Category: Ad Industry

Shocking “Black Woman Chair”! Would you sit on this?

OBlackCopy_ Black_woman_chair_DASHA-ZHUKOVA-570kay… this is where my emotional, intuitive, reactionary mind picks a fight with my rational, analytical, objective mind. Buro 247 published an online interview with Dasha Zhukova, the Russian editor-in-chief of Garage magazine, who was photographed atop a chair made of a life size scantily clad black woman frozen in a very compromising position.

I am trying to be fair about the existence of this Black Woman Chair aka art piece created by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard. It’s one of a series of installments inspired by the work of artist Allen Jones as a commentary on sexism and racism.  To be fair there are other “furniture” pieces in this collective that feature white women in similar compromising positions. Blackcopyy_white_woman_chair

But take the Black Woman Chair out of its collective, plop a white socialite on top of it (or her),  and instantly another layer of meaning rises to the surface. The one who’s on top becomes part of the art piece.  What becomes the message? Dominance over subservience? Privilege over bondage? Superiority over inferiority? Actually there may be brilliance in this transformation of perspective. If a black man sits on the Black Woman Chair, what would that say? How about a white man? A black woman? In a gallery this chair is provocative art. As Dasha’s prop in a photo op, it becomes racist.

The backlash has been extreme. In an issued statement, Dasha had this to say “…I regret allowing an artwork with such charged meaning to be used in this context. I utterly abhor racism and would like to apologize to those offended by my participation in this shoot…”

Miroslava Duma of Buro 24/ wrote on Instagram, “Dear All, Buro  team and I would like to express our sincerest apology to anyone who we offended or hurt…”

Really now? Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking when they do stuff like this.

What do you think?

UPDATE! Behold the revised Italian 12 Years a Slave poster now featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor

12 Years a Slave poster controversy update: Behold the revised poster featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor

Turns out BIM Distribuzione developed the controversial 12 Years posters featuring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender without authority from the studio. The company recently issued an apology along with a revised poster prominently featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The New York Times Artsbeat blog has the scoop:!

Has the world gone blackface? A quick study of global mockery of black people


“How Japan View Black People (Part 2)” Click image to view video

 How do people of other cultures and countries perceive the black experience?   Is the art of blackface a global mockery of black people or an act of self expression? The likeness, lifestyle, language and mannerisms of cultures in the African diaspora are often distorted and used as props, backdrops, accessories, exclamation points, iterations and punchlines. Is black culture to be twisted, deformed and repurposed to fit the objectives of another culture’s agenda? Many think it is harmless fun and will defend the practice.

Recently, Dunkin Donuts Thailand franchise depicted a model in blackface with pink lips to advertise their new charcoal donut. The Human Rights Watch  and other groups were in an uproar. Though the Thailand agency felt that America was being overly sensitive. Dunkin Donuts issued an immediate apology and is in the process of yanking the ad. Was this racism or just ad art misunderstood?


Dunkin Donuts Thailand Blackface ad

 Asia is notorious for mocking black people in their advertisements and products. Does the fact that blacks are different in skin color, hair texture and features give them the right to racially objectify blacks to sell products? To them, blacks are obviously fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

Racial insensitivity is evident in other countries. Last year, Sweden made world headlines when culture minister  Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, was photographed happily slicing into what is now infamously called the blackface or ni*ger cake at World Art Day in Stockholm. The edible installation was sculpted in the likeness of a grotesquely distorted African woman by black Swedish artist Makode Aj Linde.  it was  meant to provoke strong reaction, awareness and disgust for the brutal practice of female circumcision in Africa.  However it evoked outrage on a global scale. Regardless of who created the “art piece” or why, the installation was considered exploitation of African women and their bodies.  BlackCopy_racist_black_cake


Model Ondria Hardin as “African Queen” for Numero magazine

France’s Numero fashion magazine caught global flack when  Caucasian model Ondria Hardin, posed as an “African Queen” in their controversial fashion expose’.  In an industry that often shuns models of African descent, Numero found the “look” of Africa intriguing on a white girl.

Mexico’s beloved dimwit, Mimen Pinguin is a longstanding comic strip character known for his street smarts, playful demeanor and ape-like features. Is this flattery or mockery?

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Here in America we have accepted the kindly servants gracing the boxes of Uncle Ben’s rice,  Cream of Wheat and Aunt Jemima. Do we still consider these images culturally insensitive? Or have we accepted these images as harmless age old branding?

BlackCopy_Aunt Jemima jar

The Mammy cookie jar, a popular souvenir in New Orleans, LA

 New Orleans gift shops are still selling blackfaced Mammy cookie jars with matching salt and pepper shakers and toothpick holders.  Should one be outraged?

If the tables were turned and we used yellow skin and slanted eyes to promote lemon donuts with slits instead of holes would Asians be offended? What about a whiteface with pink pimples selling crackers?

I don’t know. You tell me.

Dave Chappelle as Prince on the cover of Prince’s new single [SONG, POLL]

Prince's new album cover features Dave Chappelle, Black Copy

Click image to hear snippet of song, “Breakfast Can Wait”

Dave Prince? Prince Chappelle? No, it’s Dave Chappelle as Prince gracing the cover of Prince’s new single Breakfast Can Wait.

Prince’s cover will surely turn heads and perhaps shake them as well with this catchy image taken from The Chappelle Show sketch.  It looks like Prince is trying to stay relevant and irreverent at the same time.  Ditto for Dave Chappelle whose antics are sorely missed by fans of his short-lived comedy series. Do you think it’s a savvy move on their parts?

As for the content of the album, is it just as edgy and unique? Actually I heard a snippet of the new single Breakfast Can Wait. It’s as tasty as those pancakes Prince – I mean Dave is holding on the cover. Wait, I take that back. Those pancakes look kinda nasty, but the song is cool.

LinkedIn 19th century style: Frederick Douglass endorses Harriet Tubman

Black_Copy_Fred_Harriet_long pic_6.21.13

If you’re asked to write a recommendation,  give a LinkedIn  endorsement, or you want someone to write one for you, take some composition tips from Frederick Douglass, one of history’s greatest abolitionists and orators. Frederick Douglass’s statue was recently unveiled June 19 at the state Capital in Washington D.C., an honor long overdue. Douglass was an impressive writer and an edifier of those he admired. In 1868, Douglass wrote an exemplary letter of endorsement for his fellow comrade freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, who was extraordinary in her own right. A biography had just been written about her daring exploits as the conductor of the Underground Railroad.  She was referred to as the “Moses of Her People”.

I bet Frederick and Harriet would have been tight LinkedIn buddies, don’t you agree?

Read and take notes.

Rochester, August 29, 1868 – “Dear Harriet: I am glad to know that the story of your eventful life has been written by a kind lady, and that the same is soon to be published. You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt, “God bless you,” has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony for your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy. Your friend, Frederick Douglass.”

— Excerpt, “Letters Of A Nation,” Ed. A. Carroll

The India Arie skin bleaching rumor: Is skin tone part of her personal brand?

Black_Copy_india-arie-cocoa-legs Is India Arie truly loving the skin she’s in? I can’t think of any other artist or celebrity whose skin tone is tied so significantly to what they do and who they are. The realization of that fact struck me a few days ago, as I read about the brouhaha over the image from India’s new single, Cocoa Butter . India sports a hot bronze and black mini against a bronze background. Her skin glows golden brown instead of her usual dark cocoa. Questions fluttered throughout the Internet whether India succumbed to the “lure” of skin lightening treatments. She is the example for all women who refuse to subscribe to society’s standard of beauty. Didn’t she write Brown Skin, I Am Not My Hair and Video? The very thing that I think kept India from winning any of her seven Grammy nominations in 2002, is the very thing that makes her an icon: The unapologetic embracing of her brown skin and all that goes with it.  It is what keeps us waiting patiently for her occasional hit singles. And to think she would renege on what is true. What a profound betrayal that would be, and an irreversible screw-up of her brand.

What she sings, how she sings, Who she is, right down to that mahogany skin is what we identify with.  This is India’s brand equity. It defines her image in the minds of her fans and admirers.  Can skin tone be so important that it becomes not only the person but the persona? I thinks so.  Just like logos have a consistent style code e.g. specific colors, font, size, etc. So does one’s  image.  That person is a walking logo. In India’s case, her hair, features, and yes the tone of her skin, has always stayed congruent to the message in her songs. Straying from that, ruins her brand.

Personal branding always starts with three questions: Black_Copy_India_guitar

  • Who is your target?
  • What do you stand for?
  • How do you communicate that message to the “who”?

India’s brand has enjoyed a point of distinction, that has stayed consistent throughout her career.  India’s brand has been successful because it’s authentic.  Altering any of it is disrespecting the brand…and us.

I know this sounds silly but one “color-of-skin-as-a-brand” example that comes to mind just as strongly is the Grinch,  if his green turned beige, that would ruin his whole grouchy Seuss-y vibe.

India Arie quickly squashed that nasty rumor with a laugh via Twitter and Facebook. Here is what she wrote on fb:

Love to all #SoulBirdsWorldWide are you ready for this #SongVersation ?

Personally speaking! I’m happy to say I have NOT BLEACHED my skin LOL! ROTF at the thought.

1. I wouldn’t endanger my health that way

2. i’m so in love with myself I have no DESIRE to BLEACH myself. Lol

3. The GLOW you see IS (magnificent) lighting

4. THE LIGHT you see, Well thats all ME!!

Politically speaking racism/colorism in the black community is a MUUUUUUUCH larger #SongVersation #skinversaton

THAT I’d LOVE to “shed light on”..that conversation IS REAL, …let’s keep talking. #SongVersation #soulbirdsworldwide

Big love to ALL #soulbirdsworldwide

Do you think the skin bleaching rumor damaged India Arie’s personal brand?

Life after Timberlake: The Evolution of the Creative Director


So we’re experiencing the evolution of the creative director.  First, we had the old school haberdashery and martini types, then the quirky cool all-black clad sophisticates. Then the young irreverent digi-hipsters populated the industry. And now we’re trending the “A-list celebrity” variety. Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Will. and other uber stars are not only setting trends in the music biz but adding lyrical flavor to high profile ad launches. And it seems the agency’s lessor known directors of  the Big Idea can do nothing but embrace it, watch in dismay or blog about it.

Okay, so marketers are riding high on this one. But is it going to last? I mean, come on. Celebrity CDs can go so far before that becomes passe too.  You’ve got to come up with a new unexpected, edgy twist. So what’s next? What will be the next big trend in the land of Creative Directordom? I’ve got two predictions…

A Reality TV Show

Reality shows rule the planet. People lose weight, get married, catch criminals, become singing idols, pawn valuables, hoard, eat deodorant, repossess cars, catch fish , dupe pedophiles, rock the runway, and so on and so forth. Why not search for the next generation of Creative Directors via reality TV?  Yeah! A total 360 degree turn-around, from riches to rags.  Kind of like The Apprentice. Call it, “Anybody Can Be a Creative Director.” No, that’s too long. How about, “Ad Star Search”? Eh…  It’s a working title.

Who would star in Ad Star Search?  Your ordinary shmo who doesn’t know dooda about advertising; Grabowski the butcher, Celeste the librarian, Or Shalonda, mother of two. Like The Apprentice, they ‘re given ad projects to supervise and produce from concept to execution. And each contestant’s work is critiqued by the biggest creative geniuses in the industry; folks like Lee Clow, Tom Burrell and Justin Timberlake.  Of course there are eliminations every week. The winner’s work is produced and they win the coveted title of Creative Director at a swanky Madison Avenue agency. Forget the college grads who slaved for an ad degree or the veteran unemployed ad exec trying to replant his foot in the industry door. That’s too expected. Ad Star Search contestants are far removed from the advertising mainstream. That’s what makes it so intriguing. Ad Star Search will be so popular that ad agencies will adopt the concept  to recruit for their own shops.  They will ride the “trend” like a stallion. Soon we’ll see webisode contests all over the web. And what about the aspiring creatives inside and the shops? They will stand on the sidelines and watch in dismay or blog about it.

Or maybe the trend will go techy:

Robo CDs (Creative Directors)

Robots programmed with the thought waves and algorithms of the most creative ad minds in contemporary history, like Lee Clow, Tom Burrell and Justin Timberlake. Robo CD’s efficiently and spectacularly direct creative and manage teams. This would be a great win-win venture for both client and agency because :

  • Robo CD’s are cost effective. Buy one for $999,998 and it pays for itself in a couple of years.
  • It has a built in budget manager that keeps spending costs within budget
  • A Timeline tripper to keep the projects on track. That eliminates finger-pointing. If the client fails to approve the copy at the agreed date, Robo CD has record of it. Clients will still blame you for the missed deadlines. But at least Robo CD’s got the proof.
  • It is the ultimate project manager, group manager and coffee fetcher all-in-one. No egos to deal with. It multitasks with ease and is always on time
  • It doesn’t talk smack, and it doesn’t get frustrated by temperamental creatives.
  • It presents the work to the client with well calculated and statistical rationale, the creative team is like a human accessory. In fact, for an upgrade, Robo CD could triple as a account planner, media buyer, and receptionist. Can we say “phase out positions?”.
  •  Robo CD comes in silver with a black mock turtleneck; it speaks 12 languages including Spanish and Ebonics. So you’ve got the multicultural thing covered.
  • The after-hour schmoozing? Well, give Robo CD a can of synthetic oil with a dash of lemon, and (s)he’s good to go.
  • You can program it to be male or female,  gay or straight.

Creatives hoping to rise to CD status will have to redirect their aspirations. But that’s the nature of the business. Robo CD is the new digital. We must adapt to our ever-changing industry.  Human creatives can do nothing but watch in dismay or yes, blog about it.