, others, including Eleven copywriter Dotun Bello, have criticized Duroulle for trying to tell a Black man how to react to racial insensitivity. Bello also pointed to the fact that Mistress changed its name to The Many last year. 

At this point, we can only speculate how Rosapark and Havas plan to react, if at all. Maybe they’ll opt to change the name—or take Young’s advice and give their executives some media training. According to Young, he had a call with U.S. leadership at Havas following the Twitter exchange.

“I won’t disclose details, but I did speak to several issues of importance to our members and received assurance that U.S. diversity data would be forthcoming,” Young said in a tweet.

We at least know where 600&Rising stands: