Monday, September 08, 2008
5926: Madison Avenue And The Color Line—6. History Repeats Itself Again And Again.
A New York advertising agency executive declared, “My belief in giving [Blacks] the business opportunities to which they are entitled is not a matter of ‘tolerance.’ It’s just a better way to do business. It gives you that many more people from which you can choose the best. Send me applicants for jobs and I’ll judge them side by side with applicants of any other color, on their merits.”
The executive also conducted a study to determine the number of Blacks in advertising. Within 10 New York shops comprised of 20,000 total employees, only 21 workers were Black—of which 11 were mailroom attendants, receptionists or janitors.
In response to the findings, industry organizations established a placement service to recruit qualified Black candidates. A training program was set up to help folks gain experience, along with initiatives to hype advertising as a viable career.
When did these events take place?
In the 1940s and early 1950s.
The scenario repeated in 1963, when the Urban League of Greater New York polled the top 10 Madison Avenue agencies—J. Walter Thompson, McCann-Erickson, Young & Rubicam, BBDO, Ted Bates, FCB, Benton & Bowles, Compton Advertising, Grey and Kenyon and Eckhardt—and discovered fewer than 25 Blacks in leadership roles amid 25,000 employees. This time, the 4As disputed the findings, arguing the industry actually had up to 100 Black employees. But the organization later confessed including mailroom attendants, maids and janitors, ultimately confirming the accuracy of the Urban League’s figures.
Oh, and similar actions happened in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 21st century too.
Read all about it and a whole lot more historical reruns in the third chapter of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. If you hope to understand what’s going on now, study what took place back in the day. There’s no time like the present to buy the book. Or if you’re a lazy cheapskate, Chapter 3 can be acquired online for FREE right here.
This is the seventh installment of MultiCultClassics’ running review of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. See the previous posts here, here, here, here, here and here.