Among advertising sales leaders in the media community, none equal the tenure and credentials of Louis Carr, who for the past 35 years has served as President of Advertising Sales for BET Networks, written two best-selling books, founded an organization to advance positive masculinity, introduced more than 200 Black students to careers in advertising through the Louis Carr Internship Foundation and Waymaker Journal, and been a voice of Black leadership for the advertising and media community. Yet, he maintains his humility and passion for his work. In our wide-ranging Legends & Leaders Conversation, Louis told me when he looks at his career, he is "in amazement of it, not by what I've done, but what people have done for me and the opportunities that people have given to me."
In his mentorship efforts, Louis stresses his "Waymakers," those who helped pave the way for him at all steps of his life, most asking for nothing in return other than his commitment to advance his life and be a Waymaker for others. "There's a lot of fear among our young people, a lot of hesitation, questioning 'Can I be successful?' 'Will there be opportunities?' 'Will there be jobs?' 'Will I be able to get one?' I'm saying don't be so fearful because all you need is a Waymaker. I'm trying to bring people who had Waymakers to be Waymakers for people who need them."
To share his life and influences, Louis points to the painting over his shoulder and tells the story of his childhood as a member of the Nation of Islam. It leads to the extraordinary story of his world-record-setting high school track experience and how understanding teamwork through sports has informed his career. "It was an amazing experience for me and one that gave me a foundation of being able to work with anyone and come up with solutions that really worked for the whole," he says.
About the current state of diversity in advertising and media and brands' commitment to Black targeted media, Louis believes "It's been pretty stagnant over the years and I think it's just got to be better. As we hit headwinds, whether that is supply chain or the economy, I hope that people will say, 'Hey we've got to do something different; we've got to look elsewhere; we've got to change and mix this thing up.' We need to create different types of opportunities to [generate growth] from these consumers that not only have impact on the Black Community and Black consumers but have impact beyond their communities."
Louis believes his "purpose is to be able to create and give people opportunities that they wouldn't normally get elsewhere, and to be able to mentor them and guide them so they can live their best life and be their best self. That's what the BET brand has done, and what this company has done for the industry and for a lot of people who probably would not have been in this industry if not for the Networks."
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