If I had a Pepsi…

Full disclosure: I work for Coke. I wasn’t going to write anything about the now deleted Pepsi ad because of my soda ties. But I got some things to say.

At the surface it hit all the marks, especially for millennials and Gen Z–-celebrity endorsement, standing for a cause, and overwhelmingly ~inspirational and uplifting~. So why did it miss that mark with its target?

Let’s start with the celebrity choice. Kendall Jenner 77.8M Instagram followers. 21.4M Twitter follower. 15.6M Facebook likes. Clothing line, reality show, modeling career. She definitely has reach and a platform, but none of those have been used to support any causes. She’s popular with the cool kids, but for fashion and beauty. Not someone people look towards to affect change.

The cause in the ad is unclear. Marchers and protestors are seen holding signs about love and peace. We see young people coming together and standing as one for something bigger than themselves. But with Pepsi actually standing for anything, it simply makes light and commodifies every march and disfranchised group. It’s clear they made a concerted effort to feature a wide range of diversity in the crowd. With so much representation, it would have been all too easy for Pepsi to take an actual stand and help promote a real cause that can’t be solved with a soda.

Second disclosure: I’ve never been to a protest. I respect and admire those who have/continue to risk their lives and freedom to fight for justice. So with such high stakes at protests, I doubt it’s a party in the streets. The tone and ambience of the ad were incredibly inauthentic. While I’m sure there are some empowering and inspirational moments at a protest, it’s not called “resistance” because activists want to “Live for Now”. People who protest are fighting to live.

It’s been echoed across social media and the web, this Pepsi spot undermines and trivializes the work many sacrifice for. Pepsi made the right move to delete the ad, but it may not be enough for damage control. Costly and tone deaf ads can be avoided if agencies hire a more diverse staff and create an environment where creatives are comfortable speaking up about potentially offensive ads without fear of ridicule and repercussions.

What’s your take on the ad? How do you think the brand will recover?


Evelyn Hernandez

So You Want to Be an Art Director Part I: Evelyn Hernandez

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I tend to have a bias to write about copywriters. Mostly, because I’m one and I think we’re pretty freakin’ awesome. But I’m aware we’re only one part of making a creative department function. So in effort to not keep the aspiring and budding art directors hanging, I’ve wrangled a few of my creative buddies to see what life’s like from their perspective.

First up, we have the very talented Junior Art Director at Geometry Global, Evelyn Hernandez.

Black Coffee Creatives: What’s your background and how has it helped you succeed thus far?

Evelyn Hernandez: I’m a Chicago native. I went to Parson School for Design in New York and I studied Design & Management which is a major that combines business and design thinking. It’s kind of a buzz phrase, but what it meant was taking the problem solving creativity you use in design and applying it to problems that aren’t traditionally thought of as design problems. It forced us to realize that it all really is design, from how a McDonald’s drive through works to the train you ride. That mentality really helped me value my skill set as more than just someone to make pretty things; that’s antiquated and as designers you have to want more.

BCC: Let’s take a step back further, what first attracted you to the advertising industry?

EH: I think I always wanted to be an artist, but having immigrant parents and knowing the sacrifices they made so that I could have a better life, it brought practicality to the forefront for me. When I found out advertising was an industry with careers, like once it clicked that it’s someone’s job to do this, I feel like my life clicked as well.

BCC: How did you break into the industry and what was your first gig like?

EH: Have I broken in? When I left for school, I knew I had to work because going off to New York City was my choice, and I wanted to be responsible for it financially as much as I could. So my first year out I worked in the dorm in the front office. The dorm director promised me the job the following school year, but when I returned she had already hired other people. Low key, she was kind of shady and made no point of concealing how unhappy she was in her new job so she’d try to start up problems just to have stories to tell. I think she thought I was going to flip, but honestly I want to thank her now. It was such an easy, chill job that if she had given it to me, I would’ve never pushed myself to find something that would help me build a career because the minute she was like “oh, j/k I hired someone an hour ago,” I sat my ass down on a computer and applied to a bunch of marketing jobs. I ended up interning at the east coast version of Panera, but what made me legit was three months in my boss left, so I had to become the marketing manager. That role means different things depending on where you work, but at that company it meant I was responsible for anything that was remotely marketing— the design, the wording, awarding production bids, scheduling material delivery, etc. This is a very long-winded way to say that being a 19-year-old marketing manager at a major food chain in New York is what I consider to be my break.  Not just because it looked flashy on a resume, but because it shook me into realizing I could actually do this thing.

BCC: For many aspiring ADs, putting together a book can cause a lot of professional anxiety. What did you do to prepare your portfolio?

EH: I was lucky because Parsons has a designated portfolio class for almost every major around senior year. That isn’t exactly the portfolio I use now, but it forced me to organize all the crap I’d made and realize that there needed to be a story. My professor made such a good point of saying, “these people will get tons of sites and books with cool work, but even amazing pieces of art are forgotten if there’s no substance.” So because my major was pretty eclectic in that I wasn’t just a painter or a fashion designer who had a capsule to show, I had to figure out how to frame it. Which is cool, because now I have my buckets and I have the narrative, I’ll just go back and plop new stuff or cull the old. I know the argument for reinvention, but I think you need to have a solid structure to pile crazy onto.

BCC: What are qualities that you believe showcases what it takes to succeed in advertising?

EH: You have to be fearless and adaptable. You have to have good taste and you have to have instincts and know how to trust them. Creative obviously, but being able to advocate for an idea.

BCC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

EH: There are two pieces of great advice: Be polite because your mother taught you, but also because it’s good business. My Business of Screenwriting teacher, Doug Tirola, said that to us on our last day. Being polite meaning don’t be haughty or dismissive to anyone that you haven’t actually interacted with.

The other comes in handy whenever I start doubting my choices, my fairy godmother Carol Overby always says, “what would a man do?”

BCC: As we all know we have to be creative on demand, which can be quite the challenge at times. What helps you in getting creativity to strike?

EH: I think first you have to surrender to the idea that you can’t just make it strike. It’s like any other skill because the more you use it and get those synapses firing, the more you can roll with it. And yeah, you’re going to get stuck on a few things, but then you pivot and you start thinking about something unrelated. The point is to keep yourself moving because what you shouldn’t do is “take a break.” It never works the way you think it will because nothing will just hit you and then when you want to get back at it you’re not going to be able to get yourself fired up again.

BCC: It’s my philosophy that while we aim to make our work as creative as possible, we make ads, not art. How do you feed your need to without boundaries (and client reviews)?

EH: Social media. Kidding, but kind of. I’ll find myself making things whether it’s lettering a silly phrase in a fancy manner or editing a picture for a joke to post on like tumblr or something. They’re like little creative hiccups when the energy or idea has no where to really live? It sounds super trivial, but I like knowing I can produce independent of duty.

BCC: As juniors, we’re still in the process of learning and have a bit more wiggle room to make mistakes. How did you recover from you biggest professional mistake?

EH: I think I replied all on an email and like mentioned an in joke which did not read well to everyone else. I just didn’t bring it up, but I made sure that for the rest of the project my work was air tight and that I was early on deadlines.

BCC: What advice would you give to aspiring art directors?

EH: I think what I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with is speaking up. It baffles me because for better or worse I’ve never had reservations about throwing my ideas out there because honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s a bad idea, or people laugh? Cool, laugh with them because you probably also realized how silly it sounded once you said it out loud, or if you really believe in it, fight for it and show that you do have passion for your work. I also think that as art people, we’re usually sequestered into “come in at the end and make this pretty.” That’s bullshit, because like I was taught in school, it’s ALL design and our design thinking is often the secret sauce that’s missing.

5 Things I Learned from My Mentor

My mentor is bomb. She has a quiet, calm energy that commands a room, with a dash of gangster. From the day I met her she’s been a great advocate, and ever since I’ve always been appreciative of her willingness to drop a little knowledge on a youngin’.

drop knowledge

I’m a selfish mentee, and I’m not ready to share her just yet. But I will impart some of her wisdom and hope it serves you as much as it has served me.

Don’t Be Emotional

As much as I try to deny it, I have feelings. And as a woman in the industry, exposing too many feelings in a male dominated field can be seen as being too sensitive or weak. When I approached my mentor about defending work without coming off as something that rhymes with twitch emotional, she coolly shrugged her shoulders and said, they’re going think it anyway. But whatever feelings you show they cannot deny facts. Come with data that supports your work, idea, creative—and there’s no way your emotions will get in the way.

Get Your Coins

Money isn’t everything, but you gotta eat. The first time I had to negotiate my salary, I was afraid I was going to fired. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but it boiled down to: Do you really want to stay at a place that doesn’t value you? I’m usually pretty quick, but I didn’t have a snappy comeback.  So when the time came to negotiate,  I was confident in my skills knowing that if they valued me as an employee I’d be compensated fairly.

On that note, she also advised not to get crazy with the ask. Research industry standard in your city, while equally evaluating what value you add to the agency.

Watch Your Back

Office politics are probably trickier than actual politics. Sooner that later, there’ll be a bus you can find yourself under. Sometimes it’s stemmed from jealousy, others self-preservation. And unfortunately, sometimes people can be straight up assholes. It’s life.

Though #TeamPetty seems to be the wave, it’s much more advantageous to take the high road. She showed by example that grace, talent and hard work will get you in more doors than burning bridges ever will.

Ask For What You Want

ECD. EVP. SVP. Don’t let those three letters scare you. My mentor encouraged me to introduce myself to leadership and ask for what I needed to succeed in the office. If you need training, ask for it. If you want to help on a project, ask for it. If you need the day off, ask for it. The worst thing that’ll happen is that they’ll say no.

Get Away from Ad Folks

By trade my mentor is an art director. At heart, she’s a really talented artist. At the start of my career I got so swept up in meeting the right ad people and making the right connections that I probably missed out on some valuable friendships and opportunities. There are really smart, talented and creative people who have nothing to do with the industry. And honestly, it’s refreshing to have a conversation that’s not full of buzzwords and acronyms.

Do you have a mentor? What’s their best piece of advice they’ve given you?

How to stay inspired when what you really want is to take a nap


We’ve all been there. The point where we’re staring at a blank page and nothing comes to mind. Whether it’s burnout, lost mojo or someone put a hex on your skills; deadlines often don’t allow us the luxury of time to wait for inspiration to strike.

Fortunately, like most blocks, with a bit of work they’re possible to break through. I don’t have all the answers, but here a few tips I use to reignite my inspiration.

1. Work Through It

One of my favorite quotes is by the brilliant artist Pablo Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Admittedly, most times I find myself in a creative block, I procrastinate. I push whatever I’m working on, personal or professional, out of mind until I can spread the lie that ~I work best under pressure~. Then it transforms itself into general laziness.

The first thing that lands on the page may not be right, nor may the second. But getting something down is only the first step.


2. Take a Break

Conversely, sometimes we’re to close to a project that we can’t see the big picture being too focused on the minute details. Take a walk, blasts some music, have some lunch. Take an hour and just unfocus for a bit. Your project will still be present in the back of your mind and ready for any creative spark.

Fun fact, 80% of great ideas are birthed in the bathroom. Funner fact, I completely made that statistic up.

3. What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

I, like many other creatives, am a perfectionist (I also attribute my perfectionism to my ‘Yoncé-like Virgoness.) That can create a lot of internal pressure that can halt beginning or finishing a project. One thing I like to do is face that pressure head on and visualize the worst possible scenarios. Usually they aren’t that bad, and never life-threatening or altering. So forget perfection for a moment and go back to number 1.

4. Prioritize

Feeling overwhelmed can create a busy mind and cause a lack of focus. Being creative is hard and requires a good amount of attention. If you have to attend meetings, organize your emails or made too many commitments – find a way to block off times to work. Sometimes that means talking to your boss or project manager and sometimes that means no multitasking (catching up on Netflix while working is not focus.)

Hopefully, these help you next time you head dive into your desk. They have definitely saved me from a few creative meltdowns. What are some ways you help breakthrough creative blocks?

Why I Stopped Putting Work First

Back in my intern days, I did everything I could to prove I deserved my seat in the creative department.

Need me to come in early or stay late? There. Work on holidays? Done. Cancel my birthday? Pssh, I have one every year. Donate my liver? They grow back, right? Dad dies in the middle of a pitch? I’ll be there in the morning.

It’s true, the day after my father passed away I went to work. I wanted to prove how dedicated I was. Every book, every blog, every panel reiterates how competitive the industry is and how there are hundreds of other equally talented people waiting to take your spot. So my philosophy was you could be smarter, faster, creativer but I would not be outworked.

In the midst of my grieving I was attending briefings. A week later my grandmother passed away. Still I wouldn’t be outworked.

Then my cousin passed.

Then my cousin was murdered.

Then I set boundaries.

It’s been said that the M-F, 9-5 life doesn’t exist in advertising. That, especially early in your career, you have to make many social sacrifices to climb the ranks. Miss family dinners. Cut vacations short. Sell concert tickets. Send apology texts for cancelling again on significant others, friends, family, doctors, etc.

That’s bullshit.

I know last week I said that you’ll push yourself and make sacrifices, it’s true. I’ve simply traded open availability to flexibility. There are things work can’t touch and you shouldn’t feel shamed, pressured or inadequate for setting those boundaries for when you are out of office.

I unplug. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I make things that aren’t for sell. I see shows. I create for fun. I talk to people who love me. I explore. I read. I write. I sleep. I breath. I live. Fully.

A creative who’s able to wholly experience life and its pleasures will produce far more interesting work than those who do not. And you get to decide which pieces of your human experience gives you that freedom to enjoy our brief time here.

These days, I don’t cast my net as wide. My work is still immensely important to me, but it doesn’t come first. I see how rewarding advertising can be, but I’ve also seen how quickly life and it can disappear.

I’m almost certain many Boomers and Gen Xers will disagree and I’m up for discussion. But you have to hit me up before 11pm, that’s when I turn my phone off 🙃.


Portfolio 101


Your book. Your portfolio. Your website. Whatever you want to call it – it needs to display your work. As a creative it’s pretty important to build a portfolio and fill it awesome ads.

Why do I need a portfolio?

A portfolio is a tool that perspective employers and partners are going to judge if they want to work with you. If you have some cool work, you’ll work with some cool people.

 What does a portfolio look like?

Here’s the short answer: whatever you want.

Portfolios come in many shapes, sizes and designs, but just make sure it’s easy to use.  Creative Directors and Talent Recruiters want to see that you’re able to develop ideas as well as your personality. Those will be the main focus of your portfolio.

Presentation matters, but great work is everything.

 How do I put together my portfolio?

The easiest and probably most cost efficient is the digital route. You’ll get to pass your work around to many people you like  with only one main cost (if you choose to purchase your domain, which I highly recommend). Popular websites to host portfolios on are Prosite, Cargo Collective and Squarespace.

Many recruiters and CDs also like PDFs of your book, so make sure you have an updated copy of that hanging around. PDFs also make it easier to load your portfolio on iPads and tablets.

If you want to go the fancy route, you can go with traditional or hand-bound portfolios. It’s always a nice surprise when you can view something tangible and interact with an actual book. Behance is a good site to pull inspiration for fancy-shmancy portfolio ideas.

What do I put in my portfolio?

If you’re just beginning, your book will mostly have spec work.When you’re beginning it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter if the work has been produced – trust me a lot of awful work has been produced. What people want to see is that you can take great ideas and turn them into beautiful ads.

While industry pros will give different answers on how many campaigns to put in a book, you want to make sure all the work you present is your best work. It’s better to have three amazing campaigns, than a book full of mediocre ones. Quality over quantity, people.

Who sees my portfolio?

Talent recruiters, human resources, creative directors, your peers, and your competition. When beginning, I got as many people to see my book because feedback is a great way to improve and see how others perceive your message.


Now, young grasshopper, you know the basics. We’ll be going more in-depth about building a portfolio. If you have any burning portfolio questions, leave them below.

A creative pick-me-up

coffee copy


When was the last time you had good coffee? Not the regular joe you drink every morning, but a really good knock-your-socks-off-WOAH-that’s-good coffee?

In a world of mochachocolottacrappuccino, we’re over the watered down and sugar-coated dark roast. We are not the decadent deceiver heralded by the masses. We are strong, raw, fresh and Black. A bit unrefined, but always motivated. We here for the ideas that keep you up at night. For the energy boost in that midday meeting. For the sit-down with that senior you really admire. We are here and rich in talent.

So tell me are you in the mood for Black Coffee?