From tone-deaf advertisements to discriminatory practices, culturally insensitive missteps displayed by major brands have been a longstanding issue. Amid the unrest following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, many of our inboxes were flooded with hallow statements decrying injustice and showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Entrepreneurs Jessica D. Lane Alexander and Lori J. Hall are on a mission to help brands cultivate an authentic connection with multicultural audiences through the creation of their marketing agency Pop’N Creative.
For the two former television executives, the power of storytelling and narrative control became evident at a young age. Alexander vividly remembers watching Just For Me relaxer commercials as a youngster and although as a Black girl she was proud to see herself reflected in the advertisements, she found the lack of representation for girls with natural hair to be dispiriting and ultimately contributed to a condensed standard of beauty. “I was torn on that one because while I was super excited to see someone who looked like me on the box and in the commercial, it did make me want to have straight long flowing hair and that part made me question what I had personally which was not a relaxer,” Alexander told NewsOne. “It really made me want to go that route when what I had, which is natural hair, should have been enough.” For Hall, a TV buff, seeing Oprah Winfrey on her television screen and witnessing how she used the talk show format to capture the narratives of an array of people from all walks of life opened a world of possibilities.
Their passion for media, entertainment and marketing led them to cross paths at companies like WarnerMedia—formerly known as Turner Broadcasting—and TV One. While working with several advertising firms to lead campaigns surrounding the Black experience, as clients they noticed the scarcity of multicultural agencies. Cognizant that the lack of diverse marketers can present a disconnect ultimately leading to the creation of culturally insensitive campaigns and projects, they decided to join forces and fill the void by creating Pop’N Creative. “We are absolutely, unapologetically passionate about multicultural marketing and helping brands get it right,” said Hall.
Launched in 2020, Pop’N Creative is a multicultural agency focused on the creation of digital and social content and experience design with impactful storytelling at its core. The company, which has already worked on campaigns for brands like Freeform and Aspire, prides itself on developing strategies to “create the right experiences for the right audiences.”
According to CNN, following the recent acts of racism, the Black Lives Matter movement was tweeted about more than any other time in its history. Intertwined in the Twitter trend were generic statements from brands who simply wanted to be on the right side of history. As Hall says, driving impact goes far beyond companies sharing “black background, white font” statements about Black Lives Matter on their social platforms, and she and Alexander are dedicated to using their venture as a vessel to create change. “We’ve spent our dollars. We’ve contributed. We’re on all of your social media platforms. Where are you when it’s time to rise up and pull up for us?” said Hall. “We want to help brands so that they are not scared into inaction because that is the worst thing they can do at a time like this.”
The two created two brand action guides titled Response Guide to Discussing Racial Injustice and Action Guide to Dismantling Racism that encompasses examples of powerful statements and ones that miss the mark. “We’ve been conditioned to think “Black Lives Matter” is a radical statement and it’s not,” said Alexander. “We want to see brands step up and continue the conversations and dialogue. It’s okay to have a misstep at first as long as you’re committed to making your second step stronger and as long as you’re committed to doing more and learning from it.” Ultimately the guides were created to help brands take accountability, be more authentic in their messaging and work towards addressing systemic injustices through steps that can be taken internally; like hiring diverse vendors and promoting Black employees.
Although COVID-19 has affected their business to some extent, amid the current social climate, the entrepreneurs have seen an uptick in work surrounding cultural trends and have vetted campaign concepts for brands. Alexander and Hall are aiming to use Pop’N Creative as an avenue to change the narrative—literally and figuratively—when it comes to cultural insensitivity in the realm of marketing and hopes their entrepreneurial endeavor will inspire others to follow suit. “We can create marketing campaigns for any demographic, but we definitely don’t apologize and are very excited and thrilled to be specifically a multicultural marketing agency run by two Black women,” said Hall.