Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Special Delivery: letters published in the July 3rd issue of Advertising Age…
Attracting minorities not new challenge
Re: “Still so white; still no one really wants to discuss it.” (AA, June 19). There was a time when lots of people in the ad business discussed the dearth of blacks in this business. It was mid 1960s in Chicago when I came up with the idea of a 14-week Basic Ad Course sponsored by the 4As. Its objective: Teach blacks who want to be in the ad business enough for them to qualify for entry-level positions.
With help from such people as Vernon Friburger at the Medill School of Journalism, Tom Burrell at Needham, Bob Edens at JWT, M. Carlson Johnson at McCann, Bob Ross at Burnett, Don Richards, Frank Mingo at Mingo Jones, Bill Ross and many more, we managed to get more blacks hired as professionals in ad agencies than at any other time in the history of the business.
We did a lot of things that worked. For example, blacks had to prove to screeners that they desired to work in the ad business in order to be considered for inclusion in the course. The luminaries in the business served as teachers. Before classes began, a dozen or so agencies agreed to interview graduates and consider them for professional positions. It was a tough 14 weeks for which few applicants were accepted and few graduated.
The ad business is a great business. It is one of the most important businesses in the world — not only because it is the cornerstone of our capitalistic economic system, but there are enormous opportunities for people who work in ad agencies to realize a lot of life’s greatest benefits. And, while entry salaries are low, the really talented people make a lot of money.
One last thing: The ad business, when compared to other industries, is quite small. While some conditions may keep a lot of minorities from applying, it’s hard to get non-minorities to want to work in this business, too.
Professor of Advertising
Goizueta Business School
Activists, government and the ad industry are blaming and targeting the wrong industry for advertising’s lack of minority employees.
The Association of Black-Owned Advertising Agencies’ (ABAA) position is that the real culprit is corporate America, which refuses to practice diversity in the soliciting and awarding of general-market advertising and public relations contracts to independently owned African-American, Latino and Asian marketing companies. Can you name more than two of the top 100 advertisers that have agencies of color as their general-market agencies?
The effects of fairness in the awarding of general-market contracts should be obvious. Increased revenue and staff needs would lead us to aggressively recruit, train and develop candidates. That means more college students would choose advertising and public-relations majors because they would see improved career opportunities in those industries. With a larger applicant pool for all agencies, workplace diversity would ultimately increase.
So, if federal and local governments, activists and the ad industry truly desire staff diversity, they should push for contract diversity.
Robert J. Dale
R.J. Dale Advertising & Public Relations