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January 9, 2024

I’m Restless For The Next Thing

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WAYMAKER FOUNDER Louis Carr was one of seven industry leaders named to the American Advertising Association’s prestigious 2023 Hall of Fame, in April. During a 36-year career at BET, the company’s president of media sales has overseen an accumulated $9 billion in revenues and been recognized for helping develop the multicultural market.
WayMaker Journal turned the tables on its publisher to mark the honor:
WJ: What was your reaction when you learned that you’d been named to the Hall of Fame?
LC: Overwhelmingly humbled. No one starts a job or career thinking about awards. Most people are just thinking about the check they’re going to get in the next two weeks. You don’t think about impact, you don’t think about influence, you don’t think about awards, any of that. You’re just trying to do the best job at that moment of time.
WJ: What’s been the secret to your success in developing the multicultural market?
LC: Data, insights and education. I realized early in my career that my opinion, as a Black person, wasn’t good enough to convince people of the opportunity that the marketplace presented. So, I had to gather data and insights to help them really realize the story. Also, consistency: not being willing to give up or to quit. I just thought that people who didn’t get it, it was because of a lack of diversity in their own personal lives, but also lack of understanding of why Black people do or don’t do certain things.
WJ: How has the advertising industry changed over these last three decades?
LC: I don’t know that it has changed that much, but the consumers have changed. They have become a little darker in color, with what they call “the browning of America.” Consumers say that no longer can brands stand on the sidelines on social issues: “You want to cheer me on when I’m in your aisle, buying your products, but then you want to act like you don’t know me when you know I’m being discriminated against . . . we’re not going to stand for it, because if you can’t support us, we can’t support you.”
WJ: What are the enduring principles of effective advertising?
LC: Always be open to change, to new ideas. Nothing stays the same. The futurist Alvin Toffler said the illiterate of the 21st century won’t be the people who can’t read and write. They will be the people who can’t unlearn, learn and relearn.
WJ: How have you managed to stay fresh and innovative through all your years at BET?
LC: By continuing to hire people who are different than me, people who are younger than me and people who come from related fields, but some who come from outside the industry. You have to open yourself up to understand how different people think and how they have an impact on it. As a person on my team says, “Louis is just restless,” and he is right. I’m always restless for the next thing.
WJ: What advice do you have for someone looking to pursue a career in advertising?
LC: Understand all the many facets of it because there are so many different lanes, whether that’s creative, strategy, media, sales. Understand them and then think about your strengths and how you can apply them best. And then find someone who’s been extremely successful and try to get them to mentor you. As a mentee, you can’t pick a mentor, but you can show up in a way that people want to mentor you.
WJ: What’s your personal all-time favorite ad?
LC: Probably Procter & Gamble’s “The Talk” (2017), about the talk that Black mothers have with their children when they leave home—to be careful because I want you to come back home alive. That resonated because it was a talk my mother had with me constantly: “Be careful.”
WJ: Where will you put your award?
LC: It’s in my New York office for now.
WJ: Tell us about three women who have been waymakers in your life.
LC: My grandmother, because she had so much love for me that it was obvious from as long as I can remember… from the things she would buy me to the food she would cook for me to the conversations that we would have one-on-one. I could come in at 4 a.m. and wake her and say, “Let me tell you about this…”
Then there was my mother, who I call a futurist because she saw something special in me from Day One. She would say, “You don’t realize it yet, but you’re special. You’re gonna do great things. You’re gonna have more impact than you realize.”
And my wife, Diane, for her support over my career. Most wives couldn’t hang in there that long, to allow me to travel for 200-plus nights a year and no grief… she has only been supportive and encouraging.
With BET founder Bob Johnson (left) and Scott Mills,  President and CEO, BET Media Group.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of WayMaker Journal.