Sunday, August 07, 2005

Essay 100

A MultiCultClassics Member (the new title awarded to all blog visitors) forwarded this link:

For your convenience, the article appears below, followed by the standard MultiCultClassics reaction.


Multicultural Ad Pros Are In Demand, Presenting Unique Recruiting Challenges


by Dan Goldgeier

With multicultural marketing becoming ever more prevalent, agencies are on the prowl for the best talent around. But agencies are also insistent on a level of authenticity, which can bring up delicate issues.

“In a consumer-focused business like advertising, diversity and demographic expertise matter,” said Raquel Sanabia, Multicultural Recruiter at Talent Zoo, an Atlanta-based advertising and marketing recruitment firm.

“Agencies sometimes ask me if a candidate fits the demographic of the client’s target audience when they’re looking to fill a position that involves face-to-face meetings with their clients,” Sanabia said. “Many of these requests are coming from the marketers themselves. They want the people who work on their ad account to be the consumers they’re trying to reach.”

According to Marcy Wellings, an Atlanta-based employment attorney, “Legally, an employer or staffing agency is not allowed to inquire into, or base any employment decision, on race or gender. An employer must be very careful in scheduling interviews. If a candidate thinks they were not selected because of race or gender, no matter the reason, that employer can face discrimination charges. In a society that is highly sensitive to discrimination based on race and gender, it is extremely difficult for personnel agencies to tailor searches to the requests of their employer clients.”

“Because we can not legally ask questions with regard to ethnicity, age, or gender, we often have to determine a candidate’s viability for a specific position by what they offer up on their resume,” Sanabia said.

Resumes, however, do not always give an indication of whether a candidate fits the needs of the position. For job seekers who want to emphasize their bilingual skills, their heritage, or unique understanding of an ethnic market, Sanabia said that candidates should “tip their hand” by specifying those qualities in a resume. This could involve listing certain affiliations or previous client experience. Additionally, jobseekers can use words like “urban,” which can also suggest experience with younger consumers, another in-demand niche market.

More than ever, marketers are looking for a certain level of genuine credibility. Would a roomful of clients be more attentive to an agency’s recommendations if given by someone with a similar background? In today’s fierce business climate, ad agencies and firms like Talent Zoo have to ask themselves those tough questions when recruiting ad talent.

“The clients are expecting the agencies to fully understand the nuances of the marketplace, so in turn agencies ask us to present them with those candidates,” Sanabia said. “Agencies are sometimes very specific about what they want. The bottom line is that no matter how good an agency’s research, insight or creative is, perception is everything.”

©2005 Talent Zoo Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Damn. How does one respond to this article? Well, let’s start at the top and spiral downward.

“Multicultural Ad Pros” is a disturbing term. Primarily because in this context it probably means “Minority Ad Pros.” And in the majority of cases, the emphasis is on “Minority” versus “Ad Pros.”

Agencies that are “insistent on a level of authenticity” pose huge dilemmas. Not sure which agencies are being referenced here — general market or multicultural. But when applied to general market agencies, the statement is downright scary. After all, how could thoroughly segregated, culturally clueless companies possibly recognize authenticity? More importantly, who the hell would even define authenticity in these shops? Come to think of it, when applied to multicultural agencies, the statement is downright scary too. Guess this indicates interviewers will soon be saying things like, “SeƱor Candidate, your resume is impeccable, but I’m afraid you just aren’t Hispanic enough for our goals. We were hoping for someone with an accent — or at very least, a basic knowledge of Spanglish.”

One recruiter said, “In a consumer-focused business like advertising, diversity and demographic expertise matter.” Nice sentiment. However, the business doesn’t appear to agree, given the chronic exclusivity and aversion to diversity.

If seeking employees based on race and/or gender is against the law, then it seems really odd for Raquel Sanabia to have the title of Multicultural Recruiter — unless multicultural refers to Sanabia’s personal status. And according to Sanabia’s remarks, agencies and marketers are routinely making illegal requests. Imagine that.

More outrageous are the agencies hoping “a candidate fits the demographic of the client’s target audience.” Heaven forbid these shops have similar mandates on accounts for, say, incontinence briefs. Most multicultural shops understand being the target does not automatically equate to mastery in communicating to the target. Plus, the entire notion denigrates the professionalism of multicultural endeavors, implying research and account planning are unnecessary if agency employees are minorities.

Agencies selecting a minority for face-to-face meetings with multicultural clients are pathetic. Sadly, multicultural agencies are equally guilty in this area. Good luck identifying folks whose career objective is playing a token. Shame on the clients who prefer face-to-colored face conferences too.

Marketers that want their multicultural accounts serviced by people who are also their consumers should try applying the rules to all accounts. How many general market agency staffers could meet such criteria? It’s simply a bad idea that fosters discrimination and biased behavior. What’s more, the dictate is illegal.

The resume suggestions suck. Please conduct a survey of advertising managers with hiring responsibilities at general market and multicultural shops. Bet you a month’s salary no one would recall seeing “urban” in a candidate’s resume — and no self-respecting manager would ever recommend integrating the word.

Sanabia concludes by stating, “The bottom line is that no matter how good an agency’s research, insight or creative is, perception is everything.” Wow, talk about cynical. Can’t top that zinger.

Once again, there are contradictions, complexities and deep problems inherent with multiculturalism in the advertising industry. The attitudes and actions of clients and agencies revealed above — from illogical to illegal — demonstrate the immediate need for progress.

As always, one question remains — who will lead the change?


Raquel Sanabia said...

First, let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to respond to the article regarding Multicultural Ad Pros. My name is Raquel Sanabia and yes I am the Multicultural Recruiter here at Talent Zoo, and I do not find it the least bit odd to refer to myself as such. Myself being 100%Hispanic and having experience in the ad industry does give me insight on the candidates that I am placing, however my title of Multicultural Recruiter has nothing to do with my ethnicity.

Although I would love to say we live in a utopian world, the truth is we do not. My input in this article was simply to let Multicultural Ad Pros know that what used to be seen as a disadvantage, they can now utilize as a complete advantage.

Your perception of my discounting an agency's insight, research or creative by perception is absolutely misinterpreted. What that comment is simply saying, is having perception and relativity in addition to insight, research, and creative is priceless, and therefore gives Multicultural Ad Pros one leg up.

My focusing on Multicultural Recruiting does exactly that: takes the lead in assisting talented Multicultural Ad Pros in enhancing their careers. I can honestly say that I feel I am doing my part in the world, as it exists today.

In answer to your question of who will lead the change, there is no single person who can lead; we must all lead for ourselves.

HighJive said...

Wow, that was a quick response.

Didn’t realize people were actually reading the viewpoints.

First and foremost, thank you for reading and writing. The issues involving what we do for a living need to be considered and discussed — and not just by two or three folks. So welcome to the party and bring as many friends (and enemies) as possible.

No offense intended regarding the perplexity of your title. The article stressed agencies and clients want minorities creating minority-targeted (aka multicultural) work. Many of these folks may really view your title as Minority Recruiter. Given the illegalities involved with hiring based on race, ethnicity, etc., it seemed odd that your title would be appropriate.

There are some hitches to your contention that Multicultural Ad Pros can “know that what used to be seen as a disadvantage, they can now utilize as a complete advantage.” As most minorities in the business will tell you, they’ve been denied opportunities based on things like race and gender. Yes, they may now use these characteristics to gain certain advantages, but usually in segregated capacities (according to the article). Advantage, maybe — but hardly complete.

We could also debate the complete advantages from a compensation standpoint. And more importantly, the debate could include issues of true authority, credibility, position on the corporate hierarchy and more.

Glad you cleared up your ending line. It does not read in the article as you had intended.

Not sure your answer to the final question covers everything. It’s true we must all lead. But how do we deal with the leaders who actively refuse to participate in change?

Raquel Sanabia said...

I can appreciate the points which you are making, but unfortunately you and I being the only ones involved in this "party" just goes to show that there is currently no single answer to your last question.

Best Regards,
Raquel Sanabia
Multicultural Recruiter

HighJive said...

Hey, don't be so pessimistic.

Based on the sitemeter, there are many folks joining the party. Not everyone is posting comments.

Yes, there is currently no single answer. Never will be.

The bigger concern continues to be with the leaders refusing to answer at all.

On an unrelated note, anyone reading this should make an effort to forward the site address to all your friends, neighbors and loved ones.