Talks about diversity, equality, and inclusion have subsided since they hit a fever pitch in the summer of 2020. Since then, companies and brands have been quietly working to collaborate with Black and other agencies owned by marginalized communities to deliver on promises made during this time.
One creative agency, Adolescent Content, a Generation Z media company founded by women and blacks, says it has been on the receiving end of this work. And while not feeling the same enthusiasm as after the killing of George Floyd and the resulting global protests, change has occurred, according to the agency’s founder and chief operating officer, Rama Mosley.
When he started working in 2013 with guys of color at the helm, “Everyone thought we were crazy,” Mosley said. Now, companies are approaching teen content to access the team’s network of more than 4,000 creative designers, 80% of which identify as female, people of color, LGBTQ+, Mosley said. In the past year, companies like Tinder, Walmart, and Snapchat have worked with Adolescent Content.
Digiday met with Mosley to talk about what the next wave of change might look like and where the next generation fits into the conversation.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is the significance of a black and female-founded Gen Z company like Adolescent Content in the industry?
Economically, as well as racially, we focused primarily on women of color and people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Very quickly, what we realized was that he should bypass the older white guy who comes up with the concept and a younger person of color directing the piece. Over the years, what we’ve done is create space. We are really here to create space.
How did summer 2020 affect your work and what does that look like now?
There was a big shift. When we fired, everyone thought we were crazy. They’d say, “You’re too specialized” or “You’ve got too many black directors on your list,” which was very offensive. It was difficult to get people to understand not only the idea of a young man but young people of color. Over the course of six years in the business, we have been constantly confronting this bias. We didn’t shift our work at all as much as our focus.
The other thing that happened with the murder of George Floyd and this terrible start to the reckoning, people suddenly started looking around, like, ‘Oh my God. We actually have to listen.’ It has finally reached the awareness of brands, advertising agencies and people are starting to look up to us. I can’t tell you how many other agencies are female [and] black owned. Suddenly we got calls and chances to get into the room. But it is still at the beginning. I can’t say that our lives have changed, people come and throw money. There were still a few rants and “we want to do it” rants, but then they still came back to work with the same groups.
Still, have the industry’s efforts really made a difference?
It is open. I see him transform. And for the first time, I see the horizon, the opportunity and the amazing value proposition that we’ve created is that the door has opened, or we have opened the door, and we are able to walk through it. They no longer look at us in confusion when we say that there is a fundamental need to hear stories from a variety of perspectives. You can no longer continue telling the same story about the white boy or the white girl who broke her heart. Now, we want to hear different stories of what really makes up the fabric of our society and our history. These happen to be diverse stories told by diverse people.
So where do we go from here?
We have to move beyond this notion that people are doing us a favor by working with us and come up with the idea that this is a huge value. What they get from these various narrators is not charity. You are not doing them a favor, they are doing you a favour. What we do know is that people of color drive all things. They lead culture, great ideas and art. It remains an essential part of our work to continue this education and continue to prove ourselves.
I’m like a gardener who plants seeds and I believe these seeds will grow. I think the pain is temporary – the pain of trying to communicate our values, which is cruel because sometimes people don’t understand it. But the pain is temporary and the future we head towards is where people get the incredible value we enjoy here.