The Brilliance Behind One of the Nation’s Oldest African American Advertising Agencies

by cdawkins

There Is No Myth, Only Legend

IMPACT. By definition, impact can have several meanings. But using it as a verb, it means “… to have a strong effect on someone or something. Carol H. Williams Advertising (CHWA) has embodied that definition for over 30 years, stewarded by the brilliance and vision of Carol H. Williams—a woman who is poised, determined, focused and who has been, and continues to be, a game-changer in an industry that was very much dominated by individuals who did not look like her. She came in like a lion to disrupt the industry with new insights and, to this day, still has her thumb on the pulse of its growth and innovation.

As anyone can imagine, there will always be challenges when running a business. But, as an African American woman, one can only imagine how much more challenging is that task. During a recent conversation, Ms. Williams stated: “You always feel challenges being an African American woman, but in my growth, I found the beauty of it, and once you find the beauty of it, it makes you a very powerful creature.” That mindset is what catapulted CHWA into an award-winning agency with its diverse staff producing captivating marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies across the United States, including General Motors, the U.S. Army, Union Bank, Commonwealth Edison, PG&E, YMCA, The Coca-Cola Company, Pfizer, Kraft, General Mills, Diageo, California Department of Health Services, Bank of America, Washington Mutual, Nationwide Insurance, Gilead Sciences, Google, HP, Procter & Gamble, The Walt Disney Company, Allstate Insurance, and countless others.

Over the last few years, there has been more attention paid to African American media and an understanding has evolved that “black media matters.” However, Carol knew the value of African American media since before the creation of CHWA. She understood the vital role African American media played in the general landscape and what was ultimately missing in the media space, and she knew it was about inclusion and speaking smartly and with nuance to a smart and nuanced audience. To establish a solution, she created Carol H. Williams Advertising, an agency that was started in her home and now has several office locations, including Oakland, California; Chicago; New York City; and Washington, D.C.

When CHWA was founded in 1986, the thought of the magnitude of how the company is now being celebrated was not at the forefront for Ms. Williams, but she did know it would become successful because of the strategy she would bring, along with her great passion, power and love for the advertising industry. Ms.

Williams’ passion in creating CHWA was spawned from her having witnessed African Americans being portrayed in a light that did not reflect the individuals she knew and loved, so she decided to design a solution that would change the narrative. CHWA is that solution. Her vision has forever changed the landscape of multicultural messaging and continues to change the mindset of how the world views African Americans.

Carol H. Williams came out of an environment that was, in her view, 100% focused on creative superiority and strategic excellence. It demanded agility and fierceness to accomplish one’s goals and, in those days, it required a person to be laser-focused and to be constantly committed to immense creativity. As she stated during a recent conversation,“The greatest insight I have learned is that this is not a creative platform, this is a business platform that you execute creative on.”

Why is CHWA so important in this day and age? The agency brings the unique value of understanding the importance of strategy and creativity and also recognizes the sensitivity that goes into the creative process when portraying African Americans in the media. The powerhouse that Ms. Williams has built will continue to be innovative—an agency ahead of its time—because of the leadership, thoughtfulness, and wit she has brought to the fore. There is no doubt that for years to come, CHWA will continue to be recognized as a prominent advertising agency that prides itself on accurately portraying the figures of African Americans to the media and beyond. In the words of Ms. Williams, “I will continue to work hard to transfer my knowledge, my experiences, my love of the business and my absolute admiration of the power of creativeness to those I mentor and give to so that the legacy continues. I do what life demands a person to do, and that is, to pass it on!”

0 comment

You may also like