(Editor's note: Beyond the Brief is a collaborative project celebrating 100 years of the 4A's and their members. See the industry pros we're featuring here.)
VML’s Global CEO said recently that the presentation he most looked forward to hearing at his agency’s annual meeting was an ode to Black Twitter by God-is Rivera, assistant director of social media: “Woke, Lit, & Ready”.
Rivera is clearly all of these things — and more. The Bronx, NY native and Clark Atlanta alum has been “lit”, spending a decade at some top shops such as iCrossing and T3 before starting at VML in early 2016. As someone who executes social media strategies and campaigns for Motorola, NBA League Pass, and Miami Tourism, a mindset of readiness is only the bare minimum for her.
And as a woman of color in a part of our industry where brand authenticity is scrutinized via tweets and Facebook posts on an hourly basis, it helps to “stay woke”. This is something that she’s been vocal about in and out of her agency, on and off of Twitter, her favorite platform. One of the main topics during this presentation was the understated, yet commoditized influence of Black Twitter in popular culture. It goes without saying that this community, while a one-stop shop for driving many a conversation on hot-button topics, is a missing component for true progress in advertising’s push to become more inclusive. More can be done for college and high school kids of color as well— ”You’ve got to intercept these kids when they’re still dreaming about what they want to do in life.”
Just over a year and change in, and Rivera will tell you how much she considers her New York office, and the entire VML network, a family. When you bring nothing but passion and relentless work ethic to the ad game, it helps when an agency is able to embrace your voice on brands — and the things that matter to a diverse country of consumers. Rivera sets an example for any young professional on the rise on how to live beyond the brief.
What was your proudest career moment?
My proudest career moment was when I presented on 'Black Twitter' at the VML Annual Meeting in early 2017. My presentation, Woke, Lit & Ready, explores the immense influence that Black Twitter has had on American culture — and also focuses intently on how Black Twitter helps to lead and propel popular culture. But, I also showed that, within the advertising industry, members of this diverse, dynamic community are often missing. The presentation was well-received, and it was an immense honor to display thought leadership at the annual meeting, which is a prestigious agency event that showcases company growth and award-winning creative.
What keeps you sane in this industry? What keeps you driven to do great work?
Someone once told me that advertising is responsible for recording the culture of the times, and I couldn’t agree more. One of the great things about this industry is that, similar to media, we have the power to shift ideas, perceptions and understandings. It has always been true that it is beneficial for people to understand different perspectives, but it seems that that has never been more paramount than in today’s world. I enjoy that, through my work, I have the opportunity to display different vantage points and interact with people of all types on the digital channels that connect the entire world.
Who, or what, do you consider the future of the industry?
It’s undeniable that the future of this industry is held solely in the hands of the people that represent it. It’s also no secret that diversity in advertising has been a hot button issue as of late. I feel that inclusivity and varied perspectives is the future of advertising as we work to represent an ever-evolving world where there is no default ethnicity, familial make-up, orientation or expression. It is imperative that we make the landscape of advertising more closely reflect the world that we are impacting.
What’s something you’ve learned, either personally or professionally, that has surprised you lately?
One lesson that I continue to learn over and over is that you cannot plan your life, you must follow life’s plan for you. I’m a strategist and it’s in my nature to try and chart a path to a goal, whether that is personally or professionally. But life has its way of surprising you and putting you onto the course that is best for you, whether you realize it immediately or not. I’ve been learning to lean into the twists and turns, and not to lament the detours as much. I’m trying to sit back and enjoy the ride more.
If your life and career were a biopic, who’d narrate it? Who’d be on the soundtrack?
Oh man, I have had quite the ride in my life and career so far. I am stumped on a narrator. However, I would love for the soundtrack to be filled with the sounds of women who I feel encompass so much of what I aim to embody; embracing my soulful heritage, fearless in our fight for equality, respect to our past, insatiable in our quest for success, and determined to leave our mark on this world. Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, and Jill Scott are just a few of the ladies I would love to grace my soundtrack!
Is work too personal or not personal enough at times? Why is that?
I feel that I do my best work when there is a personal layer on top of it. My best strategies come out when I personally connect with the brand, and I feel most supported when I have a personal and professional connection with my team. I do believe in boundaries, but I think that in this industry you almost have to strategically blur the lines of your personal and work lives to really tap into your innermost passion.
To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.
To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.