An ad agency owned by entertainment marketing company
is investing in Obsidianworks, a new marketing shop founded by the actor
Michael B. Jordan
the companies said.
The deal is among the latest to back a minority-owned firm as the ad industry comes under pressure to diversify its ranks. Endeavor’s 160over90 agency is investing about $20 million in the shop, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Obsidianworks opened last year with the goal of helping companies create more inclusive marketing. It has worked with brands including Amazon, Piaget and Coach. For Coach, the company served as its multicultural agency focused on helping the brand grow its men’s business.
Mr. Jordan, who is represented by WME, the Beverly Hills-based talent agency that is also part of the Endeavor network, said he and Mr. Easterling saw an opportunity to fill a void in an ad industry that hasn’t properly represented different cultures.
“It felt like we were being talked to, versus spoken for or represented,” Mr. Jordan said. “You can complain about it as much as you want. Why not be part of finding a way to make things better, and to help people learn as well?”
Endeavor’s investment and a wave of efforts from Madison Avenue to diversify its ads and talent base follow the nationwide protests over the killing in police custody of George Floyd. The outcry sparked a broader movement for social justice.
Messrs. Jordan and Easterling, friends since high school, started talking about building an agency a number of years ago, they said. The past year validated their vision, they said.
“It’s a moment in time that supercharged the process for us,” said Mr. Jordan, executive chairman of the agency. “We’ve been building and developing for a long time and everything seemed to fall into place this year.”
Rather than just lend his recognizable name, Mr. Jordan is making himself available to clients and for other agency efforts, he said.
“We have to acknowledge what’s gone on in the past 13 months,” added Mr. Easterling, chief executive of the agency. “That does now become a point of conversation, a point of focus. These are the types of conversations that are necessary to bring about change and growth.”
Entertainment and marketing veterans
Bobby Moore III
also joined the firm as chief impact officer and chief strategy officer, respectively. The agency plans to hire more employees this year.
“We are absolutely seeing clients desperately looking for ways to be able to adapt,” said
president of 160over90. “There are not enough organizations out there that are credible and have the unique perspective to be able to provide those services.”
Some ad businesses are investing in new offerings meant to bring more diversity to the industry, as well as to clients’ media investments.
formed a unit to lead such an effort, including consulting for minority-owned media companies, while GroupM, part of
PLC, said it wants to help clients invest up to 2% of their media budgets in diverse-owned media companies.
Investment bank Luma Partners LLC, known for its reference charts on various media and marketing sectors, created a Black LUMAscape to help companies invest in Black-owned businesses in media, marketing and technology.
Other companies, like Obsidianworks, are building new marketing and ad firms from scratch with diversity in mind. Ad agency veteran
recently teamed up with
to launch Majority, an Atlanta-based ad agency with the goal of hiring mostly diverse talent, for example.
Mr. Jordan is known for his roles in “Fruitvale Station,” “Black Panther” and “Creed,” among others.
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