Shaquille O'Neal set up his new ad agency in Atlanta because the city is a 'driver of Black culture.' The Georgia capital is now one of the best places in America for diverse advertising agencies.
- Shaquille O’Neal cofounded a new ad agency, Majority, in Atlanta.
- “Atlanta is a driver of Black culture, which is a driver of pop culture,” O’Neal said.
- Cofounder Omid Farhang said Atlanta agencies like Majority can amplify diverse voices.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Shaquille O’Neal last week unveiled his newest venture, Majority, an advertising agency based in Atlanta that will focus on telling diverse stories.
According to Majority cofounder Omid Farhang, the NBA legend will be more than a silent partner.
“Shaq’s role will be wide-ranging,” Farhang told Insider. “He will help open doors, connect dots, create opportunities, celebrate successes, and advance the overall agenda of the agency wherever possible.”
O’Neal may even jump into the creative pitch meetings when he’s needed and available, said Farhang.
He said: “Knowing he’s a busy guy with many business interests, we will utilize him judiciously where we think he can have maximum impact. This is not celebrity gimmickry, it’s genuine partnership.”
Farhang, O’Neal, and two founding partners — CSO Asmirh Davis and CMO Jorge Hernandez — decided early on that Atlanta would be the right place for their agency. They made their choice a big part of the opening salvo posted on their website.
Atlanta’s not the east or west coast, so it’s not the type of agency you’d find there, the pair said. Atlanta’s where “the Hollywood of the South collides with the Silicon Valley of the South.”
The choice of location says a lot about their agency and the industry at large. For one thing, O’Neal is a powerhouse marketing force, and, as such, he could have chosen to open an agency in a more traditional spot, like New York or Los Angeles.
By choosing Atlanta, O’Neal and Farhang have extended a conversation that’s been going on for years about how diverse voices can be heard more loudly in advertising. Last year, for example, amid protests and soul-searching after several Black people were violently killed, about 600 creative professionals signed an open letter calling for more inclusion in the industry, as AdWeek reported at the time.
Signatories called for agencies to rethink their diversity policies, expand internships and residencies for under-represented groups, and finally put an end to the “boys’ club” mentality in the industry.
The letter said: “Though advertising agencies boast some of the most politically progressive business leaders in America, agency leadership has been blind to the systemic racism and inequity that persists within our industry. Many gallons of ink have been spilled on op-eds and think pieces, but tangible progress has eluded this industry for too long.”
One way to change the conversation was to move it to a new location, according to Majority. In press materials prepped for the launch, O’Neal said: “Atlanta is a driver of Black culture, which is a driver of pop culture. And pop culture is where the best marketing lives.”
Majority’s not the only Atlanta agency that’s tackling diversity. Last December, a number of Georgia agencies signed a pledge saying their agencies would reflect their home city’s population — of which 62% are people of color — by 2030, according to AdAge.
Farhang had done work around the world, everywhere from Los Angeles to Boulder to London, before he landed in Atlanta. “Atlanta changed me. To the degree that I felt the strong desire to plant my roots long term and figure out how to be contributing members of our community,” he said.
Long before he enlisted O’Neal as a partner, Farhang had been thinking of a way to bottle his feelings about Atlanta, repackaging them as a creative agency. He’d looked at the leadership of other Atlanta agencies, and realized the city’s diversity wasn’t well-reflected.
He’d met O’Neal on a project for American Express, so he reached out to see whether O’Neal might share his passion for creating a diverse agency in Atlanta.
“As the industry confronts this longstanding diversity problem, what if we started an agency in Atlanta that actually tapped into the diverse creative firepower that makes Atlanta unlike any other city in America and fuels so much of popular culture?” he asked.
Majority’s starting with a few clients, including goPuff, the on-demand delivery app.
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