TIAA's Rhythmic Ad Urges Black Americans to Take Steps Toward Retiring Confidently  

The financial fund aims to #RetireInequality with new work by The Martin Agency

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Retirement equity fund TIAA and The Martin Agency are taking bold steps—literally—to address the massive financial disparity plaguing Black Americans pondering retirement. 

The financial services firm and its AOR have launched “Stepping Further,” the latest initiative in its #RetireInequality campaign, to draw attention to a sobering stat: 54% of Black Americans currently do not have enough of a financial cushion to retire.

Both the initiative and the campaign’s 30-second spot, “The Steps We Take,” pay homage to step, a form of dance in which the body is used to create sound. Half of the dancers move to one set of choreography while the other half follow another routine—reflecting the different choices they make—before eventually falling in lock step together.

The use of step as a medium harkens back to its roots as a physical calling to unite. In this instance, it encourages finding strength and community in achieving a shared goal of creating a legacy of financial freedom and security in one’s golden years.

Although step dancing has recently found mainstream popularity, it has been around for centuries in Black culture, performed regularly at celebrations by members of Greek organizations on HBCU campuses since the 1900s.

“We’re doubling down on keeping culture at the core of creativity and not the sidelines,” said The Martin Agency CCO Danny Robinson in a statement. “The world has witnessed how Black culture can inspire creativity, and this series in the #RetireInequality campaign keeps that dialogue going to help inspire change.”

The spot, which was released March 1 and will run during the Academy Awards on March 12, was directed by Daps, whose previous work includes helming music videos for Migos, Stormzy, Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar, and choreographed by Sean Bankhead, who counts Lil Nas X, Cardi B and Sam Smith among his video credits.

The company also released behind-the-scenes videos featuring Daps and Bankhead discussing the importance of the campaign and the significance of using step to convey its message.

‘Stepping further’ in the right direction

In addition to the spot, TIAA will put on a series of events and activations in the coming months to support the campaign and its overall mission, including a musical project inspired by stepping featuring established and up-and-coming hip-hop artists timed to the 50th anniversary the genre’s founding, and a collaboration with students across HBCUs and members of The National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Last September, the company partnered with fashion designer Fe Noel to create “The Dre$$,” a one-of-a-kind garment made from faux money in denominations representing the potential amount women lose out on retirement earnings because of the gender wage gap. Noel closed out her New York Fashion Week show with the dress, which was then put on display for the remainder of the week.

The brand also previously partnered with soccer star Abby Wambach, the NBA’s Steph Curry, and several players and coaches from the NCAA and WNBA for the 50th anniversary of the Title IX legislation during Women’s History Month last year.

“At TIAA, we believe everyone has the right to a secure retirement,” Micky Onvural, TIAA’s chief marketing and communications officer, shared in a statement. “Our #RetireInequalty campaign aims to make retirement relevant by connecting it with culturally relevant moments and conversations.

“We started last year by focusing on the staggering 30% retirement income gap women face compared to men. We are now turning the spotlight on another staggering inequality, in that 54% of Black Americans do not have enough saved to retire, let alone leave a financial legacy. We’re teaming up with some of the most iconic names in music, dance, fashion and art to honor the contributions of the Black community and ignite new conversations about retirement security.

“We recognize we have a responsibility to help raise awareness of this massive disparity, and we’re on a mission to inspire action and create real change.”