In a time when diversity and inclusion are becoming common buzzwords in the corporate world, we knew we needed to do our part to create actual change within our industry. That is why we kicked off our Representation Roundtable Series this past month. These sessions serve to give people access to raw conversations about the biases and prejudices that minority professionals face in this industry – and more specifically, within our Twin Cities ad community. 

While there has been a surge in efforts to make the advertising industry appear less racist, these issues still very much exist. That is why the first session of the series was Anti-Racism@Work, focusing on how to go from being non-racist to anti-racist in the workplace. 

This discussion was moderated by the Minneapolis based Creative Strategist and Founder of 600 & Rising, Nathan Young. He was joined by panelists Joanne Torres, Creative Director at Fallon; Irv Briscoe, Director, Global Front End Developer at Epsilon;  Mike Collins, Integrated Copywriter at Periscope; and Cornel Beard, Associate Designer at 10 Thousand Design and Co-Host of the podcast Underrepresented. 


In the hour-long session, the group covered a variety of topics from how they felt during the events following the death of George Floyd, to what it is like to be the only person of color in the room and their point of view on being asked by a recruiter if they can refer BIPOC talent. Their discussion was thoughtful, informative and candid. 

For those that were not able to make this event, here are three important takeaways from the first in the AdFed Representation Roundtable Series.

  1. Enough of the performativity While social media has allowed people to stay connected and spread information at lightning speed, it has also become an avenue for fast action that can sometimes lack substance. As mentioned in the panel, the most recent example of this was the social media blackout in the days following the death of George Floyd. Hundreds of thousands of people and corporations posted black squares to show their solidarity with the Black community. The harsh reality is that these squares do not do much besides allow for people to bandwagon for a hot second onto a very real and very crucial movement. While showing solidarity is not inherently an issue, it becomes an issue when the activism stops there. The ask of ad agencies is to continue this solidarity beyond a social post – to incorporate equitable hiring practices and foster healthy environments for BIPOC talent to flourish.
  2. Believing our BIPOC peers’ lived experiences As more people begin to share their experiences and the prejudice they have faced in this industry, it is important to take what they are saying to heart. While it may be hard to come to terms with the fact that the advertising community still has issues with racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, etc., that does not mean these issues do not exist. If a first reaction is disbelief or skepticism towards someone’s lived experience, this is effectively invalidating them and perpetuating the biases they face daily. Instead of discounting someone’s story, believe what they are saying. This empathy will allow for a better understanding of what minority professionals go through and what it is going to take to make this industry equitable for BIPOC.
  3. Cultivate BIPOC talent One of the common themes throughout the discussion was that our industry needs to not only hire more BIPOC, but also cultivate and retain this talent. It is not a secret that the advertising industry has a hard time with this. The conversation correlated this failure to a lack of diversity in agency leadership overall, but also an underrepresentation in mentorship and a lack of direct growth opportunities. One of the solutions discussed to help solve this issue is to offer ways for BIPOC professionals to be a more visible part of the community. Whether it be offering employee resource groups or actively finding professional development mentors, BIPOC professionals need and deserve to be nurtured. Dedicating more time and effort to BIPOC talent will allow them to have the skills and opportunities needed to flourish in this business.

Thank you to our panelists – we were so fortunate to hear about their experiences first hand. It is our hope that discussions like these will help us as individuals learn about our own implicit biases and the way it manifests in the advertising community. We cannot condense everything from the session into one post, which is why we are excited for future installations of this series. Stay tuned for Representation Roundtable discussions to come. The work to cultivate a more equitable industry is just getting started.