Chicago creative industry celebrates diversity

The Chicago
Advertising Federation’s
Summer Diversity Mixer
celebrates a wave
of the future
that’s been here
all along

Besides motivating consumers, increasing social impact, and moving the nation forward, diversity is fun. It makes people happy to get along. When combined with food, drink, and music, it becomes the Chicago Advertising Federation’s Summer Diversity Mixer.

Officially titled, Celebrating + Driving Culture, Creativity, and Business Curation, this year’s event takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. at Industrious on July 24. With sponsors like Beam, Pandora, Vida Mia, and Whipped Inc., the occasion promises to keep everyone nourished, hydrated, and groovy.

“The great thing about this year is that we have a lot of work highlighting diversity coming out of Chicago that we can celebrate,” says McDonald’s Lizette Williams. “A lot of us are working on groundbreaking campaigns.”

Williams is one of nearly a dozen Chicago marketing execs helping to organize the Mixer who talked about diversity with Reel Chicago last week. As Head of Cultural Engagement & Experiences at the global restaurant headquartered in Chicago’s West Loop, she’s beyond qualified to speak about the campaigns emerging from the Windy City.

ALSO READ: The Reel Chicago Black List

The inspiration
McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden campaign has successfully made education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship cool. Created by Burrell Communications and launched at the NAACP Image Awards last spring, the work highlights a multitude of voices, personalities, and events with striking photography and outreach. But that’s just the beginning.

Burrell teamed up with Toyota to create a spot titled Toni that ran during the Super Bowl and starred Antoinette “Toni” Harris, an African American student at East Los Angeles College who earned a football scholarship to Central Methodist University. The agency is also working with Procter & Gamble to “redefine Black,” according to Co-Chief Executive Officer Fay Furguson.

“It’s getting a lot of positive buzz across social media,” she says. “Normally, when you search the word Black, there are a lot of negative connotations, so we’re redefining that.”

Ten35 Senior VP Kristian May Stewart says that the buzz often starts before a project goes live and continues even after its completion.

“Diversity enables us to bring different perspectives to the creative process, and as a result, our partnerships are stronger with our clients,” she explains. “At the end of the day, it allows us to create campaigns and content that are highly authentic and have an organic connection to the audience we are trying to reach.”


Gia Peppers, Lizette Williams, Terrence Burrell, Nicole Enearu, Marvin Owens, Wendy Lewis, and Faye Washington at the ‘Black & Positively Golden’ launch | March 29, 2019, Los Angeles (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for McDonald’s)

The challenge
Quriosity Productions Executive Producer Qadree Holmes has noticed an increase in clients “who are willing to push the envelope.”

“We just did a 17-spot package featuring two dads,” he says. Besides featuring same-sex parents, Holmes continues, Quriosity and the client decided to “blend the families” in the campaign. It will also portray an African American dad and an an African American child in the same family with a white mom and a white child.

This type of work allows companies like Quriosity to be considered true general market resources “rather than being pigeon-holed as doing minority work,” which is a big step in the right direction.

“We’re starting to get out of the panel circuit, we’re starting to see minorities as leaders, and companies are starting to host events that actually move things into action rather than just talk about us,” he continues. “I just want to make sure people’s minds are open.”

Inspiring, no doubt. But does diversity actually move product? Stewart, Ferguson, and Williams certainly think so, and they’ve got the numbers to back it up.

ALSO READ: Cramer Krasselt panel talks about “Changing the Narrative”

The rewards
“Yesterday, in a client presentation, I shared that the combined Latino, African American and Asian populations will total 134 million people by 2022,” explains Stewart. “Given the buying power and growth of these segments, it is important that we continue to elevate the conversation around attracting, connecting with, and speaking to these audiences with our brand partners. The more abreast we make our brand partners, the greater we position them to win with these high-growth, diverse audiences.”

Antoinette “Toni” Harris in a Toyota spot by Burrell Communications
Antoinette “Toni” Harris in a Toyota spot by Burrell Communications

“We’re not here for a social reason,” adds Ferguson. “We’re here to help our clients increase their business performance, and if you have the proper metrics to prove that performance, the companies will engage in diverse work.”

“To have a long-term sustainability in the business, the work has to reflect the consumer,” says Williams. “It has to be culturally relevant across the broadest context across the U.S.”

Besides Burrell’s clients, there are a growing number of advertisers and organizations that get it. Zappos recently debuted a commercial featuring a person with one foot. Ulta Beauty just launched a Frida Kahlo collection. Nike continues to work with Colin Kaeperneck. And girls are joining the Boy Scouts.

New ideas, fresh concepts, and real Americans: diversity is a wave of the future that’s been here all along.

“I like to imagine that we are working on the evolution of a narrative in this country,” says Williams. “Not only how we are seen, but also the legacy we are leaving behind.”

To see photos from the
CAF Summer Diversity Mixer,
click here.


To register for the CAF’s Summer Diversity Mixer, click here.