Reflections from today’s Black Marketing Professionals/Rachel Brittenham

February 3, 2021 | blog | By Briana Jones
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In celebration of #BlackHistoryMonth, LOOMIS presents Reflections from Today’s Black Marketers, an interview series where Black marketing professionals discuss how the industry has changed since they started in the business, and how they’d like to see it change in the future.

It’s Black History Month, and at the Loomis Agency we fully embrace diversity and inclusion. Our own Briana Jones is going to lead a series of interviews called Reflections From Today’s Black Marketers. We hope you enjoy these posts as much as we enjoyed making them. In this first episode, Briana interviews our own Rachel Brittenham. Rachel is a media buyer here at The Loomis Agency.

Briana Jones:
Hey guys, I’m Briana Jones and I am the digital account coordinator here at The Loomis Agency, as well as a member of the ever-inspiring Solidarity Committee. Last year during Black History Month, we highlighted important advertisers of the past, who carved out a way for people of color in the industry today. And now this year, we decided to follow up on that series with Reflections From Today’s Black Marketers. We’re going to discuss everything from the advertising world as they know it, the changes they’ve seen since they started, and where they would like to see changes in the future.

We’re going to kick today’s series off with none other than our very own Rachel Brittenham, who has a lot to share with us. So stay tuned to see all that she has to say. Hey guys, we’re back with Miss Rachel who we’re so, so happy to have. Thank you for joining us. How are you?

Rachel Brittenham:
I’m good. Briana. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the series this year.

Briana Jones:
Well, we wouldn’t have a series if you weren’t here, so we’re happy to have you. It would not be a series. Thank you. So for the people who don’t know, could you give us a little rundown of who you are, what you do, all that good stuff?

Rachel Brittenham:
Oh well, why not? So, as Briana said in the intro, my name is Rachel Brittenham. I am a media buyer here with The Loomis Agency. I have been in the industry as a whole about 22 years. It feels like decades because of all of the changes that have happened since I’ve been in it. I actually started right out of college. Actually, I was still in college when I got into the business. Started with a sales rep firm in ’99 and was there for about two and a half years, and then a catastrophe happened called 9/11 and changed everything. And I decided to switch sides and come to the advertising side and I have been here ever since, and that’s about the gist of it.

That’s about the gist of what I do well. Well, I’ll take that back. That’s what I do at the agency. I am a media buyer, amongst other things I’m also on the Solidarity Team with Briana. I do a lot of work within the community for the agency in terms of connecting us with the universities and doing student programs there. And also working with now our minority business partnerships that we have for people in the community, but the agency we’ll be partnering with in the near future. So that’s that part of it, and then I do a bunch of other stuff in my other life.

Briana Jones:
Gosh, so much going on. They’re happy to have you. So as you say, you have been in the advertising industry for a while. When you started, were there a lot of Black people? Did you have the opportunity to work with a lot of Black people in your work?

Rachel Brittenham:
Absolutely not, there were not a lot of Black people. You know what, let me take that back. When I first started in the industry on the advertising side, believe it or not in the office that I worked in, that was probably the most Black people I’ve seen in my entire career in one office. There was probably about 10 of us and we had a staff of about 50 media buyers and assistants and planners and account service people. So that was a lot back then but the industry as a whole just knowing the Dallas-Fort Worth community, I can’t speak for any other part of the United States or the world, no, there were not a lot of Black people at all.

Briana Jones:
And do you have any thoughts or ideas as to why that may be?

Rachel Brittenham:
I think it has to do with exposure with me, I believe that’s what it is. I initially didn’t intend to go into advertising. I wanted to go into production with a television station. I wanted to be a TV producer. My major is in radio, television and film from the University of North Texas. I bet if you asked a lot of those advertisers that are in the media side of the business, they ended up doing this part by happenstance. Those that are in account service and creatives, and those that work directly at the C-level, those persons, they had those careers in marketing. I’m sorry, those degrees in marketing and advertising. Myself, I was that side person. So I would say it has a lot to do with exposure, knowing the actual opportunities that are available in advertising. And I think also the caveat to that too, is if you never are curious about the things that are put in front of you as ads as a person period, that’s usually how you connect with something, right?

And I know I’m going in a roundabout way of saying this, but if I never see people that look like me doing something as it relates to a particular profession, I may not always have the initiative to even seek it out because I don’t see it. It’s an exposure thing, so that’s what it is for me. I believe it’s because of exposure.

Briana Jones:
Awesome. And so on that note, what advice would you give to people of color who are wanting to enter this industry but knowing that exposure or awareness might be an issue?

Rachel Brittenham:
I believe in the last five years or really the last three and specifically, since last summer, we’ve definitely, as people of color know that we don’t have to follow by the rules and the standards that have been set in the past for us. We understand really and truly that we own our own. We can be who we want to be and go forward, we don’t need anybody’s permission. And to any person of color coming into this industry, knowing that we make up less than 2% of it, knowing that you probably won’t have a lot of exposure to the opportunities to internships or things of that nature that you really will have to seek it out. And I do need to be transparent to say anything you want to do in this life, it doesn’t matter what industry it is, if you want it you’re going to have to go and seek the information, it’s not going to always just come to you. If you want something, you need to go after it.

But I’m saying that to say practice what you want to do right now. Don’t wait to get into the industry or start to network with someone like myself or someone like you to begin to try to make your way into it. If you want to be in production as it relates to commercial advertising, what are you doing right now to practice production? What are you doing to hone those skills? What are you doing right now to be in account service? Are you connecting with networking groups that have young professionals and invites where you can be a part of their group as a young professional?

Those are all of the things that you need to be doing now. Do not wait for someone to give you permission to do anything. Do not wait till you have your degree in your hand before you go out there. Most people will tell you right now, the bar gets moved constantly, right? They tell us that, “You got to have this in order to get this.” But little do we know it’s constantly being moved further and further up and the finish line gets further and further out. You think you’re there and you’re not, so you’ve got to start very, very early, honing what it is that you want to do. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to fail at all. Be a sponge and always try to connect and keep your passion close to you and use that as you go into any profession especially this one, because this is a white space, if you will. Advertising, it gives you a place of freedom to create and that is what any company is looking for, for you to add value to them, understand that. You’re adding value to that company. You’re adding value to the role that you’re going into and know what that is. Know what your gifts and talents are and appreciate them, own them, and go into whatever it is you want to do with that forward and have your goals already in mind. And most of all, don’t wait for anybody to give you any permission, just do it. Just do it, don’t worry about the exposure.

We’ll forever be limited as Black people to exposure because, in a lot of ways, some things are kept from us but you got to go after it. And we’ve seen lately that we’ve created our own, but if you want to go into this space you’ve got to do it. Just got to do it, be yourself, hone your craft, start now and network, network, network with as many people as possible. I found a mentor. That’s the other thing too, find a mentor. I would say that.

Briana Jones:
Awesome. Thank you. Lots of good advice. So moving on, knowing that last year, just to take it back, we talked about the impact of some very important figures like Terrence Holt and Tom Burrell and what they did to help Black people enter the advertising industry. So what do you think the impact of more Black people coming into the industry and being a part of the work that goes out into the world, what impact do you think that has had on just not only the advertising industry but I guess the country, the world, et cetera?

Rachel Brittenham:
I believe the impact that it has had is that number one, I believe the general market understands that you have to have a person of color to be at the table. And having that person at the table makes all the difference in your messaging and being able to connect with the communities that you serve. As Black people, we know firsthand the challenges that we face and have faced day to day that are quite different from our peers of non-color. Our paths have been different to get here. Even as I said from the beginning, it’s still less than 2% of Black people within the advertising industry. I don’t know when that number will ever get above that. So in a lot of cases, we are people that were resilient. We always understand how to make something out of nothing. And the impact of having us at the table is because we know how to show value. We know how to bring value to the client’s product that you may not even think about. We understand how to capitalize on the Black dollar and the power that it has within our communities.

So globally and even right here within the United States, Black people have made it cool to be Black. We’ve always known that we’ve been cool. We’ve always known that we are unique, passionate individuals but when it comes to advertising, I think we’ve ripped the Band-aid off and said, “You don’t have to be scared to put a Black person in your ad. You don’t have to be scared to play a rap song in the background on your video. Like, it’s okay. Like it’s not going to change the way anybody feels.” I believe the impact that we’ve made is that we can make things universal. It doesn’t have to just be to this one sector or group of people, everything that we have is just like what you have, it’s right for everybody. So the impact that we have has been positive, and I believe advertisers, as well as the heads of the advertising firms, know that they can’t be successful without a person of color being at the table, being in the room. Because you’re going to miss a great part of having a particular community to take advantage of when it comes to your messaging. You’re going to completely miss a whole group that you’re serving.

Briana Jones:
Yeah, that’s very, very true. And last question. So what role do you think advertising has in addressing the issues of race in our society? Thinking back to the response after George Floyd’s murder and how different companies react, responded via their advertising, do you think advertising has any type of place in help solving this issue of racial inequality and misrepresentation in our country?

Rachel Brittenham:
Oh, such a great question, Briana. The issue of solving race in America rests solely on no one but America itself. And I say that because in order to understand what race is in America, you first have to acknowledge that there is a problem and that there is an issue. I do think post-George Floyd, most of America understands that, but we also understand that the powers that be still don’t want to necessarily recognize it and until that happens everybody else will begin to follow suit.

As advertisers, we are challenged day to day to find the best representation in our campaigns, in our media placement, our partnerships through our clients to our communities, right? But sometimes we miss the mark greatly, in understanding that the communities that our clients are in are people of color and we overlook that a lot. And I believe when you say, “What role does advertising play?” We first have to understand the community that we serve. Where are you? Do you know where you are? Do you understand? And I get that we want everything to be equal. This is general market, everybody’s the same. And I think that’s the default that we’ve had in advertising and Tom Burrell said it, “Black people are not white people with tans. We’ve gotten lumped into messaging and believing that it’s all the same and it’s not.”

So it’s ripping off the Band-Aid and actually as advertisers going into those communities, encouraging the clients that you have to also go into those communities and directly talk to them, have your messaging for them. You can’t be worried about offending them until you go and just talk to them. Just talk to them and understand that you walk into my restaurant every day, you walk into my clothing store every day and I know nothing about you. Now I’m not saying that you sit down and break bread and do those things. No, we can’t do that with every single person that walks through our doors but as advertisers it is strongly emphasized now, post-George that we are looking at you for your authenticity, your efforts, and that go beyond any type of performance messages that you made post-George.

If you just made a performance message it’s duly noted and we know not to support that. But going forward if you’re truly about the walk and wanting change, and wanting to adopt new practices and get rid of the old things that have been embedded for so long, it’s time for you to just rip off the Band-aid and not be held at the mercy of what someone else is going to say and just do it. It’s that part. So we have to take the charge up on your own, whether you’re an individual within an agency. Like the things that we’re doing at Loomis right now, we’re constantly on a charge to try to make some type of change and connecting with other minority on businesses and support them, whether it be through schools or whatnot, you’ve got to make this step to do it.

But as far as us actually having a role in changing the issue of race in this country, oh girl, that’s such a big cross to bear. We can only do it within the capacity of our gifts and talents and right now that’s just where can you show up best? And encourage your partners and the people that are with you as far as clients to, “Hey, let’s take a look at this messaging. Let’s take a deeper look at the people that you’re actually serving.”

Briana Jones:
Right. Thank you. Well, that is all that we have today. Thank you so much for sitting down and sharing your thoughts with us, it was really great to hear.

Rachel Brittenham:
You are welcome. I hope I was able to add some reflections to this. I feel like I was all over the place, but for those that know me it’s been a very, very big passion of mine to champion for advertisers, especially those, The Loomis Agency to connect with minority communities. It is ever important right now because they need to see the people within there. They need to see you show up, this is point blank, period. You need to show up however that is. If it’s through supporting the schools, if it’s directly supporting churches or other nonprofit organizations, show up. That’s the best thing you can do is show up.

Briana Jones:
Yes, show up. Well, thank you so much. We will talk to you later.

Rachel Brittenham:
Thank you.

RACHEL BRITTENHAM is senior media buyer for LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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