Long an advocate of change in the industry, her perspective and point of view is strong. Combine that with an impressive, 15-year body of work in various agencies and brands, and it’s clear that Rahaman, based in Detroit, is a unique, authentic and powerful voice.
To that end, Huge Midwest—with offices in Chicago and Detroit—tapped Rahaman as its vp of brand strategy. The move is part of a recent, wider hiring and promotions spree that sees Brian Donovan in the group vp strategy role in the same offices as Rahaman, and several other additions to Huge’s Brooklyn operations.
Blake Whirt joined as managing director of client services for Google, while Holden Bale was elevated to group vp of technology and Irina Lee moved into a group creative director role.
In a statement, Raj Singhal, Huge’s global chief operating officer, said, “Making things people love is what we stand by now more than ever, and we look forward to the continued success of our amazing team and pushing our work to new heights in this day and age.”
Adweek caught up with Rahaman to find out why she came back to the agency world under the lens of the state of diversity, equality and inclusion in the industry and more.
Adweek: Why did you return?
Deadra Rahaman: I was hired to work on a research project (for an agency) last year and realized that I missed it. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but Ranae (Heuer, president of Huge Midwest) and I have stayed in touch.
You probably had several opportunities with your experience and profile. Why did you choose Huge?
Huge connected with me before everything around social justice hit—Ranae and I were in touch long before that. I didn’t feel like they were reaching out because of the open letter to the industry this summer. There was comfort in knowing that I’m not just going to become a token hire. And I didn’t want to walk into a situation where I was the only (person of color) again. I’m tired of being the only one in the room. Being a unicorn is cool, but the appeal is the diverse teams at Huge Midwest and globally.
Some agencies are doing ok with moving forward on DEI. Others are not. What can other agencies learn from Huge?
It’s reflected at the top. [Huge COO and CFO Raj Singhal] is a person of color. That’s something that you don’t see at other agencies. I’m not seeing Black women in the C-suite. We’re more than just D&I leads. We can be CEOs, CMOs and chief strategy officers. I mentor young professionals, and they don’t see themselves in leadership. There has to be someone at the top with intention and mindfulness and not a CEO sitting there waiting on a task force to tell them what to do. I give Ranae a lot of credit. 48% of new hires are BIPOC. There’s so much gratification, looking on a screen and seeing my team being Asian American, Latinx and African American. That’s awesome. I usually don’t have that.
How do you envision this role—and marketing—evolving?
I see bringing human truth to the table. We have 16-year-olds who will be voting in 2024 and are multicultural. We’re telling brands what we want from them. Also, I think data is beautiful but needs to be brought to life and relevant, with context. So I see this heading into an area where we message personally and in culture. Culture is not a spectator sport. Brands and agencies can’t sit on the sidelines.