Alicia Roberts opens doors for BIPOC at Cossette

The producer is playing an influential role from outside and inside the agency.

By Wendy Kan

seated_CLIPThis story was originally published in the 2022 Spring issue of strategy magazine.

Alicia Roberts is proving to be a powerful force for Cossette, the ad industry, as well as the community of Black creatives in Toronto.

In her role as a producer at Cossette, she helps fulfil the agency’s ambition to hire more BIPOC talent on both sides of the camera. Since joining the shop just over a year ago, 85% of all non-agency crew and talent on Robert’s productions have been BIPOC. She’s also recruited BIPOC creatives to join the agency, and she’s mentored three recruits from Cossette’s summer internship program, established for Black students and early career professionals.

“I understand the importance of my representation as a Black producer and I understand the barriers young BIPOC creatives might face,” says Roberts. “If I know an aspiring director who is still getting set experience, I can bring them in as support in some capacity. I’m intentional on social media, keeping track of projects in my network and of creatives in the city. I’m being mindful and circulating them when I can.”

One of her greatest accomplishments at Cossette was achieving 98% Black representation (with the exception of the agency’s creatives) as part of a campaign for TD. The video highlighted how the bank is helping to fund Black businesses and organizations – featuring an interview with the founder of Black Moms Connection, a global online community and non-profit in Toronto, as well as a participant who benefitted from the program. Behind the camera, Roberts brought in a Black director, his director of photography and built a crew from there.

Roberts relishes opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the industry. She is a member of the EDI committee for Plus Company (Cossette’s parent co.) and a project lead for BERG (Plus’s Black Employee Resource Group). In that role, she led its Black History Month programming, producing three events: a speaker series on the Black experience at a communications agency; a Black film party: and a discussion for Black employees only, which allowed them to get to know each other in a safe space.

Outside of the agency, Roberts is passionate about supporting others, developing her skillset and making a meaningful impact within the Black creative community. Her recent freelance work includes acting as assistant director for a Black History Month video on Black female athletes and their hair journey, produced by youth-focused company YUTE Studio and Sportsnet.

She has also spoken on panels at Guelph University and OCAD on topics from her career journey and entrepreneurship to Afrofuturism and Black liberation. And she tends to Jaded Cultur, a wellness blog and community for BIPOC creatives and entrepreneurs, which she launched in March last year.

Roberts’ personal interests and work fuel each other. Her passion for wellness reminds her to incorporate mindfulness into the “hustle” culture of agency life, and her freelance producer work keeps her tapped into the city’s community and bring in fresh talent. Working at Cossette also allows her to apply her professionally-honed skills to personal projects with a social lens. With this “holistic ecosystem,” Roberts feels enabled to play a part in shifting culture.

“I want to be a key player and influencer at the agency, but also in the industry, to open doors for Black and BIPOC creatives and producers and for anyone who wants to be in this space.”