In a groundbreaking initiative aimed at reshaping diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the advertising industry, a coalition of Black and Latino advertising founders and executives have come together to announce Blackweek, a pioneering conference scheduled for October 15-18, 2024, at Spring Studios in New York City.
The distinguished founders include Monique Nelson, executive chairman of UNIWORLD Group (UWG); Walter T. Geer III, chief creative officer, Innovation North America at VML; Andre Gray, chief creative officer at Annex 88 (Havas); Adan Romero, chief creative officer at FKA Publicis; Dabo Ché, founder of CHÉ Creative; Gabrielle Shirdan, founder and CEO of Kitchen Table; and Joe Anthony, founder and CEO of Hero Collective and Hero Media.
Anthony emphasized the urgency of instigating real change in the industry, stating, “Blackweek was born with the sole purpose of disrupting the conversation around diversity and inclusion, in industries where we make significant investments but have very little ownership.”
Despite post-2020 promises and commitments, the advertising industry still grapples with a lack of diversity in executive leadership, ownership, and equity. Shockingly, only 7 percent of the advertising industry is Black, and less than 2 percent of U.S. media budgets are allocated to Black-owned media. These statistics underscore the need for concrete action, prompting the founders to launch Blackweek to initiate tangible change in DEI efforts.
Walter T. Geer III, Blackweek co-founder and chief creative officer, innovation for North America at VML, pointed out the current limitations of DEI initiatives, stating, “It’s no secret that the current state of DE&I isn’t working. Until brands and agencies see DE&I as a business driver vs. a CSR campaign, we will never reap the benefits of what it’s supposed to deliver.”
Blackweek is poised to be more than a typical industry event. Instead, it will focus on substantive conversations, challenging the status quo, and driving actionable change. Monique Nelson, Chairman of UWG, emphasized, “This event will not be about pageantries or giving people awards; it will be about having the hard conversations and getting to the heart of where progress truly lies for people of color in industries critical to our future.”
The conference, produced and marketed by Hero Media, a 100 percent Black-owned media and technology company, will be hosted at Spring Studios in lower Manhattan. Blackweek’s agenda will feature keynotes and discussions from diverse leaders in marketing, media, tech, entertainment, health care, and private equity. The programming will revolve around empowering diverse professionals to take control of their equity in industries vital to their future, with themes such as “AI and the Future of Diversity,” “Leveling the Venture Capital Playing Field,” and “Black Media as Mainstream Media.”
As Blackweek gears up to engage and drive action, it marks a crucial step toward addressing the industry’s longstanding challenges in DEI and fostering real, lasting change.