Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah

You’ve worked hard this year, so I hope you have a great break whatever you’re celebrating this season. I know I will. Chill with family and friends, maybe a drink or two. And maybe sign out of your work email?

I’m taking a break out the country, so there’ll be no new posts until January. But never fear, here are some of my favorites to last you until 2017:

Moving Forward from the Most Racist Ad of All Time

What it Feels Like to be Laid Off (and how to bounce back)

What Makes a Good Partner and How to Find One

4 Personal Must Ask Questions for Novice Networkers

You Get What You Don’t Ask For

You Get What You Don’t Ask For

I know that’s not how the saying goes, but I find it truer. It’s when we fail to speak up, that we’re inundated with all the everything unimaginable:

  • A desk full of boring projects.
  • Passed over for new opportunities.
  • The box of pens that always run out of ink during meetings.
  • Seated next to the ~eccentric~ art director who clips his toenails at his desk.

Many of us are afraid to ask for things. Even as the “Entitled Millennial Generation” (major eye-roll) there’s a fear of rejection, especially from those we respect or admire, that hinders us from asking for what we really want and accepting what’s simply given to us.

At some point you’ve experienced a form of rejection – maybe you were turned down for a job/internship, weren’t put on the project you wanted, or your crush broke your heart. While those experiences don’t feel good, you’re still out here making moves and thriving.

Part of taking control of your career is communicating the different ways you work and learn to your team and superiors. Not doing so takes you out of the driver seat of your career and gives the wheel to everyone else. You may work better with a regular meeting about your performance or want more training in your field or something as simple as a new computer mouse. If no one knows what you need to grow, you’ll get everything except what you really want.


Now, you won’t always get what you ask for, but what you want and need to help you grow in your career will be out in the ad-universe. You’ll still hear no and if you’re anything like me you’ll hear it often, but I take comfort in knowing that if I don’t get exactly what I asked for, I’ll usually get something comparable that enables me to work and learn the way I need. Remember, your team and superiors want to help you succeed; because when you do, the agency succeeds.

APPLY NOW: MGP iCR8 Winter Boot Camp

Ready to stop being an aspiring creative and ready to do?

Seriously, want to spend 3-weeks at your own pop-up agency creating a campaign for real clients? If this opportunity sounds like your cup of…er…tea (sorry, couldn’t resist) apply to the Marcus Graham Project’s 2017 iCR8 Winter Boot Camp.

Its third year in Chicago, the iCR8 Winter Boot Camp aims to give a diverse group of aspiring ad folks exposure to the industry and experience to propel them into the world of advertising and media.

And everyone I know who participated in MGP are absolute rockstars.

Be a rockstar. Apps are due December 17, so get to it.



If Chicago winters aren’t your thing (trust me, they ain’t pretty), get started on their flagship summer boot camp application.

No more caffeine withdrawals

Happy Monday! (And happy belated Fourth of July, Halloween, Veteran’s Day and National Pizza Day.)

I took a break. A summer and a fall break. After moving from gig to gig, and a little work slump, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to offer advice, and honestly felt a bit uninspired. But with the current political climate, I couldn’t sit idly by anymore. I had to do something to show that people of color voices matter. Our images matter. Our art matters. Our creative matters.

We matter.

So let’s close out 2016 with a bang.

There’ll be lots of new posts covering pre-agency woes, office politics and many more book reviews—lots of reading has been done in my absence.

There’ll be some surprises and changes along the way, but all with the goal of giving you, my dear readers, the tools you need to start and maintain a kick-ass creative career.

Let’s do this.

Get your fill of Black Coffee on Facebook and Twitter.

Moving Forward from The Most Racist Ad from All Time

In the current state of America there is a lot of racial tension. The Black Lives Matters Movement, demand for immigration reform and impending election with Republican nominee Donald Trump; there have been a lot of opposing views regarding race. What a sigh of relief that we can finally point the finger at someone else for being more racist than us.

If you have Facebook, or any social media for that matter, and have not been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen this Chinese laundry detergent commercial that not-so-subtly suggests that light is right and ~colored~ is…well just watch for yourself:

It’s clearly an offensive spot. Some have come to the defense of the ad saying that it parody’s an Italian ad under the same concept (as if that ad isn’t as equally problematic).

Last week, Adweek released an article about how easy it is for America to demonize other cultures shortcomings because we no longer allow such blatant discrimination in our media.  Although our ads have progressed through the years, we still have our slip ups that are damaging and hurtful.

Take this Super Bowl ad featuring Lil Wayne and George Washington. This ad came under fire for the insensitive implications of featuring a notorious slave owner being served by a Black man.

Or, this Gap shoot that was called out for having three non-minority girls actively participating, while the Black girl was seen as a prop.


And then there was this Nivea ad a few years ago, that deemed natural hair uncivilized.


It’s clear that we have room for improvement when it comes to creating ads that’s are inclusive and tolerant. Our duty to provide diverse advertising goes beyond race; gender, sexuality, age and ability need to be included in how we as creators are presenting images to be consumed.

Maybe I have too much of a “we are the world” point of view, but instead of criticizing and damning the Chinese ad, let’s use it as a learning moment on the messages we project when we use certain images. Having a diverse creative team would be more likely to prevent some of these blunders, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

The point here is, before we begin to point fingers at other ad people, let’s make sure we’re making the best effort to positively impact diversity.

What Makes a Good Partner and How to Find One

A few days ago marked mine and my partner’s anniversary.  I don’t know if she remembers…or if we should exchange gifts.

Not Every art director and copywriter  becomes “official.” From what I’ve observed ride or die creative teams are becoming less common. While I’ve worked with my share of art directors and copywriters, I always come back to old faithful.
My partner and I met in the basement of a bar – I promise it was at a networking event. We were both looking to get into the industry, she had just graduated from portfolio school, I on the other hand was bagging groceries at Whole Foods. We chatted for a bit, exchanged information and sent really awkward emails.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later and the next time we see each other is in the lobby of our internship.

Finding a partner won’t always be this easy. In fact, before my current partner I’d been taking out Craigslist ads and sending Twitter S.O.S’ searching high and low for someone to create spec work with. I was lucky to bump into Ariel.

Having a creative partner is very much like dating. You’ll learn each others weird, creepy habits. You’ll develop a comfort level where you’re able to share your off-the-wall ideas and not care if they think you’re batshit crazy. You will challenge them and they’ll tell you when your idea sucks. They’re there to help you defend ideas and have silent conversations with in status meetings. And they’re there to support your cool, non-work-related projects.

Personally, having a creative partner is lit.

The best advice I can give on finding a creative partner is networking and looking within your circle. Look at people you  work with, even if it isn’t in your desired field.  At Whole Foods I worked with so many artists, writers, designers and even passed my business card along to a few customers. I just so happen to meet my partner through an organization where we were both members. Consider joining a group or club (AAF has tons of local chapters) where you can meet interesting people if your network is small.

You’ve connected someone who wants to create some awesome stuff, how do you know it’s a good match? Again, like dating, you have to get to know each other.  Even if it’s a friend you want to work with,  you may have dissimilar work ethics and professional goals. Having different life philosophies and outlooks are fine, and even encouraged, as they’ll challenge you creatively; but a good creative partner will want to achieve the same goals.

Alright, you’ve found your creative soul mate the only thing left to do is get to work!

P.S. the best thing about creative partners vs IRL partners,  open relationships aren’t taboo. So feel free to switch around and mix it up.

FCB and Leo Burnett are Hosting Career Fairs and You Should Definitely Go

For my NY readers, sorry for the late notice but FCB is hosting a dope career fair  TOMORROW at the Roosevelt Hotel.

For my Chicago readers, y’all got some time. This same dope career fair will be making its way to the midwest. Hosted by Leo Burnett at DePaul University.

There is a $25 dollar registration, but I promise it’s worth the investment. I went to this event back in 2013 and it was an inspiring event and helpful event. Plus, making some killer connections didn’t hurt.

Register for either event here.


4 Personal Must Ask Questions For Novice Networkers

My greatest mistake I made at the beginning of my career was not networking. I absolutely hated it and avoided it at all costs. As a self-proclaimed introvert, going out and meeting new people can be exhausting.  And industry events always felt as authentic as Sunday brunch on your local Love and Hip-Hop.


Hate it or love it, networking can make or break your career. But I promise, once you start putting it into practice it’s not nearly as painful as it is in your head. Here’s some questions to ask yourself as you  sharpen those networking skills.

Who are your friends?

The first and easiest place to look when starting to network is people you know. You already have a rolodex (right next to your fax machine) full of friends, coworkers, professors, and family. You’d be surprised at the amount of talent among the people you talk to on regularly. Those are the ones that can help you execute a project, introduce you to other connections and get a job.

What you makes you so special?

You’ve identified the people and their awesome skills you’d love to work with – but what’s in it for them? What type of value can you offer for their goals? The main goal of networking is to create mutually beneficial relationships.

As a novice in the industry you make be thinking that you don’t have enough experience or know-how to to help anyone, but remember your point-of-view is a powerful thing. As creatives, we’re able to see the world differently and sometimes simply offering your unique perspective can help someone solve a problem.

What do you need?

If you were to meet the perfect person to add to your professional network, what steps would they need to take to help you reach your goal? Would it be an introduction to someone else? Advice? Feedback on project?

I’ve noticed that people are more inclined to help those with a plan. It’s wise, not to go into networking situations blind. Map out the people you want to meet. Map out the questions you need answers to. Make it easy for your connection to help you. Then in return, always revisit question #2.

Is this a genuine connection?

Using people is not ok. While I’m not saying every connection is going to spearhead into best-bud-city, you want to connect with people who you at least like.  Talking to people you feel comfortable with, especially if one of you needs a favor, will take the pain and awkwardness out of the whole ordeal.

Now go forth and network!

Required Reading II: The Hero and the Outlaw

Okay guys, my main goal is to be as completely honest and transparent as possible. So I’m just going to be straight up—I did not enjoy the book I’m about to recommend to you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t totally read it, because it’s spilling with info about the personality and stories of brands. And who knows, it just might be your favorite book.

Concluding our conversation on brand voice, personality and archetypes;  the perfect pairing for our theme is The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. While working on my first new business pitch as an intern, my CD recommended The Hero and The Outlaw  to ensure my partner and I understood how to reposition the brand without straying too far from the already established voice.  Because I was an intensely eager intern, I downloaded the book to my Kindle before we even finished our briefing.

It starts off strong giving  anecdotal, real-world examples taken from celebrity gossip and news to popular brands. Combing psychology and storytelling, it shows the varying roles each brand and personality takes on to captivate an audience. Further in the book, in a drowning amount of detail, it covers the twelve different archetypes. Did I mention this book is detailed?

Though I never read this book cover to cover (or finished it for that matter),  I use it as reference. It isn’t a book you can finish on a lazy weekend. Or a week. It’s a lot to get through, but it is full of awesome insights on how brands can connect with their audience.

Overall it’s a decent book to have in your collection. Even if you don’t read it straight through, you’ll still learn plenty on how brands fit into different archetypes.

3 out of 5 mugs. Would read someday again.mugscale3_5

Check it out and let me know what you think.