Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Essay 1099

CLARIFICATION: Our editorial “The Ad Industry Diversity Hiring Controversy” was intended to convey that the laudable -- and indeed necessary -- goal of increasing agency diversity cannot be accomplished by agencies inking agreements that have unrealistic or unachievable hiring goals forced by political grandstanding. The line that the Human Rights Commission is “asking the industry to lower its standards” has been misread by some to have an alternative meaning. In actuality, it was meant to indicate that if agencies -- to satisfy the HRC or any other governmental body -- hire candidates based on ethnicity alone rather than suitability for the post at hand, it does a disservice to all parties. (AdAge attached this clarification to the editorial presented in Essay 1094.)

CLARIFICATION REBUTTAL: AdAge deserves some credit for attempting to record and comment on Madison Avenue’s diversity dilemmas. At the same time, the iconic magazine ultimately exposes a root cause of the global problem: Cultural Cluelessness.

This leading publication reporting on the advertising industry also reflects the ignorance, arrogance and biased behavior so prevalent in our ranks. Are AdAge’s writers and editors racists? Probably not. Are they insensitive and unfamiliar with non-White cultures? Based on the recent work — including the clumsy columns by Bob Garfield — the answer is a resounding yes.

AdAge believes its words have been misread. But folks in the know absolutely understand the meanings behind the copy.

AdAge revealed our industry has ignored the investigations and recommendations of the Human Rights Commission since at least 1978. Talk about political grandstanding.

AdAge proclaims the agreements have “unrealistic or unachievable hiring goals.” Says who? Advertising agencies routinely deal with complex contracts for everything from production budgets to celebrity endorsements to legal disclaimers. Have the top shops in New York knowingly signed pacts with impossible requirements? Of course not. The company lawyers would never have allowed it.

“…Asking the industry to lower its standards” is nothing short of insulting. For starters, the industry doesn’t have standards. Agency managers with hiring authority regularly hand jobs to kin, close pals, neighbors, client relatives and more. People land positions in our business by lying, cheating and even performing sex acts. The only mandate that’s been consistently upheld is the refusal to employ minorities.

If AdAge needs proof that the initiatives can succeed, simply consider professional sports. When minorities are provided opportunities to participate and lead as managers, they inevitably match and exceed the abilities of White counterparts. The same scenario has played out in every other professional field. There’s no reason to think the outcome will be different in the advertising industry.

AdAge would be hard-pressed to prove anyone has been instructed to “hire candidates based on ethnicity alone rather than suitability for the post at hand.” Patricia Gatling and the commission members have been quite clear in demanding agencies hire qualified minority candidates. Anything less is unacceptable.

In the end, AdAge’s stupid writing does a disservice to all parties.


Carmen Van Kerckhove said...

Hey there, I co-host a podcast called Addicted to Race, and I'd like to do a segment about this investigation on the advertising industry. I'm going to be interviewing Matthew Creamer from Ad Age later this week, but would love to also interview someone from this blog to get your perspective. You guys have been doing a great job critiquing this stuff. You can find the podcast at www.addictedtorace.com. If you're interested, could you please email me at carmenATnewdemographicDOTcom? Thanks!

HighJive said...

Hello, Carmen.

Thanks for the invite to discuss the ad industry’s diversity dilemmas. Unfortunately, remaining anonymous prohibits participating in such a public forum.

Nonetheless, we’ll continue to watch your efforts. Plus, many thanks for visiting the blog and mentioning it at mixedmediawatch.com.