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Valencia Gayles has succeeded in ad campaigns by staying true to herself and true to transcultural communities. “To some degree, we’re showing marketers that we’re similar, but we’re different,” says Gayles, newly named CEO of The True Agency, a creative advertising agency headquartered in Los Angeles.
Gayles, 41, moved into the top role in January. “I’m most looking forward to continuing to grow the business,” she says. True Agency’s list of clients includes Nissan, Infiniti, AARP, Countrywide, and Hilton Hotels.
“Valencia has a tremendous amount of experience. She’s one of the most senior African American females in the industry,” says Richard Wayner, True Agency co-founder. Gayles’ CEO appointment “probably makes her one of two or three African American females leading a major multimillion-dollar ad agency,” Wayner says. “Our vision has been from Day 1 all about trans cultures” and “going beyond previous boundaries.”
Gayles joined True Agency in 2002. She has served as chief operating officer and most recently held the title of president. She had a hand in several popular ad campaigns, including the “Infiniti In Black” campaign. “In Black” featured five top black artists in the first ever prime-time commercial-free branded program on BET. The artists noted distinct characteristics of their art form that also mirrored key features of Infiniti models.
“It spoke to their beliefs and creative philosophies and tied into the cars,” she says.
The campaign was also an important milestone for Infiniti owner Nissan. “Infiniti had never spoken to African Americans directly. We started the dialogue,” Gayles says. “[The campaign] really needed to highlight that Infiniti respected us as consumers.”
Successful transcultural campaigns, she says, connect with people on all levels regardless of color. “It’s not just about ethnicity,” Gayles says. “It’s about lifestyle and culture.”
Still, Gayles maintains that the changing African American television marketing landscape has its challenges.
“It’s getting harder and harder to keep African American marketing top of mind,” she says. “In 1997, there were 20-some odd shows with African Americans in leads. Now, there are three.”