Meet John “JP” Petty, First Black Executive Creative Director of Wieden + Kennedy Advertising Agency • EBONY

When Creative Director John “JP” Petty was younger, he had high goals in the music business. He has embraced the dreams of many ambitious and passionate hip hop young men of becoming the next Sean “P-Diddy” Combs or Jay-Z. “I didn’t know advertising was a thing, especially for people like me,” Petty says. “I never dreamed of being the Executive Creative Director at one of the biggest advertising companies in the world. As the youngest and first named black creative director of Wieden + Kennedy, an international creative advertising agency, the 34-year-old admits: “It always feels weird to say that out loud. It is a huge honor.

The Philly native may not have known his fate, but he knew his future had to include what some would call “cool work.” Wieden + Kennedy is the creative agency responsible for Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. The JP team led the McDonald’s Famous Orders campaign collaboration with Travis Scott and J. Balvin. The agency is currently a partner of the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment at Long Island University, which offers courses in cutting-edge media such as Hood Marketing 101: How Darkness Is Purchased and How to be a good troublemaker.

Interestingly enough, Petty, in his own way, does exactly what Jay-Z and the men he admires do: he creates noir art, images, and conversations that resonate and complement our culture. Thanking God, the prayers of her recently deceased mother and a little luck, Petty observes, “It has been an interesting trajectory.”

University of Lincoln alumnus Petty, an actively involved student and member of Kappa Alpha Psi, was surrounded by creatives trying to figure out how to get their ideas out into the world. “I wanted to learn to mobilize ideas; how to achieve them, ”he recalls. After Lincoln, Petty attended Drexel University for Industrial Product Management, where, after graduation, he was recruited into a company he described as “a bit far-fetched”. He was in a cubicle and hated it, so he decided to stop and look for a job that leaned on his passions.

“I grew up with MySpace, Facebook and the introduction of Twitter,” Petty shares. “By leaning into these platforms, I started to follow conversations of interest and create things out of these spaces. “

Petty explored freelance editorial work and writing with a quarterly black-owned magazine called Raine magazine, and it wasn’t long before a recruiter called her attention. “She said I really like your job. Have you ever thought about advertising? Petty remembers. He had never considered getting into the advertising game until then but decided to give it a go.

Working with power player Steve Stoute’s Translation company, he learned to think with a non-traditional approach to advertising. “At Translation, we thought about music, festivals, sneakers”, things JP loves. “There was an advertisement that Stoute was partly responsible for that played like a music video. I thought it was the worst thing in the world because it was the first time I saw myself, my interest, my passions, our culture reflected on a stage like this. It creates a fairer universe. It particularly stands out when it sits between a Tide ad and a Gap ad, ”Getty explains. “It was the kind of job I always wanted to do.”

“So when I got to Wieden + Kennedy, the demand wasn’t to make them blacker or cooler, the demand was to be myself and put myself to work every day,” Petty continues. “They know I’m smart. They saw my record. And they know I have something to add.

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“I have a really supportive team in Wieden which makes room for my thoughts,” he adds. Petty is extremely protective of the way black people are seen and portrayed in advertisements. “First, our culture is not for sale. You must earn your way by contributing to our space. So an obsessive understanding of our audience is important, ”says the Executive Creative Director. “Another thing is to fill that space with the right talent. By true talent, I mean the creative people of color. Hire young people who fit that bill out of college, especially HBCUS. Making brands understand that we are the sauce is super important. “

As Petty and our community know, when you meet black people the right way, you get the best results. “The best advertising doesn’t look like advertising,” Petty explains. “I want the ads we run to affect group chats, DMs, hair salons, nail salons. I want people to see Wieden + Kennedy not just as an advertising store, but as a diverse company that fully understands the culture.

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