Inside W+K's Powerful Work for the American Indian College Fund

Work about Indigenous culture made by Indigenous cultures

This spot, at its core, is about celebrating Indigenous achievement and highlighting the work supported by the American Indian College Fund.

Alongside the College Fund, Wieden+Kennedy Portland has supported this movement for over 30 years. It's the third oldest account in the building and the one that managed to get David Kennedy out of retirement (was he ever really retired, though?). In those 30 years, the College Fund has seen over 300,000 Natives graduates. Considering the fact we didn't even gain civil rights until 1968 (four years after the Civil Rights Act passed for everyone else) it allowed us to open our own colleges for the first time. I mean, that is quite a reason to celebrate.

So on this account, we wanted to highlight the growing number of Native Americans with college degrees, while also celebrating the Indigenous experience. W+K created the "Move Aside" campaign for the College Fund based on the simple concept of a job application letter where we witness a Native graduate (played by Reservation Dogs' Elva Guerra) preparing to take on her workday, and ultimately, design her own future.

But this is a bit more revolutionary than just a spot. When was the last time you saw a commercial with Native Americans? And nah, the current playoff commercials for the Braves don’t count. Neither does the coverage of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Film and advertising severely lack authentic Indigenous representation, which is partly why this spot is so unique in its sincere efforts to tap native talent for key roles. We made the choice to make sincere and authentic work. So, we needed sincere voices.

For this campaign, we tapped Indigenous director Erica Tremblay (Seneca–Cayuga) for her first commercial, and she brought in the incredibly cool Indigenous production designer Tavf Sampson (Muscogee). We also tapped Indigenous actress Elva Guerra (Ponca Nation), who plays Jackie on the acclaimed television series Reservation Dogs.

I am Stockbridge-Mohican, and I led creative development on the work. As the copywriter, I tapped into my own experiences to help inform "Move Aside." From noting what I wore on my first internship, to how I flip my earrings when I check myself in the mirror—that's all a part of me. I used language and messaging that I yearn to see in Indigenous spots—channeling an empowering voice and cheeky humor.

You just can't make good work about culture without including the culture. That isn't just true for Indigenous work, it's true for a lot more.

But this work also wouldn't exist without the talents and intentions of a lot of good people and allies. I am thankful to work alongside some of the best like art director Brad Trost and Kennedy's longtime creative director partner, Patty Orlando.

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Robin Maxkii
Robin Maxkii is a copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy Portland.

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