raceAhead: Meet The Diverse Firm Behind A Burger King Ad, Asian Women Losing Ground, Lecrae’s Black Identity

October 23, 2017, 5:57 PM UTC

If you saw something, would you really say something?

This is the premise of a deeply affecting and effective social experiment and accompanying three-minute video created by the Miami office of David, the agency partner for Burger King. The spot is called “Bullying Jr.,” and was created in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Some 30% of kids around the world report being bullied at some point. To see how strangers would respond if it happened in public, the David team hired teen actors to harass another kid in a real Los Angeles-area BK restaurant. The premise was simple: Would customers be more likely to stand up for a bullied junior human or a bullied junior Whopper?

At the risk of spilling any spoilers, watch it here.

David, like most ad agencies, likes to proclaim its creative bona fides, and in this case, it seems particularly well deserved.

Other recent risky ideas include this Cannes Grand Prix winning print ad campaign, which featured photos of real Burger King restaurants engulfed in smoke and flames, and pointed out that more BK restaurants have burned down than any other fast-food chain. “Flamed grilled since 1954,” the ads said, clearly playing with fire.

They also threw Google Home under the bus in another hilarious online spot, which earned them the Direct Grand Prix at Cannes, 9.3 billion global impressions and $135 million in earned media.

But the team clearly knows how to pull heartstrings. Last year, the creative team broke new ground by letting Burger King’s always silent King character finally speak – but in sign language, to celebrate National American Sign Language Day. Turns out, there was no sign for a Whopper, but thanks to a crowd-sourced campaign, there is now. The call to action video, which also includes an ASL proficient King asking a diverse array of deaf customers for input, is equal parts delightful and moving. (It’s also silent.) The first ASL sign co-created with a brand got more than 200 million media impressions.

The agency seems to have diversity built into its DNA — an unscientific scan of their website shows that nearly one-third of their employees are women and about the same percentage appear to be people of color. David was founded in Brazil by three Ogilvy veterans, Anselmo Ramos, Gaston Bigiom and Fernando Musa, in 2011. (Hence the name David, a nod to David Ogilvy.) Their Miami office opened in 2014.

The agency’s commitment to inclusion, playfulness and radical conversation came in handy for the bullying experiment. The vast majority of the customers – some 92% – opted not to intervene as the teen boy was bullied near them, but did complain when their burger was beaten up before it was served.

It didn’t take long for online commenters to notice that the people who intervened appeared to have some familiarity with the experience of being targeted. They both showed restraint, compassion, and patience, even for the bullies.

This is all a strange lesson to learn from a burger joint, to be sure. But it really works. To that end, I tip my hat to the people who failed to respond to the kid in need but still gave their permission for their images to be used. It may not have been a good look on them, but it was an excellent reminder that knowing what to say — and when to say it — is harder than it seems.

On Point

How to be a good ally: Make some noiseIn this candid Q&A, Bree Newsome, the activist who became famous for scaling a flagpole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds to remove a Confederate flag, talks about faith, hope, and backlash. “[L]ooking back, it makes sense to me that, given the history of America, there would be this backlash that accompanies the election of the first black president,” she says about the rise of Trump. But her strongest call to action is for white allies. “I think it’s imperative — particularly with this heightened political atmosphere that we’re under — that white people are willing to physically put themselves in protests.”New York Times

Asian women are losing ground in the workforce
Speaking broadly and globally, the representation of women in the workplace and in leadership positions has been increasing, according to recent analysis from the UN’s International Labor Organization. This is true everywhere except Asia, where workforce participation rates have either stalled or are declining. In East Asia, for example, female workforce rates declined from Between 1995 and 2015, Southeast Asia female workforce participation rates declined from 69% to 62% and from 35% to 28% in Southern Asia. One of the problems? Lack of day care. Another – older, more conservative men under pressure to conform to gender norms.

Hollywood talks inclusion, but not for disabled actors
This year, a number of major feature films center on characters with disabilities, from the life-affirming Stronger about a man who loses his legs after the Boston Marathon bombing, and several who are blind, deaf and otherwise disabled. But no major character is played by an actually disabled artist. Disability rights experts are calling it out. "[The conversation about inclusion] is centered a lot around race and has left disability out of it,” says advocate Jay Ruderman. “You're not going to see a white actor playing a black role, but it's routinely Oscar material for someone to play disability and it's inauthentic." 
USA Today

The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation awards sound like the best party ever
The foundation was established in 1990 and is dedicated to supporting the work of black writers and literature. This year, award winners are an all-star line-up of trailblazers and luminaries. Colson Whitehead won the Legacy Fiction award for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Underground Railroad,” and Rep. John Lewis won an award for writers and artists who champion social justice. Carla Hayden, the nation’s first black librarian of Congress was also honored. Come for the party report, stay for the reading list.
Washington Post

Lecrae’s new album marks a distinct shift away from his white evangelical base
Truth’s Table is a newish weekly podcast on gender, black culture and faith hosted by Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson and Ekemini Uwan. (The women are not afraid to stir the pious pot.) As part of their “multiethnic church” series, they hosted the utterly charming Lecrae, the Grammy award-winning Christian hip-hop artist. Until recently, he’d been one of the rare black artists (certainly in hip-hop) who had a wide following with white evangelicals. But his latest album describes a clear “loosening of ties,” to reclaim his black identity. Feedback from a friend, a curator at the California African American Museum, helped sharpen his thinking. “You have said some things that were poignant and provocative for black people, but the phenotype of your music was not black,” he was told. “Sonically it wasn’t resonating with our soul.” But the backlash from fans about his comments on Ferguson’s Michael Brown made him feel the need to choose. “The visceral attacks that came my way were like a shock to my system. That did some identity work.”
Truth's Table

The Woke Leader

On growing up Arab, gay and struggling to be heard
“In this day and age, everyone has a voice, even if they don’t know it.” So begins this sometimes painful-to-watch TEDx talk by Rashad Nimr, a half-Palestinian, all-gay young recent high school graduate, who has been living with a profound stutter since he was four. At the time the video was filmed, Nimr had been a busy advocate for LGBTQIA teens in his home state of Connecticut, and a volunteer in refugee camps in the Middle East on summer visits. “Possibly because of my own struggle for voice, I have taken a liking to spoken word poetry,” he says, which helps mitigate his stutter. While the magic of watching his stutter temporarily disappear is extraordinary, what he says is even more so. “What am I supposed to do with identities that don’t mix?” he asks.
TEDx Greens Farm Academy

Millennial writers from around the world on combating racism through education
CMRubinWorld, an education consultancy, has compiled a terrific list of essays from young thinkers around the world — a mix of educators, entrepreneurs, journalists and beyond — to talk about education’s role in mitigating racism. All are excellent fodder, but if you’ve only got time for one, start with Harmony Siganporia’s Why We’re Broken, a powerful indictment of India’s inability to deal with race and class. “Any nation that can stomach the principle of caste, which is the most brutal ‘classification’ of human beings based on birth anywhere in the world, cannot help but differentiate,” she writes. She’s calling for a complete pedagogical overhaul of the education system. “India is rabidly racist,” she says.
CMRubinWorld Blog

When you walk in New York, the world is all around you
"Would you like to do a good deed?” So begins a gorgeous essay from Buzzfeed contributor Garnette Cadogan, about how a simple question turned a walk through his neighborhood into a series of experiences with people very different from himself, yet connected to him by virtue of the shared experience of a few city blocks. “I answered yes, and he made a sharp turn and said, ‘Follow me.’”


Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.
—David Ogilvy

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