TRACKING BRANDS’ RESPONSES TO RACIAL INJUSTICE

The latest moves of marketers, media companies and agencies as they take a stand against racism

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked nationwide protests, rioting and civil unrest. Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

Brands, which often remain silent when it comes to social justice issues, are speaking out, as are ad agencies and marketing professionals. Nike was quick to release a 60-second spot from Wieden+Kennedy Portland, encouraging Americans to not turn their backs on racism, with a twist on its long-used tagline: “For Once, Don’t Do It.” Other brands, including YouTube, the NFL, Disney, Amazon and Netflix, are following suit.

Their messages are drawing a mix of praise and criticism. The brands and agencies that include with their statements actions they plan to take to combat racism are generally faring well. Other brands are being accused of commercializing the tragedy.

Below is a regularly updated list of responses from brands, media companies and agencies as they take a stand on racism and social injustice.

June 5, 2020
TBWA/Chiat/Day Chief Creative Officer covers tuition for creatives of color

On LinkedIn, this week, TBWA/Chiat/Day New York Chief Creative Officer Chris Beresford-Hill put out an offer to cover the tuition for 10 aspiring creatives of color at New York’s AdHouse portfolio school. “If you know a creative person of color that wants to learn the skills and build a book, please reach out to me,” he wrote.

Given the amount of interest the post has generated so far, Beresford-Hill made tomorrow, Saturday, June 6,  the cutoff date for those interested in the opportunity. But he pledged to continue the initiative.

“If the students benefit from this, I promise to find a way to enroll at least 10 people every year,” he wrote in an update. “Also, this is the last I will say about it. I’d like to do more and talk less. I wish it had not taken the events of last week for me to use my platform, and what I have, to take more action and help give people opportunities.”

Jordan Brand says it is “more than one man,” donates $100 million

The Jordan Brand and Michael Jordan released a statement committing a $100 million donation, spread over the next 10 years, to organizations that will ensure racial equality and social justice. The statement, tweeted by a spokeswoman, noted that “Jordan Brand is more than one man. It has always been a family. We represent a proud family that has overcome obstacles, fought against discrimination in communities worldwide and works every day to erase the stain of racism and the damage of injustice.”

Earlier in the day, Nike, which owns the Jordan Brand, announced it is donating $40 million over four years to promoting racial justice—the new donation is a separate initiative, Jordan Brand President Craig Williams said in a statement. He noted that despite the brand’s Jordan Wings Program, which provides access to education, mentorship and opportunity to black youths, the brand can “do more.

Estee Portnoy@esteep

Joint Statement from Michael Jordan & Jordan Brand regarding $100m donation.

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Chipotle’s support of National Urban League includes accepting small online donations

Chipotle Mexican Grill says people who order on its app or site will soon be able to round their bills to the next highest dollar amount to support the National Urban League. The chain is pledging $1 million to fight systemic racism, beginning with its own $500,000 donation to the National Urban League. “The fears the black community face daily are real and have gone unaddressed for too long,” Chairman and CEO Brian Niccol said in a letter posted on the company’s site. The announcement comes after Chipotle was among numerous brands that participated in Blackout Tuesday on Instagram earlier this week. “We need to do better and we encourage our community and fans to join us in our fight for equality,” Niccol’s letter concludes.

Brands, celebrities and influencers honor Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday

Today, brands, celebrities and influencers are celebrating the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers on March 13. Many are encouraging people to donate to her GoFundMe and sign petitions in her name. Police entered her apartment with a “no knock warrant,” believing drugs were being sold to the building. No officers have been charged in her case.

Groupon@Groupon · 

Breonna Taylor

Breonna was an EMT who worked at the University of Louisville Jewish Hospital and Norton Healthcare. And the University of Louisville Health. Her birthday is tomorrow, June 5th.

And she should still be here.

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Groupon@Groupon

Her GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/f/9v4q2-justice-for-breonna-taylor 

Justice for Breonna Taylor organized by Bianca Austin

The community has been reaching out in support of Bree’s family and wanting to donate to the … Bianca Austin needs your support for Justice for Breonna Taylor

gofundme.com

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Nike commits $40 million to social justice

On the heels of its widely-discussed “Don’t Do It” video discouraging racism, Nike is now making a financial commitment to the black community. The sportswear giant, which includes Converse and Jordan as well as the namesake Nike brand, plans to donate $40 million over four years to supporting organizations that promote social justice and education in the U.S.

“The Nike Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts,” said John Donahoe, president and CEO, in a statement. The company also noted that it is increasing its own internal diversity efforts as well, continuing a push it has been ramping up in recent years as a result of criticism of a lack of inclusivity.

Indeed, in recent days some have said Nike needs to do more than just marketing. Steve Stoute, CEO and founder of ad agency Translation, recently spoke on Ad Age Remotely about the issue of diversity on Nike’s leadership team. “I think Nike, which makes billions of billions of dollars off the African-American community, needs to really step up besides advertising,” Stoute said. “You talk about a brand that capitalized for decades off of young black people, doing anything they can to buy the most expensive sneaker in the market.” He added that Nike should make “a very clear effort to do something to help the communities” and in a “loud way.”

NFL stars put league on defensive over its response to racial injustice

Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and several other National Football League stars are demanding that the league issue a more detailed response to racial injustice.

“It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered,” the players stated in the video posted to their social media channels. “How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality? What if I was George Floyd?”

The players call on the league to “condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.” They also demand that the NFL “admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting”—an apparent reference to how the league handled Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem to call attention to racial inequities. The former 49ers quarterback has not been picked up by an NFL team since the 2016-17 season.

Patrick Mahomes II @PatrickMahomes

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Asked for comment, a league spokesman pointed to an Instagram post that went live before the players video, in which the NFL stated: “This is a time of self-reflection for all —the NFL is no exception. We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter.” The post also references $44 million in donations the league has given to “hundreds of worthy organizations,” adding “this year, we are committing an additional $20 million to these causes and we will accelerate efforts to highlight their critical work. We know that we can and need to do more.”

June 4, 2020

Coke CEO pledges more diverse leadership, calls the company’s current representation ‘poor’

In remarks to employees this week, Coca-Cola Co. CEO James Quincey conceded that the company has not done enough to put African Americans in leadership positions, with only 7 percent of top jobs held by black people. He called that number “poor,” while saying “we need to be more effective in making progress.” African Americans comprise 19 percent of the company’s total employee population, he said.

Coke posted his speech at the virtual employee town hall on its corporate blog. “Companies like ours must speak up as allies to the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “With George Floyd’s death, I’ve been reflecting on our duty to black people in America. Simply put, America hasn’t made enough progress, corporate America hasn’t made enough progress and nor has The Coca-Cola Company.” He pledged to “use the voices of our brands to weigh in on important social conversations,” while announcing $2.5 million in grants from The Coca-Cola Foundation to Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Coke earlier this week turned off its Times Square billboard for a day to mark “Blackout Tuesday.” On social media, it has begun promoting the message “together we must,” which is getting mixed reviews.

One commenter cited the brand’s famous “Hilltop” ad, saying “we need come together share a Coke be safe and live safely in harmony.” But other commenters were more skeptical, including one who tweeted “Platitudes meant to placate the cause of the week.”

Coca-Cola@CocaCola

Building a better future means joining together as we move forward. We are donating to @100blackmen as a part of the effort to end systemic racism and bring true equality to all. This is just a first step.

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IAB gives employees days off to volunteer for social causes 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau and the IAB Tech Lab said Thursday that it’s giving employees two days of paid time off each month leading up to the election to volunteer for any political or social cause of their choosing. If everyone participates, the IAB and Tech Lab will contribute “700 days of people power;” the organization has roughly 70 employees. The move comes after the nonprofit trade body held internal discussions on how it could contribute to the social movement taking place in cities and towns across the country. The group says it hopes other companies follow suit, but that may not be possible given the belt-tightening occurring at most companies.

“The IAB and the IAB Tech Lab share the fears of our diverse staff and membership that the democratic principles underlying the constitutional basis of republican government in the United States are under assault,” the trade body said in a statement. “Powerful individuals, groups and some government officials are disenfranchising African-Americans and other minority groups, suppressing voting rights, inciting local police to harm citizens exercising their first amendment rights and promoting violence against the press.”

“Rather than simply condemn these actions, we encourage our staff and members to work to further American democracy,” the IAB said. “We hope this pro bono effort by the IAB team will help improve civic discourse, generate more participation in worthy causes and effect meaningful, lasting change in the United States of America.”

Pinterest donates money and ad space

Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann committed the company to the civil rights movement sparked by the death of George Floyd by promising money to support groups advocating for racial justice. Pinterest also will donate $750,000 of free ad space to racial justice groups.

“We heard directly from our black employees about the pain and fear they feel every day living in America. Their first-hand, lived experiences of racism and injustice,” Silbermann wrote in a blog post. “How the murder of George Floyd—a friend, a father, a son—forced the world to face the reality that the systemic racism facing the black community for generations remains very real today. It’s wrong. This has got to change.”

Pinterest is mostly known as a site to plan life events, vacations, meals and home remodeling, but it also is a media platform that highlights lifestyles of diverse audiences. “We are working to make sure the content people see on Pinterest represents people from diverse backgrounds,” Silbermann wrote.

Pinterest joins other tech companies promising to promote inclusion and use their platforms to elevate marginalized people. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel wrote a memo to employees over the weekend demanding reparations for black people in America and reforms to combat racism. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey committed $3 million to the group founded by Colin Kaepernick, Know Your Rights Camp.

Pinterest said it would donate $500,000 in stock to racial justice organizations. The company also said it would donate $250,000 to businesses in communities affected by demonstrations.

Warner Bros. makes ‘Just Mercy’ free to rent to educate viewers on ‘systemic racism’

Warner Bros. is making its 2019 film “Just Mercy” free to rent on digital platforms, including YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play, throughout June.

The movie captures the racial injustice struggles black individuals face in the courtroom. It’s based on the 2014 memoir of attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Michael B. Jordan plays Stevenson, who helps Jamie Foxx’s character appeal his murder conviction.

When the movie was released in December, it was the first studio film to be produced with the inclusion rider as part of contracts, making it mandatory to consider minorities for cast and crew roles.

Warner Bros. hopes it can offer some education on the inequalities facing black people in the U.S.

“We believe in the power of story,” Warner Bros. said in a tweet on Tuesday. “Our film ‘Just Mercy,’ based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society.”

Just Mercy@JustMercyFilm

We believe in the power of story. is one resource we can offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society. For the month of June, will be available to rent for free on digital platforms in the US. @eji_org

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June 3, 2020

Ad agencies with blanket statements are getting called out

Agency statements that simply say that they stand against social injustice and plan on taking action or artistic posts are being met with opposition. Commenters want to know exactly how agencies are planning on making changes and the breakdown of their leadership teams.

The first comment made on a cursory statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday by Saatchi & Saatchi reads: “What type of change are you actually planning on taking within your company? Or is this just a social media stunt? Are you giving any of your black employees time off during this week? How many of them are in senior positions? Because as seen on your website, there are no black people on your top leadership team. Change comes from within–start there.”

Edelman posted a similar statement to Instagram on Wednesday. “Cool. What are you guys actually doing though?” reads a comment.

VaynerMedia saw the same backlash when its own statement to Instagram, pushing people to do their part without mentioning what the agency plans on doing itself. “Which groups have you donated to? Which groups dedicated towards uplifting POC voices do you support?…I think sharing that would be meaningful,” reads one statement.

Meanwhile, other agencies are going beyond blanket statements and are sharing how they are donating to organizations, sharing resources about how others can get involved and speaking out about helping fellow creatives. Their statements are being met with much more enthusiasm.

Mo Said, founder of creative agency Mojo Supermarket, went a step further and posted to LinkedIn stating that his agency would help out any black creative who is not feeling up for work, without charge. “Hey agency c-suite. If you have a black creative or strategist that needs to take some time off– Mojo Supermarket will lend you an equally matched person from our agency. For free.”

By Ad Age Staff.