Sunday, December 02, 2007

Essay 4782

The November 19 issue of Adweek featured a special insert saluting O. Burtch Drake and the AAAA. Presented here are the standard suck-up advertisements, replete with the expected AAAA and O wordplays. McCann Worldgroup’s headline—with its AARP retirement gag—is particularly noteworthy, as that agency may still be facing a discrimination lawsuit from a former employee charging the company with ageism. In the obligatory farewell interview, Drake delivered his pat answer regarding diversity:

“DRAKE: I’m also very proud of our diversity efforts. I don’t think the AAAA has ever gotten the recognition it deserves for the work we’ve done in the diversity area. And that’s not just for our Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, which is huge and has a tremendous track record of attracting young ethnically and racially diverse kids to the business and then getting them jobs in the agency business, but also for our Operation Jump Start program, which has raised $2.5 million for scholarships at portfolio schools across the country. Diversity is a very hot area, obviously, and I think the AAAA is the one trade association that actually puts money behind its efforts. When all is said and done, nothing beats hard cash to allow these kids to go to the schools they need to attend to get the training to get a job, particularly on the creative side of the business.”

Well, there are a few things to consider with Drake’s debatable perspective. While MAIP and Operation Jump Start are noble and necessary efforts, exclusively spotlighting the programs also says a lot about the industry’s alleged progress. For starters, as MultiCultClassics has pointed out in the past, the young people entering the workforce come from the most diverse generation in history. Plus, an increasingly global society introduces foreign players too. So it’s only natural that we’ll see more variety in the coming years. Attracting these broader kid groups will be easier too. What Drake and others continue to ignore is the reality that our industry has failed in recruitment initiatives with at least two previous generations. There is a gaping (White) hole in the mid- and senior-level ranks that no one seems to be addressing. It’s the issue that inspired New York City’s Commission on Human Rights to go after Madison Avenue. Yet again. As MultiCultClassics has also pointed out in the past, diversity may not truly flourish until the Baby Boomers have left the scene. Perhaps Drake’s departure is indeed an indicator of better days ahead. Anyway, for the man called “WASP-o-matic” and “a Long Island yachtsman” by peers in the Adweek special insert, we enthusiastically unveil the tribute below.

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