L.A.-based lifestyle marketing agency Cashmere has been on a roll lately: This week Jack in the Box selected the shop as its social media and public relations agency following a two-month review.
The announcement came on the heels of the Google and Pixel 3 commercial starring Childish Gambino that aired during the Grammys last month, a collaborative effort between Cashmere and production company Mamag Studios, along with actor-rapper Donald Glover.
But being on a roll is not exactly new for Cashmere. Co-founded in 2003 by longtime industry executives Ted Chung and Seung Chung, the agency has evolved into a leading multicultural lifestyle company, thriving in the nexus of entertainment, advertising and digital media. The brand wizards behind Snoop Dogg's enduring career, Cashmere has more recently done work on "Black Panther," "Get Out," "Grown-ish," "Atlanta" and more.
The shop has mastered the art of making the niche appeal to the mainstream. And on the latest episode of the Ad Lib podcast, Cashmere Exec VP and Chief Creative Officer Ryan Ford discusses what it means to be a multicultural agency in 2019.
"'Multicultural' is the new general market. They're one in the same these days," he says. "Hip-hop was … this urban thing. Now hip-hop is just pop culture. Global pop culture. It's the same when you talk about 'multicultural marketing' or 'multicultural advertising agencies.' That's America. That's the new general market."
To illustrate his "specific is the new broad" mantra, Ford points to a show like "Atlanta," which details the journey of young black men in that city. "Creatively, that show really speaks to that audience in such a nuanced way, it seems like you really understand this culture. They don't make any attempts to try to make a broader audience understand that," says Ford. "Just living in L.A., some of the stuff on that show is so Atlanta that I might not get it."
And yet it works.
Beyond entertainment brands, Cashmere counts as clients BMW, Jack in the Box, Google, Adidas, GE, and Diageo, among others. "The connective tissue through all those brands," says Ford, is that "they're looking to connect, to build meaningful communication streams with an audience that's increasingly diverse, which is increasingly young, which is increasingly online through social media."
And with whom it's increasingly risky to misstep. Get it wrong, and you're raked over the coals.
"It can be so detrimental to a brand, and you wake up one day and everything you've worked to build advertising-wise or marketing-wise can be gone in a flash," warns Ford.
Ford talks about the staffing at Cashmere, which is "superdiverse" by design. "We're marketing to ourselves," he says.
"There's not a tremendous amount of people of color in positions of power in the advertising and marketing industry, both inside the brands and at agencies. And oftentimes, if they are there, they don't feel empowered to share their authentic voice."
We also discuss Ford's career, which began in journalism. Before changing lanes into marketing, he had worked his way up to executive editor at hip-hop media brand The Source, and contributed to Vibe and XXL. He sees parallels in the agency landscape today to what the music industry went through over a decade ago.
"There were a lot of record labels that didn't want to understand what was really happening to the music industry, and the music industry was decimated. And now you have places like Apple and Google and Spotify which are the most powerful forces in the music industry," he says.
Then he adds, chuckling just a little bit, "We want to be the next Apple or Google or Spotify."