We are looking forward to the “If You Are in Advertising, You May Be a Racist“ panel on race and representation in advertising at the upcoming SXSW Music Film Interactive Festival. This panel was inspired by our film Through A Lens Darkly and the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow. In fact, many of the most egregious stereotypical images that surfaced during our research for the film came from ads that we found many of which are still in circulation on the internet. As Jason Chambers, in his book Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry, writes on the impact advertising had on shaping our ideas around race, family, respectability and humanity:
“Blacks in 20th century advertising were subservient objects that served the cornucopia of products hawked in advertisements, but rarely subjects who used them. The explicit message that ads delivered with crystal clarity was that consumers were white. In picturing blacks in servant roles and whites in command, advertising images visibly upheld the assumed social organization of everyday society.”
Beyond their role as servants, advertisements in the late 19th and early 20th century commonly represented blacks as lazy, ignorant, violent, or as little more than comic relief. Negative images of blacks also frequently circulated in the broader culture on trading cards, dolls, children’s books, cooking utensils and other products. Caricatures of African Americans advertised Nigger Head Tobacco, and coal black children, the Gold Dust Twins, were symbols of a popular soap powder. Already the proliferation of degrading images of blacks in commercial and leisure items helped transmit ideas of black inferiority even as real blacks tried to claim the full privileges of citizenship in the early 20th century. “The child growing up in the home of an average northern family may not have been taught to hate the black race, but more than likely the child caught the basic principal of prejudice from day to day living” noted one scholar. It wasn’t until the 1940’s when Pepsi Co was the first company to start an ad campaign geared specifically to black families, although the campaigns were limited to Black publications, leaving white audiences totally unaware of Black people as sharing in American consumer tastes.
At the SXSW panel, we will be presenting Digital Diaspora Family Reunion and its 1World1Family album campaign as an antidote to this legacy of misrepresentation so embedded in the history and culture of advertising.
As part of our crowd sourcing, we welcome comments, questions, concerns and images that you would like to see discussed during the panel. Please feel free to include these in the comments section of this blog and we will do our best to make sure your voices are heard.
Below are my fellow panels and their bios. I will be the only artist/filmmaker on the panel.
Thank you for your support!!!
– Thomas Allen Harris
Arwa Mahdawi, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at Cummins&Partners
Arwa Mahdawi is a partner at cummins&partners, an advertising agency in New York. She is a regular commentator on the tech and advertising industry and has appeared on the Australian TV show The Gruen Transfer.
Erin Swenson Gorrall, Group Planning Director at MullenLowe U.S
As a Group Strategy Director at MullenLowe, Erin leverages primary research to truly understand what motivates the consumer. With a background in comms planning, she is always keeping the consumer’s relationship with media in mind. Erin believes that great media plans start with an unexpected insight that will change the trajectory of the campaign and give our clients an unfair advantage. She has over 10 years in the industry working on a variety of brands, including MINI Cooper, Burger King and Anheuser-Busch. Before coming to Boston, Erin was a planning director at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, leading the SC Johnson home care business. She started her career in media at Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Louie Moses, Pres/Creative Director at Moses Inc
Louie Moses is the Creative Director and President of Moses Inc. in Phoenix AZ. Fast Company magazine called Louie, “The poster child for creativity…” and Communication Arts called the agency, “The most creatively awarded agency in Arizona.” Louie has won every major creative award including 7 Clios and 3 Emmy Awards. Louie has worked on such brands as Joe Boxer, Ben & Jerry’s, US Airways, The GRAMMY Museum, Shutters Hotel on the Beach, Nintendo, Ubisoft and the Wii. Louie’s garage band, Random Karma, has opened for many headliners playing in Phoenix like the Flaming Lips, Cracker, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Robin Trower, Brett Micheal and Alice Cooper. Louie was selected as Ad Person of the Year and Tourism Person of the Year. He is a 15 year member of the Art Director’s Club of New York.
Thomas Allen Harris, Filmmaker/Co-Founder at Chimpanzee Productions
Thomas Allen Harris is the founder and President of Chimpanzee Productions, a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the Human Condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. Chimpanzee’s innovative and award-winning documentary films and transmedia projects have received critical acclaim at International film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, Flaherty and Cape Town and have been broadcast on PBS, the Sundance Channel, ARTE, as well as CBC, Swedish Broadcasting Network and New Zealand Television. Mr. Harris’ latest film, Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, was awarded the 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary Film, an Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Diasporic Documentary, and Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon K, 500 E 4th St
“The target audience is a 35–45 year-old white male” or “the target is a 28-year-old Hispanic woman.” You know this brief, or something like it. You know how to use creative to speak to that exact person, and media tools to pinpoint that person’s every move. What you don’t know is that you may be contributing to the racial divide in America. From Ferguson to Baltimore to Charleston, the list goes on and on this year of instances when race has caused us to break down as a society. And while advertising cannot heal all, we pose the question: Can advertising start a conversation, and then start a movement that breaks down the race barriers instead of propagating them through hypertargeting?