The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Adland Needs To Learn From Oprah …

Adland talks a lot about diversity and inclusion.

It talks about wanting to make a difference.

But while I appreciate the intentions are genuine, the actions often aren’t.

Too many superficial acts designed to make us look good without actually doing much good.

Self-indulgent acts that are designed to change nothing but make us feel like heroes.

Pieces of work that tell people what they already know so we can claim we are ‘living our purpose’ at the next global conference get together where the loudest applause is for ourselves.

I wrote about this recently when I found out Cocoa Girl – the magazine for little girls of colour in the UK – was the FIRST magazine for little girls of colour in the UK.

The first!!!

Well here’s another example of how poor we are as an industry following through on what we so loudly and proudly claim.

The top of this post features one of the 26 billboards Oprah has purchased around Louisville, in the US.

For those who don’t know the story of Breanna Taylor, you can read it here … but in simple terms, it’s another case of US Police racism that resulted in another innocent African American being murdered with – initially – no implication on the officers involved.

[And then, after a huge protests, the officers involved were arrested but ended up facing a fraction of the justice they deserved … meaning it was another insult to the Taylor family]

This is a case that has shaken America and beyond.

This is a case that needed pressure putting on the authorities to investigate rather than look in another direction.

This is a case that showed again the deep disadvantage people of colour have in America and all over.

What Oprah did is amazing but I can’t help but think adland could have done this.

Should have done this.

But we didn’t.

And while I am pointing fingers at us, I’m also pointing them at myself … because if we are serious about D&I, it’s about doing things that are in the best interests of the people we want to connect with rather than making it all about what is easiest for us.

Or said another way:

We have to commit … rather than just show interest.

Go out of our way … rather than make others go out of theirs.

What this brilliant act by Oprah reminds me is that creative and cultural inspiration does not come from just looking at ourselves. If we want to survive, we can only do that by letting more diversity in and letting them thrive on their terms rather than ours.


This is what Trump thinks is making America great again.

Comment by Pete

Yes … the racist, sexist, violent version of America.

When the ‘great’ was rich white men but without anyone questioning how they got their wealth or how they use it.

Comment by Rob

Good post Rob. For all the claims agencies make about creating work that changes or impacts culture, they shy away from it when culture needs it most.

Comment by Pete


Comment by Geeorge

That’s a fair point mate.

Though the reality is most agencies don’t ‘create culture’ they create a moment culture leans into. That’s valuable but quite different to how they sell it.

Some do, do it. Far fewer who claim to.

Comment by Rob

Sadly Robert, this is a common occurrence in the US. And for all the protests, it continues. Nothing shows the faults in the system and the arrogance of the perpetrators than this.

Comment by Geeorge

When you know you’re immune from being held to account, it not only makes you continue in your wrong doing, it brings others along with you.

And this is ‘law and order’ according to Trump. Incredible.

Comment by Rob

This is exactly what we’ve seen over Trump’s presidency. Even if he loses, it will take at least a generation before things can come closer together. He will be remembered for decades, but not for making America great.

Comment by George

if he loses he doesnt go away. hell be stirring up hate and trouble because the one thing an egomaniac fuckhead like him cant stand is not being in the spotlight.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve spent a lot of the last few months thinking exactly along these lines.

What if we could assemble a cross-agency group (one that is truly diverse and representative) of creatives, strategists and producers to create “ads” with actual purpose – addressing societal issues and with no commercial goals. Not a brand logo in sight.

What if we could then ask big spending clients (who claim to support these causes) to all donate a small fraction of their yearly media-buys (as well as asking media owners to donate space) to ensure these messages reach as many people as possible.

It’s time ad land stepped up and used its powers of persuasion to shift the dial.

Comment by Jack Hart

To be fair, I think a lot of this happens to be honest – but without necessarily the client involvement. And that’s where it often gets messed up because they want credit for what they do. I can live with that if they do the right thing but that’s the hard bit. But yes, fully agree with you.

Comment by Rob

if every marketing fucker thinks media is the future why the fuck arent media agencies and companies using their power to make good shit happen?

Comment by andy@cynic

this is the best fjucking thing oprah has done in a long fucking time. shame the system is rigged to value damaging a neighbours house more than a person innocently fucking murdered by the people meant to serve and protect.

Comment by andy@cynic

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