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#BrandShareTheMic opens up new ways for brands to collaborate with young Black creators

James Hogwood, Creative Director at Livity & Co-Founder of Brand Share the Mic on why the creative industry needs more initiatives to increase the meaningful inclusion of Black talent.

James Hogwood, Livity

Creative Partner

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It’s some nine months since the protests that began in the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. That event, not to mention the awful killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop and Tony McDade catalysed the Black Lives Matter uprising in the US and then across the world.

These tragedies were a stark reminder that those who wanted to stand in allyship needed to do more and do better. More consistently. More loudly. 

But after a brief global, cultural moment when it felt like old systems and old power structures were being dismantled, the desire to take real action seemed to ebb away.

Parochially, the marketing and advertising industries seemed especially guilty of not doing enough. Sure, some carefully crafted statements were made. But not much change was on the horizon. IPA data in 2020 showed marginal gains at best in terms of Black and wider POC representation in the staffing of agencies. Meanwhile, the whitewashed nature of many brands’ Instagrams was made more visible by a first flicker of posts that featured Black models. More subtly, others may have built off the commodified representation of Black culture, but never given meaningful support or platforms for Black creators or their communities.

It’s always about the brand co-signing their voice, rather than setting a prescriptive brief.

James Hogwood

#BrandShareTheMic

#BrandShareTheMic was Livity’s response to that situation. It was one of our solutions to the problem that the marketing and advertising industries are clearly not doing enough, at anything like the speed they should be going, to increase the meaningful inclusion of Black talent. 

Directly inspired, and endorsed, by Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s #ShareTheMicNow initiative in the US, the concept is simple enough. We match emerging young Black creators with brands who are prepared to hand over their social platform for a day-long takeover, during which the talent is free to tell their story and share their perspectives. Our process, drawing talent from Livity’s youth network, ensures the creator’s passions always match up to the category, so there’s always a clear brand fit. And of course, there’s a discussion and a plan for the day. But ultimately, it’s always about the brand co-signing their voice, rather than setting a prescriptive brief.

#BrandShareTheMic doesn’t solve the problem of elevating Black talent within the brands’ businesses themselves. But what it does achieve is a regular, ongoing platform that helps to centre Black identities and Black experiences in front of the camera. It creates opportunities for those Black creators, and it serves the Black consumers in those brands’ communities in a way they don’t often get served. 

And in doing so, #BrandShareTheMic plays its own small part in helping to maintain the momentum towards a more equitable future in marketing and advertising. On its own, it’s not the deepest or most profound change and we wouldn’t pretend that it is. But it is highly visible, still meaningful, and can act as a springboard for other change. Livity also has other programmes to do the deeper, more ongoing work to help brands and the creative industries build a more inclusive talent pipeline.

Reflect the voices in the output 

With three coalitions under our belt so far, we’ve now matched 41 young Black creators with brands in all kinds of categories, from tech giants to skincare to food to womxn’s health to music labels and beyond. Together, we’ve reached more than five million people, and achieved 210,000 engagements on our content in the process. We’re deeply proud of all the creators, a number of whom have created work that outperformed that of the brand’s own social team. It speaks not only to their talent, but also to the audience’s need to see these creatives, their voices and their ideas reflected in the brands’ output.

As Kevine, who took part in the first coalition, told us: “Black representation speaks volumes. It says, ‘There’s space for you, your talent, your mind, your personhood is welcomed here, and valued here.’”

Together we’ve created a significant platform for Black voices to take the mic and revealed the huge potential for brands to be working more closely with Black talent. But whatever positive dent we’ve made in the problem so far, the opportunity to do more is still so much greater.

Join the coalition

We want to create momentum, not just a moment in time. So, we’re in the planning phase of #BrandShareTheMic 2021, and we’re looking for new brands in every category to come on board for our coalitions taking place in March, June, August and October. We’re thinking about ways to scale our impact, reach even bigger audiences and create more meaningful opportunities for Black creators. 

The brands who take part come together because they understand that their platforms hold power to effect change. So, if you work for, or know of, a brand that could partner with us, we’d love to hear from you. Just email: brandsharethemic@livity.co.uk.

Guest Author

James Hogwood, Livity

Creative Partner,

About

James Hogwood is the Creative Partner at Livity, and one of three Co-Founders of Brand Share The Mic along with business partner, Rani Patel Williams and strategy partner, Alan Bryant. Before joining Livity, James was a Creative Director at Tribal Worldwide London and AKQA.

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Inclusion Creativity