What’s Up With Adweek’s Budweiser Critique?
Iam responding to Barbara Lippert’s biased, off-the-mark comments regarding Charles Stone’s engaging, deservedly celebrated “Whassup?” campaign [Creative, July 3].
No doubt, there is a spiritual bonding that lies at the heart of the commercials. It resonates not only with these men but permeates African-American culture and is inextricably linked with our entire experience in this hemisphere. Speaking in code, slang and gestures not known to whites is as natural as breathing to many members of our race; at one time, our next breath might have depended on communicating this way. I would not expect you to know this, since in your worldview, the entirety of black culture has been reduced to kinte cloth.
You claim to have always been “shocked” by the apartheid in advertising. Are you as offended by the segregation in advertising? By the shameless lack of diversity in our industry? By the shocking indifference of publications like Adweek to the whole issue? By your own glib dismissal of a body of work, which has often outperformed “general market” advertising, but about which you apparently know nothing?
Advertising in the spirit of “Whassup?” is created daily at black agencies, and most often rejected because it is misunderstood or felt to be “alienating.” How typical that the only way great black work can be recognized is if it comes with the imprimatur of a “general market” agency attached.
Valerie J. Graves
SVP, chief creative officer
Uniworld Group, New York

Barbara Lippert responds: I find it ironic that you assert that in my “worldview, the entirety of black culture has been reduced to kinte cloth” because I was trying to make exactly the opposite point–that such a reduction is an offensive cliche. The reference, in fact, came from a story told to me about a client requesting a director to make a spot look more “black,” perhaps by draping a couch with kinte cloth.
I was not dismissing the work of African-American agencies glibly–I’m sure it does outperform the “general market” ads that are more widely seen. But I do think separate systems are disconcerting, and it’s shocking to me that in the last two years of writing this column, I’ve spoken to exactly one black copywriter for a “general market” agency.
My larger point was, what brings us together is bigger than what separates us. Through “Whassup?” one element of the “beautiful mosaic” of an American culture, to quote David Dinkins, has become mainstream. That’s a good thing.