These past few days have been rough. This is probably the worst time for brands to "join the conversation," especially if the brand does not practice what it preaches.
We’ve seen a lot of brands weighing in during these last three days. Brands tweeting. Creative work being posted. A lot of it sounds fluffy. At a time when our world and our neighborhoods are burning—brands need to sit down if they’re not stepping up.
It’s heartening to see Glossier, walk the talk.
But one brand that’s close to our hearts for historically speaking the truth and fostering creativity has had me fuming. Nike.
On Friday at 7pm, in between demonstrations, confrontations and curfews, Nike’s message stopped us all for a second.
The ideal client-agency relationship that fosters maximum creativity would have a powerful message and back it up, right? Wrong.
The video completely missed the black perspective. Fluffy vanilla copy… again. A lot of creatives on my social timeline (mostly white) shared and re-tweeted with thoughts like, "Proud to be in the business. Thanks Nike."
I wondered what was missing? Why was this piece feeling flat? Was I expecting too much?
Then Cindy Gallop placed her finger on exactly what it lacked. The black perspective. They lacked black minds. And not just to showcase in their boardrooms, but in their creative rooms and in their leadership.
Hey @Nike, 'Don't pretend there's not a problem in America.' Not one Black person on your executive leadership team: https://t.co/59e7o4DMgx for a company that's made billions out of Black sports people and consumers. Change THAT. #DiversityAndInclusion #UntilWeAllWin— Cindy Gallop (@cindygallop) May 30, 2020
When brands want to be on board they need to stop talking about doing things and really take a page from their own manifestos and just do it.
However, Kassandra Pollard, associate creative director at Momentum Worldwide, feels differently. "I didn’t think it was meant for the black community. It was talking to people who can’t admit we have a serious problem," she said. "I’m tired of having to carry the responsibility of educating why this is a problem. If there’s a brand that has the right to say something, it’s Nike."
Kendra Jones, creative director at Critical Mass, also has a poignant point: "Brands should speak out only if they are also going to take a good, hard, long look inward. I want to see Nike (and any other brands considering speaking up) taking a look at their internal policies. Don't throw rocks and then hide your hands. If you're going to speak about it, be about it."
Companies that don’t have black talent on their boards but at every other level, and businesses where black talent is celebrated, heard and promoted are companies that will probably never share such creative work.
This is such a bigger cause than a brand. The last thing our industry needs to send out in the public is fluff.
Brands should use their creativity as a call-to-action rather than frantically trying to "be a part of the conversation."
Nike, please. Just don’t do it.