Thursday, September 25, 2008

5982: Did Anyone Listen At The Mad Ave Hearing?


While he’s never been known for championing diversity, Woody Allen made a famous statement that applies to Tuesday’s hearing with Madison Avenue honchos and the New York City Civil Rights Committee: 80 percent of success is showing up. Granted, the advertising industry is still well over 80 percent White, but it’s a start.

In 2006, New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook blasted agencies for completely ignoring a meeting to discuss the issues. Ad Age editor Ken Wheaton did likewise when shops opted to skip a July powwow with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights. Seems the third time’s the charm, as Tuesday’s attendees included 4As President-CEO Nancy Hill.

What a difference a reporter and editor can make as well. Last April, Advertising Age wrote about the first-year results of the agencies that signed diversity pacts with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, and the story’s headline read: Agencies Chase Rainbow, but Diversity Progress Still Cloudy. The latest Ad Age story essentially delivered the same stats, but the headline read: Ad Agencies Making Progress on Hiring Minorities, After All.

So what the hell actually happened in New York this week? No idea. But here’s some commentary anyway.

While Commissioner Patricia Gatling repeated the numbers revealed this spring, the reality of the situation remains unclear. Remember, the agencies were allowed to set their own goals, like convicted criminals selecting a sentence—or chickens choosing which feathers to pluck from their asses. Additionally, no one has ever defined what constitutes a minority. It would be nice to see faces attached to the figures.

Gatling also announced the failing agencies have hired consultants to help them get their acts together. Um, Omnicom originally created the Diversity Development Advisory Committee, and the holding company wound up doing the worst of all participants. Somebody needs to offer consultation to improve their ability to find consultants.

Omnicom lawyer Weldon H. Latham claimed CEO John Wren has demanded his shops must come into compliance by the end of the year. Hell, Wren hasn’t yet responded to Bob Garfield’s request that Omnicom cease producing homophobic commercials.

Can someone please explain the inconsistency between agencies? If so many have gone from Jim Crow to Jim Dandy, shouldn’t they conspire to draft best practices? Let’s share trade secrets, gang!

OK, give credit to Hill and others for making the cab ride to City Hall. And kudos to Seabrook for continuing to tighten the screws. But instruct everybody to pick up Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. This 21st century drama is a carbon copy of 1970. Except with fewer afros.

1 comment:

Tom Messner said...

WOODY ALLEN also had a line a long time ago that he had been hired by an ad agency to sit at a desk and look Jewish.