Zambezi Speaks Out for Racial Justice Online and in the Streets

Employee-led Black Lives Matter work goes national

Los Angeles agency Zambezi takes its call for racial justice to the nation's streets in an out-of-home campaign that began with a single social-media post intended to show solitary with the Black community.

That first Instagram item on May 29 consisted of white and gray text against a black background. "My shock isn't enough. My silence is deadly. My solidarity is action," it read. "I will text. I will call. I will sign. I will learn. I will act."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

No more talking. Now is the time for action. ____ #BlackLivesMatter #IWillAct #SilenceIsDeadly #OpenWaters

A post shared by Zambezi (@zmbzagency) on

The effort was designed to "inspire others to take meaningful actions to create real, tangible change through signing petitions, making donations, supporting Black businesses and taking the time to learn and understand about systemic racism in the United States," Zambezi president and founder Chris Raih tells Muse.

Additional content penned by the shop's Black employees "received a positive response and we believed there was an opportunity to amplify this message even further and on a larger scale," Raih says.

So, Zambezi joined with outdoor specialist Quan Media, which provided a free month-long run for the initiative across 58 billboards in markets including L.A., New York, Baltimore, Miami, Austin, Oakland and Charlotte:

"Diversity has always been a point of emphasis at Zambezi, but we realize that is not enough," Raih says. "While creating messaging to support racial and social change is important, it's incumbent on agencies to do more—and that starts with taking a hard look at our own makeup, hiring and recruitment practices, and truly solving diversity shortcomings and challenges."

At present, Zambezi's staff is 7 percent Black, slightly below the industry average of 8.1 percent, "a clear signal that we need to do better," Raih says. He pledges "to do a better job in recruiting Black talent in particular, as well as building a more diverse set of agency partners and vendors. We hope that our transparency and actions will inspire other agencies to do the same." (The company's diversity initiative, Open Waters, strives to provide educational opportunities and conversations around issues of inclusion and representation.)

"This is a critical moment in our history," says Raih. "As leaders in advertising, we are in a unique position to influence culture and move the conversation forward. I think we're already starting to see positive change happen, and I'm hopeful this will continue within our industry and society at large."

Creative collective Three's a Crowd recently challenged agencies to boost Black leadership to 13 percent in three years, a figure matching Black representation in America as a whole. By some estimates, Black professionals currently occupy less than 2 percent of senior roles in the ad business.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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