More than a year after George Floyd and BLM, is black talent getting a seat at the marketing table?

More than a year after George Floyd and BLM, is black talent getting a seat at the marketing table?

The death of George Floyd in May last year and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed have led to much higher levels of non-white representation in the media. It was one of the cultural changes that brands felt was essential to ‘standing with’ black and other non-white people. But is it enough?

Ghanaian-British Creative Director Daniel Amoakoh believes not. As Founder of Blanguage, a creative curation and programming brand that produces ad campaigns, music videos and activations, he says black talent is still being brought to the marketing table too late in the process to wield influence.

“We’re [black talent] brought in on design, creative and promotion. The change needs to be in terms of more people in strategy so they can flag issues and sense-check instead of having to apologise after they’ve done it,” says Daniel.

Daniel Amoakoh

Non-white talent is only used to add 'street cred'

Among Blanguage’s recent work is a project to commemorate the Windrush generation in Hackney. Blanguage collaborated with Freeflo to create a platform for the community to access resources.

The team also led the production looking at ‘what does it mean to be human now’ for the Wellcome Collection.

While working at advertising agencies before Blanguage, whose entire team is black, he noticed a pattern. Creative and strategic teams often called upon non-white colleagues to add “cool” or “street cred” to campaigns “but they were not being called in at account management or strategy level.”

He says, “In my opinion, you should bring us in at the point when you need cultural consultation – and that’s before the creative starts. There always has to be cultural consultation because no single person will get everything right. But cultural consultation is so important with this kind of work.”

A recent example of cultural insensitivity to black communities, says Daniel, is George at ASDA’s ‘Arrive Like You Mean It Campaign’ to promote school uniforms. It uses drill music in the soundtrack, a rap genre that has been vilified by the authorities and even banned from YouTube.

“Drill rappers have been pretty much ostracized by the police but George at ASDA can use it in a national campaign for kids. So there is some blurring of the lines,” he says.

Applying 'black minds' to a strategy

Daniel argues that many brands are losing the black pound when they fail to understand the cultural nuances, as well as verbal and visual language, of black audiences.

But he believes that brands are beginning to recognise this.

“We will see a lot more companies taking on more black minds in strategic or consultancy roles because they are seeing there is nuance and that not being on the ball is losing them a lot of money,” says Daniel.

“Everybody spends so differently. Some shop locally while others like to spend lavishly on large purchases. It’s about understanding how to commoditise a brand for different people.

“With a diverse range of people in strategy, you can cover all the bases and bring something authentic to them.”