The DON’Ts Of Advertising Agencies: The Black Folk Edition

By SuperSpy 

Update: Due to the popularity of this post, I’ll be doing a female edition shortly. If you have something to contribute to this new list, send me an email at superspyin at gmail dot com.

I just got out of a meeting that has my blood beyond boiling, inflamed, engorged, ready to explode even. Look, the advertising industry is always batting around the word diversity like a dog chew toy. It’s played with, slobbered on and then, thrown out.


They’ve been talking about diversity since 1970. Hiring managers also talk about retention. Speaking of retention, I’d like to be of service. You want me to stick around?

Below, please find some DON’Ts for dealing with those of African or African American descent within advertising agencies. Of course, these cultural tips, which (surprise!) may not have occurred to you, are valuable for all environments. I hope that you will apply them liberally. Very.

1. DON’T… ask about our hair. DON’T… ask to touch it. Do I ask to feel your locks when you get it cut or colored? Absurd! DON’T… ask me about whether it’s real or not. Do I ask about your shifting toupee or massive hair plugs? Do I ask if you’re wearing a fake pony tail when clearly (because it’s sliding across your head), you are?

2. In the office, when everyone is discussing their vacation plans and I say I’m going to the Caribbean, DON’T… ask me if that is where my family is from. When you say you are going to England, do I say, “Oh, that sounds great! Are you visiting family?”

3. DON’T… ask me if I tan. Do you know anything about biology and physiology? Anything at all? Imbecile.

4. When we discuss black celebrities as possible partners on a campaign in front of the client, DON’T turn to me and expect me to know every detail about them. What makes you think I know more about Rhianna then you do? Do I assume that you know more about Scarlett Johansson? Just because I’m black, it doesn’t mean I’m the authority on every black person that has ever existed. When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me, asshole.

5. When we part ways DON’T say to me “See you later, sis” or any derivative of that including: ma, sistah, Ms. Thang, etc.

6. DON’T… assume I’m someone’s assistant when you visit the office. I am not. Black people can be creative directors, senior producers, senior planners, consumer insights directors, et al.

7. DON’T… ever in your life say to any black person, “You speak so well. Where are you from? Are you British?” OMFG. OMFG. Just because I don’t speak like 50Cent, the only black person you seem to be aware of, does not mean that I’m fucking British.

8. On that note, if the conversation happens where I say I’m from Pennsylvania, DON’T… say, “Where are you originally from?” I don’t know – the fucking boat? When you say you’re from Ohio, do I say, “No, I mean before that. Where did your family immigrate from in 1862?” Fucktard.

9. DON’T… call me into the room when possible clients are in the office just to trot me around the boardroom like a show pony. Little ol’ me is not proof that you have a diverse agency. It’s disgusting and the client can see through your BS. Trust.

10. When I point out the creative for a national brand is being skewed very white, DON’T… roll your eyes. Go ahead. Wait for the client to bring it up in the meeting so you can look like a total schmuck. And by the way, they will. These days, they always do. Like in that meeting last week? Yeah. You remember.

11. DON’T… ask me if I know culturally relevant black icons. No. I don’t know Obama. Just because he’s half black and I’m black does not mean that we belong to a secret club where we meet our other friends Michael Jordan and Tyra Banks to talk about what Colin Powell is up to over 40s and menthol cigarettes.

Whew. Okay. That’s just a beginning. I feel a lot better now. I’m sure that there are things I’m overlooking, but call this a primer. A wake-up call if you will. A serious one.

Comment (since the comment system is junk, I’ll repost): “Comment on “black folk”: This post actually made me register so I could comment and show my support for you. The sad thing is, if the person this rant was aimed at actually read this post, they wouldn’t even get that it’s about them. Ignorance is not an excuse for stupidity. Progress, people. It’s not that hard.”