Rosapark founders say they are reconsidering the Paris agency's name in light of recent backlash
The three founders of the Havas-owned French agency Rosapark—Gilles Fichteberg, Jean-François Sacco and Jean-Patrick Chiquiar, who are all white men—say they are reconsidering their agency's name.
The decision comes after Nathan Young, president of nonprofit 600 & Rising and group strategy director at Minneapolis agency Periscope, called the agency out on Twitter for using the name of the iconic Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man. Young wrote, “Advertising's race problem in one image.”
“We are aware of the various comments on social media related to the name Rosapark and we would like to assure you we are taking them very seriously,” Fichteberg, Sacco and Chiquiar said in a collective statement to Ad Age. “We are sincerely sorry if the name of our agency, which we chose eight years ago, has caused any offense. In the current climate and in light of recent world events, we fully understand why.”
Fichteberg, Sacco and Chiquiar continued, “We would like to reassure you that we are particularly sensitive to the issue of diversity in our industry. One of our agency’s Co-Founders was elected President of the AACC's Advertising Delegation and has put diversity at the heart of his program, which aims to profoundly transform our industry in this area. In light of the above we will be rethinking the name of our agency. Please rest assured that we are fully committed to this subject.”
In response to this news, Young tells Ad Age, “We are pleased to see that they are considering changing their name. We would urge them to also consider changing their practices using our open letter as a guide.”
“It's easy to look at this example and click our teeth at how egregious this incident was, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that incidents like this happen all the time because people of color have been systematically excluded from key conversations at advertising agencies around the world,” Young adds. “600 & Rising isn't fighting to change the name of a single poorly named agency in Paris. We are fighting to create a future where there are enough Black employees in agency leadership positions that insensitive incidents like this never happen in the first place.”
The controversy gained momentum on Twitter after Louis Duroulle, a “directeur conseil” at Havas Paris, then retweeted Young's initial post with the comment, “Major fight but wrong way in one tweet.” That tweet has since been deleted but it led to a back and forth between Young and Duroulle, with other Twitter users also joining in to criticize Duroulle, a white man, for imposing his thoughts on the issue.
Young responded to Duroulle, asking him to offer his “thoughts about what the 'right way' to advocate for racial equity is.” Duroulle responded in a tweet that has since been deleted that “#TrashTalking cannot be the solution.”
Young then responded, “How is it trash talking? It is literally the three white male execs of an agency with one black employee standing in front of the logo for their agency which is named after a Black civil rights icon who fought for racial equity.”
In subsequent tweets, Young accused Havas of not releasing its diversity data in the U.S., like many agencies including Wieden+Kennedy and The Martin Agency have done, or responding to the 600 & Rising letter—through which more than 600 Black advertising professionals put out a call to action to ad agency leaders to finally take real steps to end systemic racism in the industry. The letter was penned by Young and Bennett D. Bennett, principal at consultancy Aerialist.
Young then tweeted that he “had a conversation with U.S. leadership” at Havas. He wrote, “I won't disclose details, but I did speak to several issues of importance to our members and received assurance that U.S. diversity data would be forthcoming.”
“The Havas employee who exacerbated the issue we raised has apologized and we have accepted his apology,” Young tells Ad Age. “We have been in contact with U.S. Havas leadership and are encouraged by our early talks.”
Ad Age has in the past questioned Rosapark about its name choice, to which founders responded that the name is in no way connected to Rosa Parks the activist.
Contributing: Ann-Christine Diaz