Kevin Morosky is a Virgo, film director, and creative. He’s a community leader, a change maker, an author and a fascinating podcast guest.
In this episode we discuss:
- A love letter to Black women
- Being black and queer and how that inspired Kevin’s first book
- How life influences the creative process
- Pocc & the community around it
- The influence of Biggie Smalls
- How to spot bad briefs from brands
Kevin’s career began in film photography, with his work seeing him published in the likes of Dazed, ID, and Vogue to name just a few – if you bought mags in the early 10s, you probably saw his work inside.
Aware of the fact he was often brought onto advertising projects as a diversity hire, with little say in the actual content he was shooting, Kevin worked to get on the other side of the ad industry. He quickly became a creative known for pursuing authentic – and often humorous – storytelling that felt inclusive and insightful, challenging the norms of the industry. His dedication to the culture paid off; as well as co-founding Pocc, a Black British Business Awards-nominated creative network that champions Black and Brown voices in advertising, Kevin’s also Jury President of the D&AD New Blood Awards 2021.
As a film director, Kevin’s portfolio spans both commercial and personal work. He frequently self-directs his ad campaigns, which has seen him work for the likes of Samsung, O2, Vodafone, and Lush. Recent personal works include a quintet of short films (Lungs, Laundry, Moon, Homes and Quantum) examining what it means to be Black in 2020 Britain, and Orphans: a Queen’s thoughts at Christmas starring Susie Wokoma.
Kevin is currently self-financing More Time, a workplace mockumentary, and is developing his first feature with the BBC.
Edge of Here by Kelechi Okafor
Black History Month
This is the first in a mini series of podcasts for Black History Month. Throughout October, we’re celebration some of the best black marketing talent from the UK, with episodes of the Strategy Sessions.
Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis
Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast directly or sign up for it here to have it emailed when it’s released.
If you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
[00:00:00.000] – Andi J
What one thing do you wish you’d have known 10 years ago?
[00:00:03.360] – Kevin M
I think the one thing that I wish I knew 10 years ago is that my intuition is always right. Ten years ago, I think I would have said, Oh, I’m 50 %. 50 % of the time, I’m right. Actually, it’s 100 %. It’s 100 %. And I say that without ego. That’s not meant to say that I can’t make mistakes. I’m specifically talking about my ego. My ego? My God. Imagine I’m specifically talking about my intuition, not my estimation, not my this based on experience. I’ve seen this happen before. I’m talking about that in a… That inner voice that is like, No, don’t do that. Actually, you should just probably go for that. This is right. That’s a great idea. It doesn’t matter if no one else gets it. Go for it.
[00:01:14.490] – Andi J
That’s a really interesting thought and concept, because really what you’re talking about there is a feeling, right? And can feelings ever be wrong? Because if they’re your feelings, then they are always correct. So that’s a really… I never thought of it in those terms.
[00:01:29.380] – Kevin M
But I think you can.
[00:01:30.570] – Andi J
Agree with it.
[00:01:31.860] – Kevin M
Yeah, I think some feelings can be wrong. So if you have, I don’t know, an argument, a person A is here, person B is there, and that Jay Z line, which I think he lifted from someone else, but I don’t know where it comes from. But a wise man once said, Don’t argue with fools because from a distance, people can’t tell who is who. I say that to say if you’re the one from the distance and you’re just seeing this, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, bat, and you get annoyed at those people, or you’re just like, Will I gravitate towards the one that’s wearing the blue? I don’t care about the red. Not me talking about Bloods and Crips on your podcast. Bull jokes aside, I feel like blue is my colour. But meanwhile, the one in the blue is the one that’s done the heinous crime, because you’re feeling right then. I don’t think that’s intuition. I think that’s just based on memory and nostalgia and those stuggly, wuggly things that the next day you’ll have a different opinion on. I think intuition is innately connected to, whatever you want to call it, ancestor, spirit, that feeling of DNA, innately who you are.
[00:02:59.180] – Kevin M
I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s what I think anyway.
[00:03:03.210] – Andi J
Brilliant. Thank you very much for that, Kevin. Hey, and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I am the host of the show and the Strategy Director at Eximo Marketing. The voice you just heard before then was Kevin Morosky. Kevin is the Creative Director at Pocc. He’s a Virgo, a Film Director, and just a general all around creative. He’s also a South London boy, and that comes through in this interview, it’s a real look through the lens of his creativity. It’s how his life affects his creativity, how he brings his full self to what he does, how his experience has shaped him. He’s an author as well. He’s written two books. One is a book in his own words about black queer poetry, and the other is a love letter to Black women, which is going to be out in the next couple of months. As always, as podcasters have to say, links to both of those in the show notes. Probably doesn’t need much more introduction from me. I will just get over to listen to the rest of the interview with Kevin. It’s in-depth, it’s insightful. This is, of course, episode number three in the Black History Month mini-series.
[00:04:13.100] – Andi J
And in this episode, probably more than the first two, we dive into the Black experience and what that means and how that shapes us. But we also talk about his creative work and the processes that he goes through and some of the amazing stuff that he’s pulled out of this. Have a listen to all of that. If you are listening, wherever you are listening, I should say, please do either subscribe to the podcast, like the episode, leave a comment, leave a five-star review, changes depending on whatever platform you’re on. And if you’re one of those weirdos who watches the podcast, now I’ve started uploading that onto Spotify, fine, that’s for you. Anyway, enough of me. Let’s get back to when I met up with Kevin the other day and we had an interesting, enlightening, fascinating, meandering chat about creativity. Here we go.
[00:04:59.650] – Andi J
So Kevin, welcome to the Strategy Sessions. Thank you for joining me this evening and being part of the show. I’m really looking forward to where this conversation goes.
[00:05:09.190] – Kevin M
Thank you for having me and just taking the time out to even know who I am to even ask me. It’s always a shock when I get these things through. I just feel like I’m in my corner doing my thing and I’m like, Oh, someone called Notice Me. Great, of course. So thank you.
[00:05:28.920] – Andi J
Well, I first came across, and maybe this is a good place to start, I’d seen things written about your latest book, which is due out in the future — I don’t know if there’s a release date yet, you can talk about that — which is called Black Women Always. And what really struck me about that was in the description of it I was reading, it said it was a love letter to Black women. Do you want to talk to us about your book and the thought process behind it and how you came up with that?
[00:05:56.400] – Kevin M
Yeah, 100 %. It is out in the future. It’s out the 14th of March 2024. I think the first book that I had released was self-published, and that was a choice. I had been talking to publishers about different things, and I had had an idea for a book, and they didn’t really want to do that, which is their prerogative. It’s their money that’s going to pay for the thing. But I was like, Well, no, this is the thing that my culture needs right now. I belong to different intersections at different parts of culture at different… I stand at the intersection at different parts of different cultures, is what I’m trying to say. Specifically, I really felt like there just needs to be a very black, queer book of poetry about love. I knew how I needed to look, and it wasn’t necessarily something that everyone needed. I just knew that I needed to put that piece of work out because it would start conversations that everyone needed. The book might not be the thing for you, but the way that specifically that part of community that I belong to would react to it would then cause different conversations because we’re all connected as far as I’m concerned.
[00:07:25.360] – Kevin M
Like, what I do affects you, what you do affects the next and next and next and next. They just didn’t want to do it. I was like, Cool, I’ll just do it myself. It’s not that deep. I did, and it did really well, which then allowed them put me in a position to have the conversations and basically do what I want, which is always the best scenario, especially for me as a Virgo. Just let me get on with it. Just let me do the thing. Don’t worry about it. Because of that, I knew the next book that I wanted to do just because I moved out of that space slightly, I guess, in terms of advertising was some type of advertising book. I remember when I first got into advertising, all the books were very much written by middle-class, pale, stale men with great advice. I’m not knocking any of those books. But what I noticed is that they didn’t take the approach that I had to take. I have no choice but to step through doors with all of me. It’s not an option to play that game. I’m not that type of person.
[00:08:40.400] – Kevin M
No tea, no shade to anyone that can play that game in that way. I rate it and I’m in awe of you. But me personally, let’s say I’m a bit too rough and ready for politics in that way, let’s so to speak. Those books, they didn’t talk about what it is to be gassed in an interview and for agencies to really want you, only for you to step through those doors. They’re like, Well, we were joking about diversity. Tonys trying to calm it down. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Calm down. We don’t talk about diversity in October. That’s when we have budget. We might do one day in February, but it’s more of an American thing. All of these books that I read trying to understand what was going on around me, as I said, didn’t really represent me or my journey or… I think emotional intelligence. I’m not here sitting saying any of those men weren’t intelligent. I’m just saying my type of creativity, I heavily rely on emotional intelligence because of fundamentally, if it is advertising and we are talking about that dirty word of capitalism, we are always selling to humans, we are always selling to people, which I know that.
[00:10:12.890] – Kevin M
That’s why I was really excited to talk to you about because Itry to know this is within the DNA of what you do as well. The idea of selling to people, but then not putting people at the centre and really looking at who they are, why they need this product, how is it going to improve their lives? How is it going to allow them to communicate even more to me seems like a no-brainer. Because at least we’re doing good with what we’re doing to a certain extent in terms of giving people what they need. And also the sales are all right. You can actually have the best of both worlds, treat people kindly. Anyway, all of that to say, we decided on an advertising book. When I thought about the subject matters and how I do advertising, I came to a conclusion that the architects of who I am, the way that I move through this world, whether that is me being very sassy and reading people for filth, maybe whether that’s me being empathetic and using that talent, whether it’s problem-solving, all of these things for me, I got taught by Black women. Whether that’s my mother, whether that’s my best friend from when I was 15, who we used to dress in the same tracksuits and just run around Freud and literally terrorising everybody.
[00:11:45.060] – Kevin M
Honestly, I’m not even joking. That would also include being in fights and really dangerous, violent fights because of me being who I am in terms of sexuality and those girls drumping in and just being like, Absolutely not. All of who I am is really, I’m indebted to black women. I really am. And so once I dove into the book, I was like, Well, this book has to be dedicated to them as to them. It just has to be. Because if we’re talking about my successes, if we’re talking about how I’ve done the work that I’ve done, how I’ve become who I’ve become, I think it’s gross. It doesn’t sit well with me just to be like, I’m just this great guy out of nowhere, and I’ve done all of these things and made all of these adverts and not say out loud.
[00:12:47.820] – Andi J
Look at my superb success that I’ve built out of no one’s support.
[00:12:51.020] – Kevin M
Out of nowhere. Yeah, exactly. And one of the things I most detest within pop culture is how and global majority culture is used almost as a piece of tracing paper. And so they’ll go over and be like, Da da da da. And then it’s over here and it’s like this new trend that we just found. It’s like, brother, you were black to money and black Twitter or black… Come on, behave. That’s really where the book came from. I really wanted to write something that A, I would have liked to have been able to pick up as a young junior advertising person. Also, I realised it was a space where I could give over, actually give over my space that I was able to obtain back and be like, What have you guys got to say about this? The book is set up in a way where it’s like essays, as I said, like intuition, money, integrity, safe spaces, et cetera. I have essays in the book of how I approach them, or I think about those things. They are then followed by conversations with different Black women around me who I have relied on and leaned upon Black women that have fed me, picked up the phone every time I wanted to cry, and I was like, No, when I go in the office tomorrow, it is on.
[00:14:33.600] – Kevin M
And they’re like, No, what’s the best way to really deal with this? Yeah.
[00:14:40.070] – Andi J
It’s an interesting area of the Black community, and I’m probably going to pick up two different areas, but I’ll stick with the current book first, in that my experience of the Black community is that women play a really pivotal role in community. So everyone has an auntie who is like, and I’m thinking, my auntie, and how she shaped me and shaped people around her. But very much when I also reflect on it, certainly from my family’s part of the Windrush generation, but there’s a large element of those aunties and those people and those women I’m thinking of were very much seen as they only really had a place in the home. I don’t know that anyone actually said those words out loud because my auntie would have probably taken your head clean off your shoulders, if you said that, and she had a fault. She worked her whole life as well. But very much, even though they held the community together, were home makers. And that was seen by the men of that generation as being subservient to them who are moneymakers. And so when you’ve written a book about love letter to Black women, when I started thinking about it, it does come through, actually, the Black community owes a lot to Black women.
[00:16:01.730] – Andi J
But maybe doesn’t show that in the right way a lot of the time.
[00:16:05.260] – Kevin M
No, I think Black women are very much taken granted for, you know? They’re taken granted for, and a lot of the frustrations that I feel like Black men feel, they take their frustrations out on Black women. I think about being much younger and the relationship between my father and mother, and looking back and realising that at certain points, my mum was definitely depressed with stuff that was going on. But at that point, we didn’t really use that. We did therapy, self-help, what are those? That type of language didn’t really exist. I also think about my father coming back in from being out, working or whatever, and always coming in with this energy that is very heavy and also depressive, but not having the language for that, and then really deep and like, My God, it’s hard out here as it is now with everything that’s going on. I know some people think that we live in a post-racial world after the magical year of 2020.
[00:17:29.910] – Andi J
That’s the few. Whatever those people smoke, I want some. That’s all I’m saying.
[00:17:37.270] – Kevin M
Honestly, it would be lovely to take, honestly, you lot out there that were looking for a new best Black friend during that time. I hope you enjoy your drugs. But if I think about even now, at least there’s a little bit of a platform, whether that’s Instagram or whatever to be like, This just happened to me, and find community and find people to rally around you and be like, That is not on. What can we do? La la la la. My parents, our parents, they didn’t exist. Where is the outlet for that type of thing? I think a lot of time, the frustration really lives the frustrations of our elders and even men today, sorry, I’m not even trying to separate it. It’s all connected. Even today, turn around. Because you can’t beat up your oppressor, you almost want to beat up your caretaker. I’m just sick of it. We do owe everything to Black women. Yes, it is making homes and making us feel loved and welcomed and all of those things, but also it’s the smart, it’s the ingenuity. Intinuity? That isn’t a word.
[00:19:00.180] – Andi J
Not one I’m familiar with, but you know.
[00:19:02.580] – Kevin M
I fully just made up a whole word.
[00:19:05.480] – Andi J
Listen, I’m down with that. You’re a creative man. That’s fine.
[00:19:08.110] – Kevin M
What is it? Ingenuity. What am I trying to say?
[00:19:12.850] – Andi J
Are you trying to say intuition? But not… No. Okay.
[00:19:17.500] – Kevin M
It will come to me at the end, I promise you. I’ll be like, Oh, it’s this word. Of making things work, of making £20 last two weeks, of all of those things, the way that I handle money now and hustle money now isn’t based on- Ingenuity. -other than… What did you say?
[00:19:40.790] – Andi J
Ingenuity. Is that what you were going for? Yes. There we go. We got there.
[00:19:44.810] – Kevin M
I don’t know what the hell I said. But even making £20 last two weeks and the way that I look at and deal with money now and figure and budget isn’t based on anything that they taught me in school. It’s based on watchingmy mum be like, Right, this is how much we got. So this, that, that, that. It’s all of those things. They’re just magical. And the idea that I couldn’t connect them to my advertising work, my creative work would be a complete lie, because all of that is me. So every time I step for a door, as I was saying, actually, it’s important that all of me that can step through.
[00:20:25.600] – Andi J
And feel free to tell me to shut up and move on to talking about your creativity, which is where we’re going next. But just to go back to your first book, and for my sins, I know very little about the Black queer community, but the bit I do know tells me, or I presume tells me that being Black and being gay is not an easy space to be in. Again, I think back to that same group of elders I grew up around. And, I mean, homophobia wasn’t a thing because everybody was just homophobic. And I’m not suggesting it was worse in the Black community than in other communities. I’m not suggesting.
[00:21:05.660] – Kevin M
But you’re right. You’re right, there is a myth to live in within that. Sorry, go on. It’s just really.
[00:21:11.920] – Andi J
You mentioned that that was a subject matter of your first book. How did you navigate those early years to come to write that book? Because it must have been a journey to take you to that point to write the book.
[00:21:27.630] – Kevin M
It wasn’t that hard. I’m from Croydon, and I had to fight, so no one can really tell me what I can and can’t do.
[00:21:34.800] – Andi J
It’s South London, boys, right? Nobody messes.
[00:21:38.180] – Kevin M
It’s cool. It’s whatever. I can match any energy, do you know what I mean? I think growing up again, even if we just back and forth between what we’re talking about, even me coming out at 15, 16 really wasn’t a thing. There were one or two people who had a thing to say. Those one or two people had to visit a hospital. I made my point and we moved on. But in terms of who I was supported by all the Black women, my mum, all of my friends in my workplace at the time, I was still at school because I wasn’t really meant to be in that particular job, but we needed money. I had to take, not kind off, definitely faked, but certificate to be able to get the job. But with that being said, it was my aunt that was like, I know how to fake this. Let me show you how to do the thing. She know what I mean? This is what I mean now.
[00:22:45.400] – Andi J
You’ve got a hustle sometimes, yeah.
[00:22:46.650] – Kevin M
I’ve got a hustle? What does Jill Scott say? We’ve got to swim upstream. Sometimes you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do because I don’t want to blame. I never like when people blame life for things. I think it’s a society in the world that we’re living in people around because life is such a beautiful thing and is always a beautiful thing. It’s the way that us humans bloody contaminate it. But you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do. But in terms of that book, it was based on one particular relationship that I was in. And it was just one of those big ones that I wrote… Sorry, it was one of those big ones that rock you for a bit, and poetry has always been one of my loves. I’m absolutely obsessed with Christopher Wallace, Notaurus B-I-G, and specifically the way that he would make music, which is not to write things down and to just practise those things in his head over and over and over again. Actually, all of the poems within this book just sat in my head for probably about six or seven years. Just sat there.
[00:24:13.720] – Kevin M
When it was actually… When people asked me, How long did it take you to write out all of those things? I was like, Oh, they were just in my head. I just wrote them out. I just never put pen to paper until it was time for those things. But to work through those emotions and to… I don’t know. I guess some people would be like, Oh, it’s really brave that you put that thing out. But I’m very privileged in that I’ve always been protected in that way, and it’s never been… I don’t have a big coming-out story. Do you know what I mean? I don’t have this like… And then I got kicked out and la la la. That’s not to make light of those situations. I’m just acknowledging that I’m more privileged than most queer people and what they’re going to go through. So yeah, it wasn’t that hard at all. But that point that you made earlier when you were like, Well, everyone’s homophobic, so there was no homophobia, is valid because the opposite of that is true. Because we’ve also entered this space where like, Oh, it’s ridiculous if you’re homophobic. No one’s homophobic, so no one’s homophobic.
[00:25:25.250] – Kevin M
So why would you need that book? Why would we need specifically to make a book like this? And it’s like, Yeah, you lot are too comfortable. You don’t understand what’s going on. And the book is very… I know you’ve probably never seen it, but the book is specifically brown in terms of skin, pink within in terms of blood, guts, and the specific reason and why I’ve done it in the way that I’ve done it. But yeah.
[00:25:56.360] – Andi J
I don’t know if I actually- We’ll.
[00:25:57.130] – Kevin M
Put a link to the book to- -to just to swear off on one.
[00:26:00.180] – Andi J
It’s just- No, there’s a lot of important points raised, and we’ll put a link to the book in the show notes. So if you want to get hold of the book, just click the link and off you go. But I think you make an important point, and I don’t want to downplay it. I just want to talk about a similar point from my experience, more about race than about sexuality, where I often talk about this that in the ’80s, when I was growing up, you knew who the racists were because they often wore T-shirts telling you that and chased you down the street. Those weren’t great days, right? But at least you knew where all the racist people were. Now people know they’re not supposed to be racist. They’re racist in WhatsApp groups. They were racist on social media. They haven’t gone away. Still there. You just don’t know who they are and where they are. Actually, so then people tell you, Oh, it’s a post-racial world. And you’re like, Is it? I think a similar point from what you were making that actually, people tell you that these things aren’t a problem anymore because they can’t see them as explicitly in front of them.
[00:27:03.900] – Andi J
It hasn’t gone away, has it?
[00:27:05.230] – Kevin M
And also sometimes the work as well, it’s a really limited view of looking at problems, because sometimes the work isn’t about saying the thing exists, which more than my work isn’t about… Actually, my work is about the healing. This book isn’t meant to be like, How? Gay, and we’re proud. No, it’s not that at all. It’s just a nice moment for any queer kid. What I love the most, yes, lots of gay, queer, all sorts of people have brought my book, but are overwhelming them out. You know who brought this book, that book? Mothers and Fathers, and sent me messages like, I thought my kid was queer and I wasn’t sure what to do. Then I saw your book, and so I was able to just buy it and be like, Oh, I’ve got you this book. It’s like queer poetry and just test the waters. And I’m like, That’s dope. Conversation terms. Yeah, that’s what the work should be about. It’s not necessarily about… Because for me personally, I don’t really have time to sit down and debate a racist. We’re just going to fight. I’m probably going to win. We move on. Do you know what I mean?
[00:28:22.330] – Kevin M
That’s long. I went past that.
[00:28:24.970] – Andi J
When Kevin had a choice to make- Kevin chose violence. Yeah, 100 %.
[00:28:30.260] – Kevin M
I want problems. I don’t want no peace with any races. But in all seriousness, it’s like, again, 2020, you man had your time to sit down, have your summit and all of the things and be like, Oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, cool. You all admitted that the thing is real, that white supremacy is a real thing, and all of the things that dangle off of it, all of these isms, we all admitted it great. So now, if I have to clap off your head top, it shouldn’t be a surprise because you’re doing mad things. We’ve all set the rules that that is my world in post 2020. But yeah, I think it’s about the healing. I think it’s about, even with Black Women, All the ways, this next book, it is about me just acknowledging the Black women in my life and how they have influenced not only my moral compass, but also the way that I move in rooms that people are confused why I’m in them, specifically in advertising, when I have been in charge of projects and my budgets are in the millions, and is he going to be all right to handle this?
[00:29:48.990] – Kevin M
Like, all of that stuff. Even though my track record is my track record, I’m able to call, I’m going to keep my head held high. I’m going to be shady in a way that you will realise that I read you for filth, but a year from now and you’ll sit up and be like, Oh, my God, he was calling me ugly in that meeting. I’ve just realised what he meant by that reference. All of these things are from my cheeky aunt or this person or not even person, but this black woman or this or this or that. So all of it just ties in. And the conversations within the book, a bit like this conversation, they meander. They go all over the place and words have gotten wrong and we laugh about it. I love that it’s also.
[00:30:31.010] – Andi J
For me, hopefully- That’s how conversations work, isn’t it, though? They’re natural, they’re organic, they drift. It’s not polished. Life’s not polished. Life is about those bumps that you make into people along the way.
[00:30:42.560] – Kevin M
100 %. Those bumps and those interactions then further shape you, and then you pass on to the next person and so forth and so forth. And that’s beautiful. That’s so wonderful. Beautiful. How do we protect that? And how do we ensure that people are allowed to just be on the paths they’re meant to be on and bark whoever they’re meant to bark and be like, Rah, that was an experience. But instead, we have to slow down to make choices and fight racism or homophobia or transphobia and all of these things for the longest time growing up as well. As much as I was out and bad, elephant man, I would just also say I’m really busy being black. I don’t have time. I’m trying to figure out I’m fighting for my life within the system. I’m very busy being black, and I have things to get on with. And thankfully, I’m now at a space where I’m able to encompass all of me and all those parts and be very active in all of those different communities. But for a moment, I really had to just focus in on the one thing and really get that foundation right and come to conclusion of being black, brown, wherever you’re from, you are not a monolith for, you’re not a clear representation for everyone that shares the same spaces as you.
[00:32:14.590] – Kevin M
And so specifically with blackness, for me, everything that I do is black. That’s it. That’s the rule. I love a Biggie Smalls, but also over here, I love a Green Day. I can be wherever I want to be. Everything that I do is completely fine. Everything that I do encompasses my blackness, my queerness. It’s all the same thing. Blackness is as expansive as the universe.
[00:32:51.720] – Andi J
What’s really clear, I think, from talking to you is that while you say, Look, we’re meandering, absolutely. But you are… What you bring to your work is your life comes to your work. And you really… It’s not just a job necessarily, it’s a vocation for you to put yourself into your work. So the question I have really with marketing on this podcast, but do you have, in the most boring question I could possibly ask you, how do you intersect with process when it comes to making great creative if you are really pouring all of yourself into this? Because it feels like what you’re saying is you are developing ideas based on your whole life experience. But if that is the case, does that mean process is not important? You just need to be there and be the spark. Are you process as well as this experience?
[00:33:52.010] – Kevin M
I definitely love process as a Virgo. I’m not the type of person to just rush in. I love strategy. You get different creatives at all types of levels who, again, are very, I don’t want to say old-fashioned, that’s not the right word, I think actually entrenched in toxic masculinity. Because of that, they walk into a room and think that their job as the creative is the most important thing going on. I don’t believe that for a second. All of my years within agencies, I learned how to produce, I learned how strategies got to their points of view. I learned how to talk everybody’s language of what they do. Therefore, I understood what their fears and problems were going to be in terms of a particular project. Because of that, the way that I work my creative or create my creative for whatever the problem may be, naturally encompasses procedure and it’s almost prefabricated in a way that allows everyone else to get their opinion in. Because really and truly procedure and the way that people view things and it’s just the way that we did it up until yesterday, and I always feel like you can change it, but then the language within that is, well, how do you get people on side to do so?
[00:35:40.170] – Kevin M
And my life really influences my work. You’re 100% correct. But also I’m dedicated and interested in the new and the next. I think the way in which my life influences my work is just from a space of like, how people are going to love this, how people are going to feel relatable to this. I also just feel like if you are a good creative or you’re striving to be the best possible creative that you can be, there is no problem that you’re unable to answer. And if it does get tricky, then that’s probably one of the best briefs you’ve ever had in your life because that’s where you’re meant to be pushing yourself. But with that being said, I think procedure is like ina nightly important and it will lend itself as well. Procedure isn’t this rigid thing that’s immovable. I don’t really look at procedure like that. I look at procedure as a thing that is put in place to protect whether it’s brand, the project, whatever.
[00:36:57.660] – Andi J
It’s a bit like the stage, isn’t it, for a ballet, in that the edge of the stage is the edge of the performance. 100 %. But it doesn’t stop the creativity from taking place on the stage. Exactly. It’s the rules of the game that you’re playing, and the rules of the game change depending sometimes on the product or whatever you’re advertising, but you still have a stage.
[00:37:20.640] – Kevin M
Sometimes the dimensions change. Exactly. Even if that was one of those kids’ books and it’s like you’re meant to colour within the.
[00:37:28.790] – Andi J
[00:37:29.840] – Kevin M
Right? Cool. Take it further. It could be paint by numbers, and the fours are meant to be red, and the threes are meant to be blues, and you have to be in the lines. Okay, I’ll be within the lines. But you know what? I think the blues would look better in the fours, and the reds would look better in the threes. Should we just try that? Shall we see? Because that’s fun. That’s exciting. That’s what I mean. That’s where your magic really comes in. Everyone leaves that room feeling inspired and excited about the work they’re doing.
[00:38:04.180] – Andi J
So being a creative has taken you into the role of Chief Creative Officer. Do you call it an agency? Is it a movement that you founded? How do you describe it?
[00:38:13.120] – Kevin M
I would say community. I think Poc, which is People of Culture, Collective, I’m not a fan of people of colour as a term. I think you mix those words around enough, you end up at coloured people. It’s a lot.
[00:38:29.500] – Andi J
It always felt like an American term to me, but seems to be bleeding it. I’m okay, but it’s not a phrase I ever use.
[00:38:38.040] – Kevin M
Yeah, it’s not my main people of colour, but Pocc, yeah, People of Culture Collective, really started as a WhatsApp group. I had been in advertising industry for a minute. My first boss, I think that’s really worth actually telling you, I had started out as a photographer and I’d shot for wherever. You name a magazine, especially 2000 to 2010, I’d been published in.
[00:39:15.180] – Andi J
Most places. In magazines’ heyday as well. This was the absolute pinnacle of magazine culture, right?
[00:39:21.500] – Kevin M
Yeah, because actually, you know what? You’re 100 % right because that doesn’t really exist anymore. What is a magazine now really and truly, you’re right. So yeah, it was a big deal.
[00:39:33.100] – Andi J
Anyway. Kind of a big deal.
[00:39:36.290] – Kevin M
But what I realised is that there was a lot of get me in spaces because it was a great diversity high before people were… I clocked that before it became the routine thing to do, and I didn’t like it. And I realised there were lots of other photographers around me, and I was working more than them. But these people seem to be buying houses and going on holiday. I was like, Something’s not connecting here. It’s not I’m missing something. I don’t understand what’s going on and whatever. Within that back then, I used to only shoot on film. I really stayed away from digital and then more and more tech came in. Your phone had a camera. Bit by bit, you just drop into digital. Then I moved into film from then just… Actually, my thing is always story. Literally goes back to Biggie Smalls again. I couldn’t rap like that, but I felt like I could snap like that. My style was very much. If you listen to any Biggie Smalls line, any pick one, you’ve got like a million pitches in one line before it even hits the next line to write. It’s so vivid and to the point.
[00:40:57.190] – Kevin M
Even within my advertising work, I’d kiss, keep it simple, stupid. But my thing was like, How would Biggie write this? What would be Biggie’s elevator pitch? Anyway, all of that to say, I was starting to try to have more meetings about bigger work, and I wasn’t really handling those meetings well in terms of negotiations, in terms of selling in all of these things. I don’t know what possess me, but one day I was like, Go and get a job in advertising. Go and do that and you’ll learn everything that you need to learn. I don’t know why I thought of that. I don’t know where the idea came from. It just really dropped in my head one day and I was like, Boom, okay. I ran around and I had, you name that agency, I had a meeting with them. They were more than happy to meet with me. They were excited. They had seen this and that. They had known that I had been involved in whatever, whatever, whatever. But every time I brought up the word culture and a value of culture, nobody had any answers for me because everybody wanted to pretend as if they were mining cultures and subcultures to get their ideas.
[00:42:18.770] – Kevin M
Nobody was admitting this back in 20, what was that? 15, 14? What do you mean, no? We’ve just got a great team here and we’re ready fresh. It’s like, bro. Your lead creative just mines Twitter and picks up new buzzwords and then throws them into a thing. What are you talking about? Anyway, long story short, I met Nana, Nana Benpa, who’s the co-founder of Poq, and at that time, she was the head of production at this particular agency. I went in and met her, asked her about culture. As a black woman, she was like, Yeah, they don’t talk about it here, and I’m sick and tired of it, la la la. It was just a general meeting. It was just meant to be a vibe. And she was like, Look, I can’t just hire you to put you into the advertising department, but I can let you know what’s going on. Actually, if you wanted to come and work in the department with me as an in-house editor, maybe I was like, Say no more. I just need a little crack in the door. I just need to get in the building. Say no more.
[00:43:30.520] – Kevin M
That’s what she did. She hired me. I went in and I was an in-house editor. I would go in at 7:00, 6:00 in the morning, get all of my editing work done. Nine o’clock, I was ready for all of… I knew where all the meetings were and what all the pictures were, and I would just roll up into meetings, and it would just be like, Can we help? I was like, Yeah, I’ve got some ideas, and I would just go for it, bearing in mind, back to the Croydon thing, you think I’m scared of you lot in your little room like I’ve fully been in knife fights. I don’t care about you in your boardroom and ask me why I’m there.
[00:44:06.970] – Andi J
But it’s a different type of pressure, right? So I don’t think of it well. I’m pretty certain I’ve never been in a knife fight, right? But I grew up on a council estate in Bradford, and there’s some hairy moments in there, right? As a kid. And you learn to navigate. Those street smarts, I think, stay with you throughout life. But it is a different intimidation between walking down a street where you feel you can read that room to being in the room with privately educated Oxbridge kids who are all in the same blazers with everything locked up to come in there and be different and to go like, I’m going to tell you how to do your job. I’m going to challenge you and say, They’re not the same pressure. They’re two different pressures. One that you’ve spent a whole life living with and another one that’s completely new. So yes, there’s maybe some transferable skills, but that’s a different pressure to try and go and fight your way through.
[00:45:02.980] – Kevin M
It’s a different pressure in terms of like, is it a threat? And would I prefer to be back in Croydon or are you going to be in this room and make it do what it needs to do? That, you’re right, is a different pressure. I’m not saying the same thing. I’m saying, I’ve actually been through things in my life, and you lot are hilarious to me. You’re all looking like lunch. On top of that?
[00:45:29.760] – Andi J
You’re all looking like lunch is probably going to make the clip for the trailer, right?
[00:45:36.340] – Kevin M
I’ve seen that clip of Denzel Washington. He’s like, I’m leaving with something. I’m from around away. It’s very much that energy. On top of that Virgo, on top of that, Gay. So the SaaS is there. Everything is there. It all makes sense, and it wasn’t that hard. I worked my ass off, and I think within a month to two months, I was fully inserted into the creative department. To make a long story short, I was there for two years, moved on, moved on, moved on, and Nana for some reason will pop up. At this point, me and Nana become really close and the best of friends because she had been operating in that space. I’m very much as the palatable, polite, black woman. I think we bragged definitely something out in each other. I was like, No, don’t let them talk to you like that. I literally was just cussing people left, right, and centre. And then she would come in and fenn it as well. And we had beautiful moments as well of one day, she said, I’ve got us a gift. I think we can try them together. And it was like a double pack of silk and satin pillows cases, because we’ve been about looking after our hair, and she hadn’t been able to have that interaction.
[00:47:06.240] – Andi J
And that’s really the- I feel like you definitely, while telling the story, also throwing shade this way when you’re talking about needing pillows for your hair, right? Okay. That’s okay. That’s all right. Listen, I’m a big boy. It’s fine. I can take it.
[00:47:18.720] – Kevin M
Yeah, that’s literally because you didn’t buy my first book.
[00:47:24.360] – Andi J
Listen, I deserve it. I deserve it.
[00:47:26.530] – Kevin M
All of that to say is I’ll say I tell you all of this just so you can get the full picture of the dynamic and somebody who didn’t have a university education go into such a space like that. I often think of it of like, you remember the film Big and Tom Hanks? And when he’s just like, No, this is rubbish, da da da da, because he’s talking from a real place of still being a kid when he’s talking about the toy. Anyway, we left there, and we would end up in different agencies, and my job title had changed me and my creative partner until we were hired and hired, and she was doing freelance at that point. So she was no longer ready. She wasn’t my boss, and we had become friends outside of work. And the same conversation kept popping up between us, which is very much like, We’re all the Black and Brown people. Why is it every agency I go to, it’s just me and you and maybe one other person? And so we started this WhatsApp group, thinking only 10 or 20 people would join. Within 24 hours, there was 200 and something people in there.
[00:48:37.930] – Kevin M
Back then, I don’t even know what it is now actually. I don’t think we have a limit on our group because we have a single WhatsApp, but back then there was a limit as to how many people you could get into a group. Then we had to start another one and all of this. That was five years ago this year. What that has turned into is an agency and production arm, as well as Tupac, which is a community interest arm. Everything that comes out of Poq is based on what the community needs. Basically what happened is you create a safe space like that, and all of these brands come up and they’re like, Yeah, we want to come and join you. We’re like, Well, no, you’re not a safe space. That’s why we had to make a safe space. But there was work there. What we realised we could do is really control the narrative, get the right money for people, put the right teams together, have integrity within our work, walk away from work. The amount of work that we turned down in 2020, it would make some people’s eyes water, but we’re in a position to actually hold on to our integrity and be like, No, we don’t believe in anything that you were saying.
[00:49:54.670] – Kevin M
You will not be here in six months or a year from now with this type of funding or whatever. The really grew out of a space of over a thousand members who are different types of creators, whether it’s producers, writers, creatives, filmmakers, editors, all sorts, and briefs coming along and being able to be like, Right, this is actually how much we need to make this completely work. This is what people need. We are able to make our own rules within park, we very much… Any project that we’re on is really scheduled around childcare. Directors and producers are paid parity, I think I said that word right, in terms of we realise like, directors normally walk away of 10, 20% of whatever the budget is, whereas a producer would just be on a day rate and might do more days than the director somehow, but doesn’t. I say community has a lot of things going on, but really we just expand in whatever way the community needs us to, and it’s led by the community as well.
[00:51:18.830] – Andi J
I’m just aware of the time.
[00:51:21.690] – Kevin M
[00:51:23.290] – Andi J
No, no, it’s all right. I’ve got to know if I’ve got time to ask you one more question about work that you get at the minute. And do you feel that there’s often a feeling sometimes when you set up something like Pocc that you might only end up getting the, for want of a better phrase, the black briefs? Are you only getting the briefs? Is that, Oh, all right, this is a diversity angle. Let’s go and talk to the diverse team. Or do you get every brief now? Has that changed over time? How is that? What’s your view on that?
[00:51:54.750] – Kevin M
Yeah, that is a great question.
[00:51:57.600] – Andi J
And- And it’s a big one to sign of rushing at the end. I’m sorry about that.
[00:52:00.750] – Kevin M
No, if you’re in a rush, I’m in a rush. If you’re not in a rush, I’m not. It’s all good. It’s a great question. And the answer is that, yes, they used to just try to run upon us and give us all of these briefs, and we’d be like, Oh, you’re approaching us because we’re a black-owned agency, boutique agency. Oh, no, no, no. Yes, you are. That’s what you’re doing, and it’s offensive. So we won’t be working on this, but thank you. That’s how we dealt with it. When I talk about 2020 and prior to 2020 of turning down work, there’s a really well-known shoe brand, shall we say, that lots of people use for weightlifting. They had come to us to work on a particular thing, and we had done loads of work. They disappeared. They then came back around and was like, Oh, we did some internal work, and this is what it is. When I looked through the work, I was like, This is all the work that we’ve done. Please don’t make me burn you down on the internet, behave. They realised what they had done and admitted such a thing.
[00:53:17.680] – Kevin M
Then they came back and was like, We found some more money. There’s 50 grand here, and we’d love you to help us with the recruitment, and la la la la. We were like, No, we don’t want your money. Just when that work is done, you should say thanks to us and please don’t knock our door again to work with us. Again, with much of my work, sometimes the intent isn’t just about making the work. Sometimes in that particular case, it’s not about healing. What that was about was really being like, you can’t actually take everybody for a idiot, and you’re going to learn in this instance what this looks like to be told no, and for you to go away and think about what you’re doing. Then things like that are discussed within the network as well to be like, This is how we handle this and this is that. It’s common knowledge. Then more people are empowered to be like, Well, no, I know that you try this over here, so this is what we’re going to do. But in the beginning, yes, there was a lot of just really ridiculous briefs that made no sense.
[00:54:24.040] – Kevin M
Also within the briefs, the thinking or some of them would have initial creative involved that were problematic that were really… We recently did some work with Nike and they had come to… We were helping them with… The brief came through and it was about their festival and this creativity about young people and la la la la. We’re like, Great, we’d love to let us know more. Then as we went into it, it was like, I think originally they were going to call it something like the Black Festival or something. We were like, You need to slow down. You can’t be calling your festival, but I can’t mem tape, but it had black in it. It was like, No, you cannot do that. You don’t have the right to be using such language within your festivals. Your main character, yes, is the black demographic, and you should be thankful to us for that, great. But other than that, you need to find a way to do that. Those situations are interesting because actually what I will say about that particular night dream is that they were receptive. They’re like, Oh, my God, we never thought of it like that.
[00:55:42.890] – Kevin M
La la la. And then you realise, I can’t walk away from this because actually I can teach you lot to be a thousand times better because you’re actually listening. I think the ones that we definitely walk away from, you can tell are just the ones that they’re only quiet so they can speak next and not listen to what’s coming out of your mouth or anything like that. But it’s difficult. It’s difficult. And sometimes it still happens now and we just have to walk away.
[00:56:14.390] – Andi J
It’s hard, isn’t it? Because sometimes as well, you don’t have the energy to want to teach all the time. Sometimes you just want to like, I’m a creative, I’m a strategy. I just want to do the thing that I’m good at. It’s tiring having to teach people all the time. But on the other side of things, I’m always aware that when someone asks a genuine question, they’re asking because they want to learn something. And then if they are with their ears open, wanting to listen and wanting that advice and humble enough to go, Do you know what? We got this wrong, then actually there’s a teaching experience that can happen there and we’re all trying to learn and expand, right? So it’s difficult, isn’t it? But you only have so much energy sometimes in have, inside, to be able to go.
[00:56:58.640] – Kevin M
Okay, okay. I agree. I think the other part of that as well is trying to make people understand that A, and then B, also not every Black or Brown person is going to have the same response. Andi might be like, No, I’m not in the mood for teaching. Kevin might be like, Yeah, okay, let’s sit down, let’s talk about it, because I’m feeling it today. I feel like it’s giving people space to be fully realised people, fully realised creatives, fully realised strategists, especially in the subject of who they are, the essence of who they are. How are you going to question how they want to communicate and talk to you about that? You can’t. So you’re going to have to take the answers you get them.
[00:57:43.210] – Andi J
And this view as well, that there’s this of a homogenous Black community. As a Black person and as a marketer, it’s equally hilarious, right? Because there’s five million Black people or something in the UK. We got a mixed-race guy from Bradford, and I don’t want to put labels on you, but a Black queer guy from South London. But we’re both lumped in the Black community with different experiences, different backgrounds, different views to this. So you say, All right, can we call this the Black so-and-so festival? You might get two different answers, just two different people.
[00:58:16.710] – Kevin M
[00:58:18.260] – Andi J
And we’re a more Black community.
[00:58:20.530] – Kevin M
Exactly. And what that actually lovely in a roundabout way circles back to what we’re saying at the top of this. The most magical, beautiful thing about blackness is the chance to bump into each other and find those things that are in common. So you just said, My odd is Windrush generation. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I know then what your grandparents’ house looked like, and what it smelled like, and felt like. Do you see what I mean? Those are the beautiful things to find out. Allow us to find each other, and communicate with each other, and find those things in common, and the things that we don’t have in common for me to be like, Right, Andi, I didn’t even know that. I’m going to go and look that up and vice versa or whatever. That’s the magic of marketing that people, any human being, one thing that we all have in common is the love of discovery of finding new things for ourselves.
[00:59:21.520] – Andi J
Are we still talking about crotchet throws over the sofa that still got the plastic on in our grandparents’ heart? Yes. We’re talking about the same.
[00:59:27.540] – Kevin M
Grandparents’ heart. And the-.
[00:59:31.110] – Andi J
The map of the island on the wall in like a pebble or something?
[00:59:34.870] – Kevin M
Yeah. And the shells and that little bag that had a little piece of Jamaica in it, and the shelving unit with the plates that no one ever used, and there’s always those brown plates, the fish and the doilies and all sorts.
[00:59:49.030] – Andi J
I have a fish, which when my auntie died, I was asked, and she didn’t have much, but I said, Do you want anything from my auntie’s house? And she had these two green and white fish, which were like ornament, that stood up. They are, by any measure, horrific. They’re awful to look at. But when my auntie died, they’re part of my childhood, right? I have them. Sadly, I didn’t bring them up for this, but they’re downstairs. And people come into the house and you can see them and go, What is that crime against aesthetics? And you’re like, It’s my auntie’s, and it’s a part of me. But that 1970s, 1980s Caribbean House, I mean, there was a lot of crimes going on in those houses, mostly against fashion taste and decency, mostly.
[01:00:31.800] – Kevin M
Against it. But they’re so indicative of us as… I really don’t want to say British, but it is what it is, British black people in terms of coming over and making it our own, and we’re going to have this and this because we’ve got to do something. We as black people are excellent, have been excellent, and are excellent at pulling different things from different spaces and creating a new thing. Excellent at it. And when that’s just allowed to be free, especially with an advertising and marketing. Somehow marketing and advertising doesn’t become that dirty anymore, and it’s just a space to connect people in a really wonderful, meaningful way. Yeah.
[01:01:28.110] – Andi J
I’m going to pull up the stumps there, I’m going to, cricket terminology, I’m going to pull up stumps and we’re going to stop there. Before we go on, I want to ask you one more question. Very different to everything else. Give me a book recommendation that people can take away from this episode. Other than your books, right? That’s my only rule. You can’t recommend your own books, right? They’re already in the show notes. But do you have another book that you think people should read?
[01:01:49.950] – Kevin M
Yes, a very good friend of mine, a collection of Ocophore, Edge of Hair. It’s a collection of short stories where it’s very much science fiction and the short stories with the characters, the black women within those stories do not face any harm or danger. There are either the observers or receivers of love. It’s just a really lovely, easy read. It’s really lovely reading such a thing and knowing that the characters that you fall in love with are in no danger whatsoever, but yet commenting on the world in a very real futuristic way, believable way. So a collection of O’Kafo, Edge of Head.
[01:02:38.840] – Andi J
Perfect. And there’ll be a link to that in the show notes too. So thank you very much, Kevin. Thank you for your time this evening. It’s been absolutely superb.
[01:02:45.940] – Kevin M
Thank you. Thank you for having me, and sorry for waffling so much.
[01:02:48.850] – Andi J
Apologies. Honestly, it’s been brilliant. Absolutely beautiful.