Multifaceted Creative Carol Hood Discusses Juggling Roles, Family Legacy, And Leaving Her Own Mark, newsletter 4,
To say Carol Hood juggles a lot of responsibilities would be an understatement.
She is the Digital Creative Director at Carol H. Williams Advertising, a firm launched by her mother in 1986. A graduate of the University of London, Hood, who completed a two-year fellowship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is also a freelance writer and novelist. She has published pieces in The Guardian, The Establishment, and Dame Magazine.
In 2022, Hood was named one of the 40 Under 40 by the San Francisco Business Times, and she recently wrapped up directing a promotional advertising campaign for Chevrolet, which awarded $20,000 to five Black-owned businesses.
Hood took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Black Enterprise.
BE: What does it mean for you to work in the same spaces as your mother, Carol H. Williams?
Carol Hood: It’s an honor, but honestly, tremendous pressure. When I walk into these spaces, I find that being a “nepo baby” means that many people immediately have all these negative presumptions that they project onto me. If I hold my convictions, it’s because I’m spoiled, not because I’m an expert in my field. If my team makes any small misstep, it’s not attributed to as a misstep but somehow instead that I’m lazy and don’t know the value of hard work. But I’m a Black woman, born to two overachieving Black parents from the South Side of Chicago and a saw-milling town in Southeast Texas. All I understand is the value of hard work. So, I let my product speak for itself. I’m lucky to have such a supportive sage of a mother, my biggest cheerleader. Without her, I do not know where I’d be.
BE: You described yourself as the legacy, but you have done some impressive work yourself. Can you discuss a few things you have done over the past few years?
CH: I penned and creative directed the B/AA film, radio, and out-of-home for the 2020 U.S. Census. I penned and served as the creative director in several spots for Kaiser’s Love Protects Us campaign to encourage vaccine education and safety…I was the creative director of and film-directed Stories of Survival. I did the same for the type of work with Dr. Jackie  and the National Council of Negro Women. I also creative directed and curated the debut of the National AIDS Memorial’s Change the Pattern Campaign. But as of right now, I’m probably most known for creating and running the Discover the Unexpected Fellowship (DTU) for Chevrolet.
BE: In your work with the U.S. Census, COVID work for Kaiser, and work for AIDS, what were some distinct challenges in each campaign?
CH: I want to preface this by saying that for every brand I’ve worked with, there are individuals within these places who genuinely want to see things change, but systemically, we run into the same issue. The devaluing of Black/African American and multicultural voices.
Marketing is segregated. The mass market budgets are always earmarked more than the multicultural budgets. It consistently puts us at smaller budgets with little to no media backing, and yet we are consistently expected to deliver high-quality work that must move the needle for these brands for one-third of the price and the support.
BE: You’ve recently ventured into directing videos for Chevy. What have you learned about not just directing, but what have you learned about yourself in the process?
CH: You have to believe in your vision. Be delusional about it, no kidding. Many people call directors egotistical, and I’m sure many are, but in my opinion, what is mistaken for ego is the unrelenting vigilance to convince a dozen or more people to assist in the painful process of birthing a vision that only they can see.
You can let yourself be stirred by a million opinions or pulled apart by every throat crowing about what they think is best, but when it’s time to pack up and go home, all those people get to go eat their dinners, kiss their spouses, and sleep in their beds. All that’s left is you, your editor, and hours’ worth of footage to piece the puzzle together. If the shot you needed isn’t there, then that’s it, it’s not there. It doesn’t exist. There’s no going back to get it. There’s no delete-backspace-retype. And no matter how good you make the film in the end, you’ll always have to live with knowing that something is missing. For someone like me, that’s a hole right through my heart.
BE: What does it mean to you to be able to pay it forward to other Black-owned businesses for Black Business Month?
CH: One thing I do love about Carol H. Williams Advertising’s position in the marketplace is that we work with integrity. My mother taught me that we have to be responsible with our gifts and use them to create positivity in a world that needs it.
I have a lot of brand affinity ideas written on crumpled sheets of paper left at the bottom of my backpack, just waiting for the right brand to pitch to. The Step Up Campaign happened to be one of them. There are so many Black and brown individuals doing great things to uplift their communities, and they deserve to be recognized and supported. But I couldn’t have gotten this campaign off the ground without my team. We give a lot of credit to the creator, but know there was an entire team that backed me, believed in me, and supported my vision even when I was feeling down and out.
BE: While there has been a lot of noise from some conservatives recently about ending or trying to end DEI in the workplace, what has been your experience crafting DEI or social justice campaigns for corporations like Chevy?
CH: DTU was created in 2016 because Chevrolet was looking for a way to leverage their partnership with the National Newspaper Association (NNPA). They were probably expecting us to return with some sort of traditional print campaign, but we upped the ante with a multi-level marketing/brand affinity play through a Journalism Fellowship (it has since expanded to include Marketing Fellows). They were so floored by our innovation that they bought it on the spot.
DTU was making content before the rise of content creators and when social justice was still considered some dirty hush word. In 2020, when the protests happened, and brands started to turn inward about their DEI efforts, DTU, for all intents and purposes, was already there, quietly trucking along. That’s why Carol H. Williams Advertising is, as we say, “built different.” My team has the ability to create campaigns that are sometimes so forward-thinking that it’ll take 4,5,6, heck, 10 years for the world to catch up.
BE: What has it been like working with Terrence J? As a millennial, I’m sure you remember him from the post-AJ and Free 106 and Park days at BET.
CH: Terrence J is a cordial guy and a professional through and through. We’ve been working together for two years, and I’m always floored by how quickly he can learn a new script. I’ll hand it to him like, “Do you need 15 minutes?” He’ll be like, “Nah,” glance it over and step onto his mark with this great air about him like, “You gonna call action or what?” I’m like, oop! Carol, get behind the camera, girl, rolling! But he’s always supportive, and he’s been around film so long he clearly understands and respects the creative process. In regards to 106 and Park, I’ve never discussed that with him. We are both pretty focused on the work. See our latest promo that I directed.
BE: What does it mean to you to volunteer to work with Oakland area high schools, particularly teaching them what it means to own their voices?
CH: I was a professor before this life. I go out of my way to treat students with love, regard, and respect. My job as a teacher is to guide students, but mostly, I want to empower them. I want students to leave my presence feeling loved and supported. I also want none of them to look back. Once our time is done, take what you can from me and fly. Be great. But I’m always there if they need me.
BE: As the digital creative director for Carol H. Williams, what do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?
CH: There are many accomplishments I can think of off the top of my head, but I believe my favorite was the day I learned I could direct a piece of film.
We had an incredibly small budget to do a spot for vaccine education sponsored by the Kaiser x Golden State Warriors partnership. The budget was so small we couldn’t afford a “real” director. So, I rather naively stepped in. I didn’t really know what to expect when we got to our set area, but suddenly, a picture popped into my head, and I just started to work, and by the end of the day, I was riding such a high. I knew it was a turning point for me.
Here’s the Alanis Morrisette irony of it all—it was, by all means, a failed campaign. The spots turned out beautiful but never aired because the player we worked with was traded days before we were set to launch. Yet, that failed campaign launched a whole new sect of my career. I went on to direct a spot for the same client, Stories of Survival and won the NYX Marcom Gold Award.
I will always be grateful for that “failed” experience, but also I hope that the ball player fared well in his career. He was a nice guy, and his spots were gorgeous. They would have made an impact. “Them’s the breaks,” I guess. What else is there to say except in times of retrospect, pray that you stayed gracious, grateful, and hungry. God will do the rest.