“Where are all the Black people?” That was the joking-but-not-joking question that fell from the lips of a guest at a party hosted by renowned advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners party in the 1990s. This question lingered on the mind of agency co-founder Jeff Goodby, without finding an answer for it. Another industry luminary attempted to answer it while on a conference panel with Goodby in the new millennium — "I don't know where to find any."
Yes, with that remark, it became crystal clear that the advertising industry had a diversity problem, especially as it related to Black employees and leaders.
To address and combat the problem, Goodby and acclaimed creative director Jimmy Smith teamed with us at The One Club for Creativity in 2011 to present a discussion panel named after that very same question: “Where Are All The Black People?” Later that year, that panel became a conference that grew in popularity and in scope with each passing year. Where were all the Black people? They were at this conference, demanding to be seen, to be respected, to have their seat at the table. From inspirational keynotes to portfolio reviews to recruiting booths, the conference brought agencies and brands together with rising stars, industry veterans, and aspiring talent.
The advertising community has made some strides, particularly on the heels of a tumultuous 2020 that left the industry and its clients with no choice but to act upon the question that is our conference's name. And yet, there is still much introspection and action to be done, to evolve beyond hollow platitudes and performative motions, to address and correct our imperfections. There has never been a better time to answer that question with a bold "right here."
Where Are The Black People is an annual conference that exists to address and correct the scarcity of people of color within the advertising industry. Since 2011, WAATBP has brought together Black voices from within the advertising community — from eager students and juniors to C-suite leaders — to celebrate successes, highlight setbacks, and demand their rightful place at the table alongside their allies.
THE NEW NORMAL
In 2020, the tenth anniversary of Where Are All The Black People took place in the midst of major upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic ground the economy to a halt, isolated humanity from one another, and shone a spotlight on what it means to be "essential." The visible and visceral murder of George Floyd was the final straw in a decades-long battle against oppression and racism, prompting countless people to take to the streets — and corporate boardrooms — to demand justice and equity. And a particularly contentious national election threatened to not be won or lost at the ballot box.
Fast-forward to 2021: the election is over, Floyd's killer has been convicted, and a vaccine has allowed us to take tentative steps back into the world. But that world isn't the same one that existed before last year's reckoning. It's a world that has new avenues and obstacles to navigate, without losing sight of what brought us to this moment. And so the eleventh annual edition of the WAATP conference embraces this "new normal," once again going virtual to help advertising professionals and students of color the world over — as well as their allies — to find their place in this evolving industry.
- In the 90s, an employee at GS&P asked Jeff Goodby “Where are all the black people?” during a company holiday party highlighting the lack of diversity in the creative industry.
- In 2008, The One Club formed “One ID” to focus on Inclusion & Diversity programming.
- On May 11, 2011, “Where Are All The Black People?” became a panel during The One Club’s Creative UnConference, as part of Creative Week NYC
- On September 23, 2013, the conference & career fair changed names from “Where Are All The Black People” to “Here Are All The Black People.”
- In 2017, HAATBP included mid-level programming and participants for the first time.
- In 2020, we hosted our first virtual WAATBP. This allowed ad talent from all over the world to attend and connect with each other like never before. We saw a record 3,400+ people from 670+ cities, 50+ countries, and 170+ schools tune into the 3-day event and recordings.