'It needs to be sustainable, not reactive': WeTransfer on doing more for black creatives

WeTransfer’s commitment as benevolent ally to the black creative community

Following the death of George Floyd and widespread protests against institutional racism, WeTransfer, the file sharing service beloved by creators, has pledged to strengthen support for black creatives. Chief creative officer Damian Bradfield tells The Drum how the platform plans to make a lasting difference, and not just become another purveyor of hollow words.

The George Floyd protests have shone a spotlight on cases of racial discrimination in the US and across the world. Amid the deluge of brands queuing up to declare their support for Black Lives Matter, WeTransfer‘s co-founder and chief creative officer Damian Bradfield says he doesn‘t want the platform to be reactive, but to put more emphasis, time and money into work that can make a lasting difference.

“To be frank, we have a responsibility to do more. What we‘re trying to figure out at the moment is how do we do it intelligently,“ admits Bradfield. “It has to be sustainable if it is to keep going for 10 or 20 years.“

“We‘re not going to just produce a reactive statement from the chief exec to please some people on Instagram for 24 hours,“ he insists. WeTransfer, which has 70 million active users, has pledged the support of its platform to prevent the spread of racism.

Ad space takeover

Following a long, devastating history of black Americans losing their lives in police custody, the death of George Floyd in Minnesota incited a pained response, with the US, followed by the UK, erupting in protest.

Brand responses to the protests have been tepid thus far.

Most are hesitant to enter into what they perceive as political territory and have failed to take any concrete action beyond sending out a social media post. Others have been criticised for their actions not speaking as loudly as their words.

Beauty giant L’Oréal Paris came under fire when Munroe Bergdorf, formerly dropped by the brand due to her political activism, accused it of hypocrisy. Crossfit, meanwhile, lost the support of Reebok and other brands following a widely condemned remark referring to the protests made by its founder and chief executive on Twitter.

After Munroe's Tweet went viral, L’Oréal's new president Delphine Viguier reached out to the model and activist. "We had an open and constructive conversation," Munroe wrote on a statement, shared via her Twitter account. "She listened to what I had to say and expressed her regret for how the situation was handled three years ago." She then went on to announce that the beauty giant would be making a charitable donation of €25,000 to Mermaids and €25,000 to Black Pride.

“We don‘t want to start any new initiatives or do anything to be reactive, we want to build upon what we already started, placing more emphasis and more money and more time into it,“ insists Bradfield on WeTransfer‘s stance.

This weekend (6 June), WeTransfer ran a takeover in the US. It donated 100% of its wallpaper ad space to Black Lives Matter causes, including a non-profit organisation designed to combat mass incarceration, Black Future Lab, an organisation that works to make black people powerful in politics, and the Movement For Black Lives – a petition to defund police and to invest the money back into the black community.

The project will roll out globally this week, with WeTransfer committed to donating $1m worth of advertising space. The takeover also includes support for DJ Adrian Younge, who hosts a show on Gilles Peterson‘s Worldwide FM called Artform Radio.

WeTransfer has been connected to the prolific muso since 2016 when Peterson, in pursuit of brand support for Worldwide FM, ended up with the role of creative director. Four years later, and his input into the tech brand’s creative strategy has remained consistent. And, in recent weeks, Peterson has been helping to point the brand in the right direction.

On ‘#BlackoutTuesday‘, Peterson handed over full control of Worldwide‘s airwaves to Younge. “He said, this is not my time, you deserve it. I think it‘s a beautiful statement. So we've been taking a similar approach. We‘re going to hand this time over to those people that need it more than us,“ Bradfield claims.

Editorial for good

Beyond its wallpaper ads, in January 2018, the cloud service introduced a content marketing platform called WePresent.A bolder editorial voice than usually found in the brand-run media space, in March the platform attracted 1 million new users, bringing its monthly readership up to 4 million worldwide.

"We act as editors, as opposed to creatives. We're not filming or shooting stuff ourselves," Bradfield admits. "Given that our reach is so big, our main job is making sure that each month we are actively making sure that the work that we commission or showcase is diverse."

The current cover story on the WePresent homepage is a link out to Black Lives Matter website, alongside a piece written by the activist Patrisse Cullors, which points readers towards a petition set up by the civil rights charity, to #DefundThePolice.

“We have a fantastic vehicle to tell some very important stories,” he explains. Earlier this year, WePresent partnered with actor and rapper Riz Ahmed for a harrowing short film titled The Long Goodbye, directed by Aneil Karia.

The film interrogated issues of racism in Britain, depicting a violent raid on Ahmed‘s family home by masked gunmen wearing St George emblems. As the armed group holds Ahmed‘s family at gunpoint, his white neighbours look on indifferent.

WeTransfer has also been a long-term supporter of FKA Twigs. Last year, AnAkA-directed a short film document the grueling prep behind her single and music video, Cellophane.

Twigs previously worked with WeTransfer on a documentary called the Baltimore Dance Project, where the musician sent out a series of tweets calling out for dancers to attend a dance workshop with her in Baltimore.

“Going forward, what we hear loud and clear from the company is they want to do more. This is a topic that everyone feels very impassioned about,” Bradfield explains. ”Considering racism will not be fixed in the next week or two, we‘re approaching this in a thoughtful way. I hope in the next month or two, we come back with our stance over the long-term.”

Outside of its plans to make a lasting difference to black creatives, today (10 June) WeTransfer has joined the 3,300 other ethical businesses in achieving B Corp certification.

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