Rudy Gaskins, president and chief executive officer of Push Creative, a New York design and marketing firm, says the color of his skin has little to do with his company’s achievements. “What helps to make it is that we speak the language of our clients. When we speak with creative people, they recognize that we are speaking their language and that goes beyond color,” he says.
Gaskins and business partner Joan Baker launched Push Creative seven years ago and have since worked on advertising projects for such clients as Fox News Channel, Spike TV and American Express Company. The firm develops ads for magazines, posters and billboards and collaborates on the production and filming of commercials and on all designs and creations for advertising or marketing projects.
Push Creative operates at the low financial end of an industry that rakes in millions of dollars annually. Its biggest contract to date valued just under $375,000, but the principals are determined to reach $1 million in revenues by the end of this year to give the firm enough traction to expand, Gaskin says. That may well happen, for clients have not been disappointed.
“What made it great in working with Gaskins was his flexibility to assist in shaping this promotion,” says Darrel Williams, AMEX Director of Marketing, who contracted Push Creative for a marketing campaign that featured a combined credit card with AMEX and Costco.
Hired in 2002 by Spike TV to design spots for Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, an estimated $250,000 contract, Push Creative has since collaborated with the cable network on projects totaling $330,000, and since 2004 with Fox News Channel on projects totaling $400,000.
Push Creative was born when Gaskins grew weary of the iron ceiling that kept African-Am-erican advertising and marketing professionals from reaching the corporate pinnacle. “I felt constrained by the title I had and the trajectory the title suggested and required. I was unable to do anything outside of it,” Gaskins says.
Other African-Americans have taken the same entrepreneurial route, capitalizing on Madison Avenue’s new interest in the Black market and the community’s much-touted $600 billion annual purchasing power.
Gaskins and Baker pooled their savings and obtained loans from creditors like the Actors Federal Credit Union. It was important to Gaskins to work with clients as a creative resource prepared to push beyond boundaries and take risks. “I like to be out front, outside of my comfort zone,” he says.
He takes it in stride when white clients apologize before revealing that their project is race-related, as in a Black History Month campaign or broader campaign to reach more African-American viewers. The creative process is all about solving problems and providing solutions, going from nothing to something, he says. “As an African-American I feel proud, excited and capable; proud that I’m overcoming the odds that I’d be discriminated against and my business not taken seriously and my company would be pigeon-holed to providing services for only an African-American audience,” he says.
More than being an African-American, Gaskin sees himself as an asset. “There is a sense of ‘hipness,’ of the non-traditional, or a sense of mystique that people would allow me more room to bring to the creative process. I feel proud that other African-Americans can see me, recognize something within themselves and see me as a positive influence for what is possible,” he says.