Neither Amalia Nicholson, 30, nor Leeya Jackson, 26, had met another black woman who worked in advertising in the Twin Cities until they met each other a year ago.
To help other people of color in advertising feel a little less alone, Nicholson, Jackson and another black ad woman, Shareina Chandler, 25, launched a podcast this fall called “Borrowed Interest.”
In the weekly episodes, the three Minneapolis ad professionals discuss their perspectives “at the intersection of being female, brown and working in advertising” with unfiltered honesty, an undercurrent of humor and enough sass to go around.
“It’s really lonely when you are the only one or one of a few,” Nicholson said. “But I think the overall goal of the podcast is let’s create a space where people can feel heard and have a conversation.”
“Borrowed Interest” has no shortage of snark, including fake ads poking fun at out-of-touch advisers and personal space violations. However, the episodes also focus on heavy topics such as sexual assault in the advertising industry, “problematic” ads that promote stereotypes and the emotional paradox of being labeled “an angry black woman.”
The podcast includes meaty interviews with industry movers and shakers such as Cindy Gallop, advertising maven and founder of the Make Love Not Porn website, and local entrepreneur Mondo Davison.
Nicholson, Jackson and Chandler made their way into the advertising industry in roundabout ways.
Nicholson studied filmmaking in college, and a friend suggested she apply for a job in the industry. She is now a producer at Minneapolis creative agency Mono. Jackson had a fine-art background before she attending advertising and design-portfolio school; she now is an art director at marketing firm Fallon. After graduating college, Chandler worked in the fashion industry and then for several business startups before she also discovered a career in advertising and went to portfolio school. She is now an intern copywriter at agency Colle McVoy.
After meeting each other last year, the trio began to toss around the idea of a podcast.
“All the conversations that we were having we realized weren’t being had at all in this medium,” Jackson said.
“Borrowed Interest” is an advertising term that describes when a brand capitalizes on a trend that’s culturally relevant and people are already interested in. Diversity in advertising is being discussed as a growing topic as the countless ads that agencies create are increasingly targeting more diverse audiences.
“We’re taking people’s surface level interest in [diversity] and trying to have conversations that go beyond just hiring practices,” Nicholson said.
The idea was to create a safe place for the people of color who are likely already in the business or other professional settings where they might feel isolated, the group said.
Being the only person of color in an office can come with a feeling of responsibility to have to call out potential racial or cultural issues or advocate for representation of people of color in ad campaigns, the women said.
“I feel an additional responsibility to, where possible, advocate for just general brown things,” Chandler said.
The group’s respective offices have been supportive of the podcast’s creation, and Nicholson’s firm Mono helps sponsor it.
As part of Mono’s WRK+REC program, a quarterly program that sponsors employee projects, Nicholson presented the idea of the podcast to the agency, and employees voted to award her with program funding. With about $5,000 in seed money, Nicholson, Chandler and Jackson were able to secure studio time at local radio station KFAI and Minneapolis recording studio SisterBoss, create promotional materials and produce the podcast. Nicholson also was allotted 25 percent of her workday for the past three months to work on the podcast.
Michael Hart, Mono co-founder and managing creative director, said the podcast idea was “easy to get behind.”
“Even though it’s a tough reality that there’s not a lot of voices of color and especially women … we got to hear it. We got to talk about it,” Hart said.
Hart said he could see the agency continuing to sponsor “Borrowed Interest” in the future.
The group has produced 10 episodes, including a teaser, and plans to create more through the beginning of next year before taking a break. The trio wants to continue the podcast, but eventually it hopes that a podcast that features young, black women in advertising won’t seem groundbreaking because the industry will be more diversified.
“I kind of want the podcast to become irrelevant eventually … that it would be not that crazy for there to be a podcast with a bunch of black people who work in advertising,” Nicholson said.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495