Creative Project Final

Here is the final draft of my creative project.


For my creative project about discriminatory targeted advertising towards minority groups I decided to create an advertisement that is somewhat anti-advertisement. To make the ad, I drew each separate component of the video of the iPad app Procreate using an Apple Pencil. Sometimes I loosely traced screenshots of my own social media profiles to get the spacing right, but for the most part I embraced the doodle-esque nature of the project and freehanded the elements. I tried to include some funny easter eggs in the comments or likes (Claire Sterk liked one of the posts in the first shot of the video). I separately drew and saved the post-it notes that appear in the other parts of the video. Then, I pieced together all of the parts of the video in a very long Photoshop files and took a screen-grabbed video of me scrolling through the elements while I listened to the recording I took of the audio to get the timing right. I made any timing corrections necessary when I edited in Adobe Premiere Pro.

The project explains the broad purpose of my project. Because it was intended to be a spoof of a social media advertisement, I needed to keep the content at one minute or under (which I succeeded at doing exactly). It construes my argument into an opinion that is trying to persuade the audience to do something and act on the content being presented, like an ad. Ads want clicks. So does this video.

Elements of the project directly reference some of the biggest points of the argument that I make in my research paper. Racially targeted tabacco ads throughout history most effectively demonstrate my point that targeted ads exist and can be harmful and discriminatory, and the video presents an example of one. I chose to simplify this idea by just having an advertisement directly advertising cigarettes, but there are strict rules on tabacco advertisement in any public space. Tabacco companies can’t just place ads like that on Twitter, but they can sneakily sponsor your favorite content creators (who reach certain target audiences that match the demographics that they are trying to reach) to endorse their products. The video presents a more simplified and direct version of this to make a point, but tabacco companies still more often target people of color, which is the point the video highlights.

The video also broadly details how social media networks categorize users. In my paper, I detail how social media networks sell that data to advertisers and advertisers use that data to show you ads. It becomes harmful when they use that data to make assumptions about you based on your identity – you must be rich because you attend an elite university. You must be a person of color because you frequent Indian restaurants. You must be poor because you’re a person of color. So we won’t show you ads for expensive homes in town. On purpose. We will actively disclude you. The categories shows are genuinely categories that I am placed in on my own Facebook – I made none of them up.

The video aims to explain categorization and how that can negatively affect the people it targets. It does so by explaining categorization concisely and by giving concrete examples of it. This relates to class because we talked a lot about passivity and advertising. Ad agencies capitalize on this “waiting room” ideology more and more as social media grows. Now the waiting rooms are everywhere, so how do you catch a user’s attention? Supposedly by showing them an ad just for them. But how far is too far?


Research Paper Rough Draft

Happy early December! If you’ve scrolled through your Facebook Timeline in the past week, you’ve probably seen an advertisement for the sweater you almost bought on Black Friday still floating around. Or maybe it’s for an app you once downloaded but recently deleted, or an event that all of your friends are going to.

But sometimes, you see an ad for something you’re sure you didn’t Google. You might have found yourself saying aloud, “can my phone hear me?” Or worse, “can my laptop read my mind?” Do you ever feel like the ads on your Instagram feed are targeting you in some way?

Well, they might be. And if they are, chances are they’re racist. Now, that might feel like quite a big jump, but your social media has been profiling you since you got it – you just might not have realized.

If I head into my Facebook settings and dive deep into the “Ads” category, I can find just how Facebook categorizes me (and thus assigns me to advertisers) under “Your information.” Facebook knows that I’m a Frequent Visitor of Fast Food Restaurants (rude). But it also knows that I’m a Frequent Visitor of Indian Restaurants – and advertisers can probably make the very logical jump to the fact that I am Indian. Facebook has also figured out that I am part of the Democratic Party, that I receive a Liberal Arts Education, and that I use a mobile phone.

And this is apart from all of the information I readily input into my Facebook profile manually – that I’m from Orlando, that I’m Muslim, that I’m single, that I have connected my Instagram and Twitter and Spotify to my account. And then it has all of that data to source from, too. And then it has my browsing cookies, which linger to influence ad space across my user experience. And don’t forget, I’ve connected my Macbook to my iPhone to my iPad – could that be influencing what I see too?

Targeted advertising does make some kind of sense. Like Louise Matsakis says in her article “What’s Not Included in Facebook’s ‘Download Your Data,’” “advertisements for dentures or funeral insurance don’t run on Nickelodeon” because that wouldn’t make any sense. I would’ve been pretty mad if as a pre-teen watching Spongebob my favorite Scooby-Doo Chia Pet commercial was replaced with a 1-800 number for arthritis medication. But how far is too far? When does targeted advertising get problematic? Like when teenagers Googling “do I have an eating disorder” are confronted with ads for scam diet teas, or low-income men of color are targeted for cigarette ads?


Go into the history of targeted advertising – how have ads on TV and the radio been racially influenced?

Then go into social media advertising and how it has evolved away from traditional advertising.

What is targeted advertising? Go into the logistics of targeted Facebook advertising, including statistics. How has it been found to be racist? Go into case studies/examples. How do ads use the info that they have found?

Final Self-Reflection

Annotated Bibliography

Wonkeryor, Edward Lama, et al. Dimensions of Racism in Advertising From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century. Lang, Peter New York, 2015.

This book details the history of race in advertising and critically analyzes how racial identities in mass marketing have formed and evolved. The book starts with the end of World War II as this is when American mass media began to view non-white people as wealthy enough to be advertised to. It also highlights that this is not enough – historically, minorities have not been viewed by the media as humans and that there is a continued argument for racially diverse people to be portrayed positively in the advertising industry. This book will be useful to my research because it provides historical context for advertising from the specific lens of racial diversity and thus will be helpful in understanding why advertisement lacks diversity.


Shankar, Shalini. Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers. Duke University Press, 2015.

In this book Shankar does not focus solely on Asian American consumers or advertisement aimed towards Asian Americans as the book includes a significant amount of information on diversity as a whole. This book is useful in a different way than the other resources included because it relies on data from the U.S. Census, advertising agencies, market researchers, etc. to drive the narrative and offer tangible evidence for racism in advertising media. It also focuses on the development process of advertisements, including who is creating the advertisements and how that influences representation. It also includes targeted advertising, not just the lack of diversity in advertising in general.


Rodgers, Shelly, and Esther Thorson. Digital Advertising Theory and Research. Routledge, 2017.

This book details social media advertising as a whole. It starts by covering the shift from television and radio advertising to digital advertising and follows with what digital advertising entails. It also contains several chapters on the voices of digital and social advertising, which I can use to connect to race and diversity. With context from this resource, I can synthesize information about race and racism in traditional advertising and social media advertising as a whole in order to come to a conclusion about the nature of racism in social media advertising. This resource is not available in the Emory Library System, but is contributed to by Professors of Media, Communication, etc. from major universities across the nation.


Dayen, David. “Ban Targeted Advertising.” The New Republic, The New Republic, 10 Apr. 2018,

In this opinion piece hosted on The New Republic’s website, David Dayen criticizes the overall idea of targeted advertising, or the “surveillance economy,” and how it is negatively affecting consumers. Dayen argues that targeted advertising is not useful even for corporations, and only serves to discriminate against people. He argues that it goes against the people’s fundamental rights to privacy and destroys the positive fundamentals of consumerism. The New Republic is a journal of opinion that was founded in 1914. According to his personal website, David Dayen “is a contributing writer to Salon and The Intercept and a weekly columnist for the New Republic and the Fiscal Times.” He is also published by Vice, The Nation, the American Prospect, Naked Capitalism, and In These Times and has written a book titled “Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud.”


Bagli, Charles V. “Facebook Vowed to End Discriminatory Housing Ads. Suit Says It Didn’t.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2018,

In this The New York Times article, Bagli describes a legal case against Facebook about discriminatory housing advertisements that might be against the Fair Housing Act. The article uses housing ads as a case study to exemplify how targeted advertising can be discriminatory against certain groups of people. Particularly in this case, companies chose not to show advertisements to single mothers, disabled veterans, people of color, etc. The article includes citations for two other articles on ProPublica that might also be useful in my research as they are case studies of similar cases that are particularly focused on people of color.


Extra Credit #1: Man Made at Oxford College

Last Wednesday, I went to Oxford College to watch T. Cooper’s Man Made as a part of their Southern Circuit Film Series. When I let my old Film and American Studies professors know that my friends and I would be back on campus to see the film, they invited us to have dinner with T. Cooper beforehand.The dinner was attended by the Oxford American Studies professor Dr. McGehee, the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies professor Dr. ___, Professor Cooper, and a few students. During the dinner, we spoke in depth about how Professor Cooper made the film with a low budget and limited cast, how the film is doing in the film circuits that it’s in, the corruption that pervades these film circuits, and the track of Professor Cooper’s professional life.

Man Made is a documentary about trans men body builders competing at a competition in Atlanta. Cooper filmed most of the sound and footage himself with a very limited and sporadic crew. The documentary itself was incredibly impactful – after watching it, I could hardly believe that it was a low-budget film. Cooper worked with an editor, but what struck me most was how well put-together the story was, even though Cooper let us know that he had to cut half of the men that he followed and interviewed. The piece was cut together beautifully to tell a great story. After the movie there was a brief talkback with Cooper where he answered questions about the production process, how he found the body builders in the film, his inspiration, his experience as a trans man telling the story of trans men, etc. Watching a movie explicitly about people celebrating themselves who normally are not allowed to was an amazing experience, and I will be telling everyone I know about this movie for a long time.

Personal Essay

When I was younger, I was fascinated by advertisements. They are often colorful, loud, and gorgeous, and as a child I loved to watch the pretty girls swish their long shiny hair in Pantene commercials or read the Sephora catalogues to see all of the glittery makeup.

Image result for pantene gifellie goulding.png

What I did not know is that the bombardment of beautiful blonde, pale, freckled white women through every channel of media consumption would lead to serious insecurity issues that would pervade through my older years and cause me to spend most of my teenagedom avoiding the sun, pouring lemon juice through my hair to try and lighten the color (which would only dry it out – not very Pantene-like at all), and generally just trying to become “pretty.” Which actually meant “as close to white-passing as I could possibly get.”

Advertisements have always been filled with pretty girls (which can always be problematic in and of itself – which is for another paper another time), but if the advertisements that I had seen growing up had been filled with more girls that actually looked like me, maybe I would have felt that I was pretty too instead of feeling like there was a goal to be reached.

As an adult I still am fascinated by advertisements – they are within themselves their own pieces of art that are intentionally trying to do something to an audience. I like them because they are easy to consume, often incredibly creative, and have a tangible and obvious purpose. My favorite advertisements are ones that are ingenious – they pull at the heartstrings of the audience and present information in a beautiful and artistic way. At least once a week I think about the 2017 Year in Search Google commercial that is one of the most creatively inspiring pieces of art that I have ever watched – and it was an advertisement. A piece of commodified media housed within a larger corporate infrastructure that as a self-proclaimed soft-core socialist I should despise. But it holds up.

Advertisements are captivating. I would argue that they are valuable and deserve a place in the discourse that surrounds art and media. I wish that they are more often included in the positive discourse as well – I think that the above Google video is a good example of positive advertisement that allows for inspiration and works for the greater good, even if it is also endorsing a product. But the reality of advertisement is that it often does not work for the greater good. When advertisements fail to represent the diverse population that is consuming them, they do not work for the greater good. They cause little brown girls serious insecurity issues and convince them that the only way to become beautiful is to become white. And it is not just about beauty – people of color are over and over again subconsciously told through media and specifically advertisement that the key to becoming beautiful or successful or well-liked or to be able to find love or happiness or satisfaction is to become more white.

Blank 10 x 8 inNivea tried telling blacks to re-civilize themselves.

In the modern age, advertisement is rapidly changing. It is not like how it was when I was little, when I would only consume ads through commercials on television or printed in magazines. Advertisements are everywhere – they run through our social media feeds when we mindlessly scroll in the mornings, they’re in the podcasts we listen to while we exercise, they’re on our cereal boxes and backs of our tshirts and now even the eggs that we eat for breakfast. Not only are advertisements everywhere, and they are specifically catered to us – the websites we visit, the photos we physically “like,” and the statuses we post are all filtered through algorithms that can accurately predict our race, gender, and political affiliations.

What intrigues me most about the evolvement of diversity in advertisement is how inclusivity and racism in advertising have evolved over time. Now that advertisers know the exact person that they are advertising to and what their identity and interests are, how will advertising change? Will it become more inclusive? Will it become more racist? Is it toeing the line somewhere in between those two things?

I am excited to pursue this project because my identity as a person of color and as a woman greatly influences how I consume advertising. I have already emphasized how much I dislike white-centric advertising – it is advertising that subliminally says that people of color do not belong through a lack of representation. I am excited to read the scholarly discourse that surrounds advertisement in media and how that discourse has changed with the eruption of social media. Most of my own personal social media ads are filled with beautiful white women, just as they were when I was younger. Does this show an internalized preference towards white people that is biasing the algorithm that controls my feed? Or has advertisement just remained the non inclusive space that it has previously been?

I hope to find out more about the history of racial representation in advertisement, but my goal is to focus on the current changes in representation with the growth of social media and social media advertising. And there is much more to dive into than just the ads that pop up on one’s screen. When people are chosen by companies to promote products based on their follower accounts, are the people that are being chosen diverse? Are Instagram models a diverse group or does it lean towards any singular racial identity? How are these promoters and models found by companies? Do they join agencies or is the selection purely follower based? Do white people tend to have more followers than people of color? Are the products that are being advertised to me suitable for my identities? Are they biased in a way that they should not be – are they under-assuming? Do they assume too much? Are there statistics on these factors, or is all of this too new to really know? Can the data even be tracked?

I am excited for this project to clarify to me the current state of online advertisement through social media and how it compares to advertisement in the past. And hopefully one day soon advertisement can live up to its potential of being a distinct and captivating art form that can do a lot of positive good.

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