‘We’re Black all year, all day’: Art collective turned creative agency talks accountability in 2021

Brittany Bosco, Slug Global founder

The word “agency” doesn’t sit right with multidisciplinary artist turned creative shop founder Brittany Bosco. In fact, when she founded her own shop Slug Global in 2015, the word agency was left out of the name on purpose because it felt inauthentic, she said.

With hubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles and throughout the Midwest, the Black and brown-led shop was founded by creatives for creatives on the principle of authenticity in serving marginalized communities and holding their clients accountable to ensure those voices are front and center in their work. And in the wake of 2020’s racial injustices, worldwide protests and calls for equality, Bosco and her team have only doubled down on their core values. It’s a move that has served the Slug team well, per Bosco.

At present, the shop offers branding, creative work, social media strategy, product activations and services to eight clients, ranging from startups to major tech companies. Slug has worked with Instagram, Afropunk festival, Red Bull and more. Digiday caught up with Bosco to talk more about what being a POC-led creative shop means in 2021, authenticity and creative freedom.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Talk to me about being a POC-led shop founded by creatives for creatives.

People will continuously try to put you in a box and say, ‘You seem all over the place. You should just stick to the music thing. The agency world is just a mess. You shouldn’t even think about doing that.’ I was very discouraged away from this. But I got a group of kids and was like, we’re dope. We’re artists and we want to create community. So that’s kind of how it all started — just as a need for us to show our work, have [a] community that could celebrate what we do, but also have competitive rates for our work.

We’re artists that create for artists. We’re not tech people that create for artists. We’re actually artists ourselves. That’s what sets our agency apart, because we’re all artists in our own rights.

What do you think is the importance of that? How does it impact the work that you do?

[It comes with] a lot of accountability for these companies. We’re strongly suggesting that people of color or Black people are speaking to our people, to our culture. It hasn’t always been that way, but we’ve been educating our clients throughout the years of the importance of using the right type of creators. We’ve been able to walk them through the process with ‘That’s not what we would say. That’s not the right caption. That’s not how we would dress. That’s feeling inauthentic.’ And they pretty much trust us with gearing and steering them in the right direction.

A lot of brands made diversity pledges in 2020. What did that mean for Slug Global?

It’s insane to me that the pandemic actually helped us, which was strange, because of all of the things that have happened in the world. There was a lot of accountability, even for the people that hit us up about doing things and then would ghost because it was performative work. [And] we did say something to those people. It’s like ‘Hey, I know this was very important when all the shootings happened, but you still have to be accountable. Have a good day,’ in a nice email. The pandemic really positioned and shifted us to be thought leaders during that time [given] the need for more accountability.

Are there any challenges that come with being a Black and brown-led creative shop? How did your team overcome?

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[There are] certain times you don’t feel like doing anything [but] you’re inundated with the pressures of the world, society. The fear of not being enough or not having enough and not only showing up for yourself but showing up for these people that are counting on you to produce the work of the voice of the now. That was another challenge. 

I felt like, yes, we are a Black and brown agency. But sometimes, it feels like there’s pressure to perform for our allies because they feel guilty for not showing up for us. That was a space that we had to carefully navigate during that time — being able to say, ‘Hey, we need to take a step back for a day from this. We need to regroup,’ and not be afraid to say that.

What does accountability look like for brands and companies wanting to work with Slug?

Us being authentic is remaining true to our core values and our mission statement. If it’s not serving the community, if it’s not bringing visibility to an area that’s marginalized, if it’s not uplifting the Black community, we just don’t take the job. I don’t care how much money it is. This is not a one-time thing. We don’t get to be Black once a day or once a year. We’re Black all year, all day. We’re Black when we don’t feel like fighting and that’s just what it is.

We made healthy boundaries. There was a lot of learning in the beginning of this thing because we weren’t doing everything right, like being afraid to really speak up. But at the end of the day, these people are coming to you for the sauce. Once we realized that, we pivoted and were like, let’s restructure and come at this a whole other way. It’s just been very fruitful since we got rid of the word agency, to be honest.

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