As we continue our Black History Month series on creative excellence, our guest editor Storm Smith shines a light on Kristin Tolbert, planning director at BBDO New York. A self-professed constant learner, Tolbert began her career at Uniworld and has worked across a spectrum of categories, including automotive, CPG and health and wellness. She helped to establish BBDO’s employee-led diversity and inclusion initiative IDEA and also chaired the Advertising Research Foundation’s Cultural Effectiveness Council from 2018 to 2020, which led to the publication of a four-part series about building brand loyalty with today’s increasingly diverse and intersection U.S. consumer base.
“Queen Kristin shows up with robust resilience and pertinacity,” Smith says. “She is a believer in unity, representation, and inclusivity. When I am in her presence in any meetings, she is unapologetic with an extraordinary grace of humor. I admire her energy. Kristin is someone who wants to see you win at the end. Because of the courage and compassion of who she is, she is winning.”
Here, Tolbert recalls when just three days into her job at BBDO, she was charged with leading a new business pitch that led to the stunning, celebratory “It Comes Naturally" campaign for SheaMoisture, which the agency won alongside Joy Collective.
It was my third day at BBDO New York, when our chief strategy officer came over and asked me to lead a new business pitch. I questioned her judgment—not because I’m not a ringer at bringing home pitches, but because I had barely gotten my BBDO sea legs beneath me. Nevertheless, my new boss assured me I was the right person for the project. The pitch was for SheaMoisture, and she couldn’t have been more right.
I had been using the brand for years and was extremely excited to be able to leverage my multicultural marketing skills to lead our team to a win, which we did, along with our co-lead agency, Joy Collective. I was floored and honored to not only partner with such an iconic Black beauty brand, but to be able to create something curated for us and by us. And by “us,” I mean Black women.
BBDO knows their talent. And they have leaned-in, elevating voices of color and increasing visibility of diverse talent. And they were doing this before the summer of 2020 when BLM all of a sudden became fashionable.
For months, we worked tirelessly with our inter-agency team and an incredibly brilliant and intersectional team of creatives to bring the strategy to life in every aspect of the campaign. From our internal team to the amazingly talented artists we commissioned for the work, we embodied the brilliance, resilience and grace of Black women as a team.
This campaign couldn’t have been more on time. In a year where Black women bore the brunt of navigating a double pandemic, it meant a lot to do more than just make a cool ad. We created a love letter—an ode to Black womanhood that reminded her that we see her, we care for her and we celebrate her now more than ever.
As a Black woman working in a majority white world, this opportunity was very special because the campaign was more than prayers and platitudes; it helped drive tangible change in the community. It increased awareness of SheaMoisture’s brand purpose initiatives, invited women to pause, pamper and participate in creating a future that honors the sacrifices of our ancestors while looking toward to a more equitable future for us all.