Naja Bomani on realizing a big 'IDEA' at BBDO
The agency's design strategist on bringing to life the Omnicom shop's new diversity coalition
In our continuing Black History Month series celebrating creative excellence, our guest editor Storm Smith gives the stage to Naja Bomani. A magna cum laude graduate from the New York Institute of Technoloy with a BFA in graphic design, Bomani began her career at BBDO New York as a design intern in the planning department, eventually landing her role as design strategist through the agency’s Creative Residence Program. During her tenure, she has led an agency-wide Design School Training Workshop and has worked on campaigns like Pedigree and Mobil Delvac’s “Mutts4Trucks,” as well as SheaMoisture’s recent “It Comes Naturally."
Here, Bomani shares about her proudest accomplishment yet as one of the founders and co-chairs of her agency’s new diversity coalition, BBDO IDEA.
Smith says of Bomani, "'When I see the quote, 'Home is where the heart is,' I immediately think of Naja. Her positive energy is contagious, her warm smile is luminous, and her advocacy is stellar. One of her many top secret ingredients is her gold heart. She, along with the remarkably Isabel Rendon, wholeheartedly founded BBDO IDEA, where they create the space of belonging and a sense of home for all of us. The space allows us to do significant DEI work together. Because of this, I feel at home at BBDO. Queen Naja Bomani is home for all of us."
In the five years that I’ve been with BBDO, I have definitely witnessed change, but none has been as significant as the one we are all currently living through, with the discussion of race and injustice at its peak and the rise of the Black Live Matter Movement. This monumental shift provided me the opportunity to make real change right here at BBDO in co-founding and chairing BBDO’s new diversity coalition—IDEA. IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Allyship) encompasses the identity of all of us. It breaks down the idea of diversity being a black-and-white issue and recognizes that everyone has a role to serve as an ally, and that all aspects of our work should be approached through an intersectional lens.
Since launching in June, Isabel Rendon (who also sits as founder and co-chair with me) and I have been pushing the needle on what diversity looks like at BBDO—through the culture of the agency, its people, and of course, the work. It has truly been one of the proudest projects I have worked on throughout my career, to benefit all of us creatives.
With BBDO’s new Chief DE&I officer, Jason Rosario, we have now extended the BBDO IDEA initiative across all of BBDO North America. For this year’s Black History Month, we’ve even collaborated with fellow agencies within the Omnicom Network and worked closely with Omnicom’s new Chief Equity & Impact Officer, Emily Graham.
During this month, we are reimagining Black History through the pillars of Culture, Creativity and Celebration to honor Black Futures. To build momentum around this topic we’re speaking with Black legends of today—the ones we do not hear from often enough. When we think of these big, overarching months, most times we forget about the intersectional communities that should be recognized within them. Within diversity, equity, and inclusion, the community that continues to be overlooked is those with disabilities. I wanted to highlight their voices, so with the help of Storm Smith, we were able to connect with CJ Jones—actor, producer, writer and founder of Sign World Studios (you may know him from Hulu’s "Castle Rock" or the 2017 film "Baby Driver" with Ansel Elgort and Jamie Foxx). We hosted a conversation where we spoke about “Inclusion Within the Arts,”—what it means to him as a deaf Black actor and advocate for the inclusivity of the deaf community within the television and film industry, and what the advertising industry can learn from a talent perspective.
CJ Jones strongly believes that industries such as entertainment, creative and advertising need to hold themselves accountable through an actionable plan for inclusion, not “all talk” and “false planning.” Leaving our conversation, we aligned on the agreement that diversity is not a black and white issue but rather a human issue–and we all need to take an actionable part in solving it together.