Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Adweek.com published a fluff piece titled, “Investing in Talent Is as Vital as Ever,” detailing the efforts of Madison Avenue shops to recruit and retain employees via training programs. Of course, there’s zero mention of diversity in the story. Reading between the lines of the first two paragraphs reveals a lot:
In response to massive changes in the ways by which marketers reach consumers, as well as the ongoing cry from chief marketing officers for better integration, some agencies are revamping their training programs. In some cases, the new courses involve tackling actual client briefs.
Agency leaders say the changes are key to attracting and retaining prime talent. And although some shops are cutting staff and other expenses this year amid client spending shifts and declines, a look at a random sample of seven agencies from four holding companies revealed that most are increasing their investments in training. WPP Group’s Grey, for example, spent more than $3 million on global and local efforts last year.
First of all, “the ongoing cry from chief marketing officers for better integration” is a bunch of bullshit. Most CMOs continue to distribute the budgets—and the work—across multiple, unrelated agencies. The clients hold the integration levers, not the adfolks.
But more importantly, Madison Avenue shops have done about as well with professional integration as cultural integration. That is, they completely suck at it. The silos and barriers keeping the industry predominately White are remarkably similar to the silos and barriers keeping the industry professionally segregated—and both sets are fueled by arrogance and ignorance.
Also disturbing are the Madison Avenue executives who constantly whine about an alleged lack of qualified minority candidates whenever the issue of diversity arises. Does this story not clearly admit that even the majority of people currently inhabiting agencies are no longer qualified to meet the demands of a new world? Fortunately, Madison Avenue has a history of taking care of its own. The unqualified White folks will receive extra schooling to keep them ahead of the unqualified minorities.
Finally, it’s worth noting that one of the biggest proponents for training is Omnicom. Let’s hope they fare better in their tutorial programs than their diversity programs. Then again, let’s not.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Losing one’s appetite with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Applebee’s is facing a federal lawsuit for its allegedly misleading menu. The restaurant chain has been featuring Weight Watchers-endorsed items since 2004, posting the calorie counts, Weight Watchers “points” and more. However, it turns out the details were wrong. That is, the meals were anything but healthy. “They found in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t even close,” said a lawyer involved in the class-action suit. “People go into places like Applebee’s for the healthy menu, and a lot of people go specifically because they have that option.” Well, it’s sure not because of the lame musicians who used to appear in the advertising.
• Cadbury ordered a recall of its Chinese-made products, with some people fearing a connection to the recent tainted milk scandal that affected over 54,000 children. Meanwhile, Mars and Kraft are checking into Indonesian claims that high traces of melamine, the chemical behind the milk problem, were found in Oreos, Snickers and M&Ms. And folks fret over nutcases deliberately tainting Halloween treats…?
• Circuit City announced its 2Q loss widened. Which probably means you can soon pick up wide-screen TVs cheap when the retailer goes belly up.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Minorities make few gains in top corporate positions here since ‘05: report
By Francine Knowles
Little progress has been made in increasing the ranks of minorities in the top leadership positions at Chicago’s biggest companies, according to a biennial report from Chicago United. If strategic changes aren’t made, it could take another 89 years before minorities achieve parity, the report said.
“Such slow progress would be unacceptable in any other area of business,” said Chicago United President Gloria Castillo. “Diversity and inclusion, key business imperatives … should be no different.”
The report found minorities held 13 percent of board positions in 2007 at 21 large Chicago area companies, unchanged from 2005. Among chairmen and chief executive officers, minorities held 14 percent of those positions last year, down from 15 percent.
The report found increases at the vice president level and stronger representation among director and senior managers, improving the pipeline.
To speed progress, more companies need to link diversity to compensation at the highest levels of the company and beyond, Castillo said.
“You need to also engage middle management through training, tools and scorecards, so that diversity goals are achieved throughout the organization,” she said.
Companies need to focus on recruitment and retention, she said. She noted the turnover for minority executives is 5 percent higher than it is for non-minority executives. To retain top minority talent, companies need to develop retention programs that identify top talent and place them in rotational assignments that show them a clear career path and also build strength across the organization, Castillo said.
“If you know that you’ve been identified as someone who is in line for critical rotational assignments, you understand that your career has real potential within an organization” and are more likely to stay with that company, she said.
The business case for diversity includes greater business opportunity and global competitiveness, Chicago United said. It cited a Hedrick & Struggles report that looked at the 20 Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentage of blacks on their boards. Fourteen outperformed the S&P 500 over the last five years, the report said.
AMC series Mad Men continued its schizophrenic depictions of Blacks.
This week, the elevator operator returned. Both Don Draper and Peggy Olson acknowledged the man—Don actually called him by name—and even had a cordial conversation with him.
Meanwhile, Carla, the Draper’s housekeeper, consoled a despondent Betty as if they were close friends. Carla revealed she’d been married for almost 20 years and offered sage, insightful advice.
Why does this program take a politically-correct position with Blacks, yet trash everyone else?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Weekend tidbits in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• A study showed that American workers spend about 25 percent of the workday goofing off via the Web. And probably another 25 percent using the Web to find a new job.
• American Greetings 2Q profits dropped 75 percent. Maybe the company should introduce a line of sympathy cards for failing businesses.
• A key witness in the O.J. Simpson trial testified that Simpson told him to bring a gun to the infamous hotel room showdown. Maybe O.J. will claim he was seeking to trade memorabilia for firearms.
Creative Circle continues to present peculiar messages. This actual job listing appears to have a potentially illegal request, announcing the employer is seeking an Echo Boomer. Is it blatant ageism, or does Creative Circle realize veteran creatives won’t accept $25-$35 per hour?
Location: City of Chicago
Estimated Duration: Ongoing
Starts: Within a Couple Weeks
Rate: Between $25-$35/hour DOE
Our client is an integrated marketing communications agency.
They are seeking a freelance Copywriter with who is highly immersed in technology and the technology scene and social networking—an Echo Boomer.
Looking for someone that might have their own blog and be heavily into blogging.
Will be working on a variety of projects to include both long and short form copy, but mainly short form ad-type copy. Will be writing ads, banners, web copy, etc.
Has the ability to conduct interviews with case studies candidates.
Must have at least 2-3 years of experience.
MultiCultClassics didn’t follow the Olympics in Beijing, and therefore missed the notable advertising for Cream of Wheat. Quaker revamped Aunt Jemima and Masterfoods restyled Uncle Ben, so it makes sense to feature the iconic Rastus again too. Adweek reported Cream of Wheat parent company B&G Foods has even more Olympian commercials in the can. The company’s evp of marketing said, “The Olympics have all the family values and positive equities we want associated with our brand.” Um, right. So why not depict a Black athlete teaming up with Rastus? Actually, this spot looks like it was written and produced when Rastus was a young man.
Craig Brimm of Culture Advertising Design—or Culture A.D.—in Atlanta has launched a blog featuring Black-related advertising and design. The hype reads, “This is an attempt to inspire and inform practitioners of multicultural advertising and graphic design.” Check out Kiss My Black Ads today.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Depositing the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Washington Mutual was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co., making WaMu the biggest bank to fail in the nation’s history. “For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks,” said the FDIC Chairman. “For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition. There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual come Friday morning.” Whoo Hoo!
• HSBC Holding PLC, Europe’s biggest bank by market value, announced plans to cut 1,100 jobs worldwide. “We’ve taken the action because of the current market conditions, the economic environment and our cautious outlook of 2009,” said an HSBC spokesman. So that’s one less potential employer for any WaMu workers about to get axed.
WPP media network Mindshare has a new logo and semi-new name. The former MindShare decided to go with a lower-case ‘s’ and fresh graphic. “The logo has longevity, simplicity and flexibility—it’s future-proof,” said Mindshare’s marketing director. “And it’s purple. We’re always going to be purple people.” Although the overwhelming majority of them are probably White.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
NYC Council to FCC: Probe Arbitron
By Jackie Madrigal, Radio and Records
NEW YORK As expected, the New York City Council voted unanimously yesterday to call on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the Arbitron portable people meter’s potential effects on the diversity of radio.
The Spanish Radio Association -- formed by Hispanic radio groups Univision Radio, Spanish Broadcasting System, Entravision Communications and Border Media Partners -- said the measure “should serve as a wake-up call for local governments and minority communities around the nation.”
In response to the NYC Council measure, the SRA issued the following statement:
“Arbitron’s flawed PPM ratings methodology will severely harm media diversity and ultimately limit the variety of voices and viewpoints on the country’s radio airwaves. It is a real threat not only to minority communities, but it could also have a devastating impact on local economies and needs to be taken seriously. The PPM ratings methodology should not be rolled out until all concerns are effectively addressed.
“Several members of the Spanish Radio Association have a long-standing presence in New York City, working tirelessly as a vibrant extension of the minority communities they serve, and as a strong part of the economic fabric of the communities they serve by creating jobs, paying taxes and supporting small and minority-owned businesses that rely on our airwaves to reach the community. Urban and ethnic stations not only provide vital news and information, they also provide a lifeline for their communities by helping to organize, promote and service a wide range of local civic campaigns and programs. The importance of Spanish-language and urban radio stations in New York and around the nation is immeasurable, and Arbitron’s unaccredited methodology produces unreliable and inaccurate measurement data that will destroy years of progress diversifying radio. Unfortunately, Arbitron is a monopoly, and even though the SRA has invested time and effort to help Arbitron develop a system that will provide reliable rating data, their lack of understanding of minority communities combined with their lack of commitment to these communities has resulted in our recommendations being ignored.
“We commend the New York City Council for working to protect and ensure ethnically and racially diverse radio programming as it continues to thrive in a city of more than 4.6 million minorities.”
Arbitron released the following statement in response to the resolution passed by the New York City Council:
“We are disappointed by the council’s failure to recognize: that broadcasters, agencies and advertisers in New York and other major markets have made it clear that PPM is critical if radio is to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging media marketplace; the quality of the PPM samples in terms of African-American, Hispanic and Spanish-dominant representation; the continuing dialogue Arbitron maintains with urban and Hispanic broadcasters and agencies; and the outreach we are making to highlight the value of African-American and Hispanic consumers in the PPM world.
“While Arbitron does not believe that the FCC has jurisdiction over our company, we are willing to continue our voluntary meetings with the FCC and other government officials. Arbitron’s role as an independent research company is to provide stations and advertisers with information that is based on the actual behavior of radio audiences. That is what PPM delivers today.”
Selling out in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The New York Post reported 2Q U.S. ad spending dropped 3.7 percent. Which is just slightly higher than the percentage of Blacks in managerial positions.
• Anybody wanna buy a Hummer cheap? General Motors is putting the brand up for sale. “We believe that we can monetize certain assets without impacting the strategic direction of the company,” said the company’s treasurer. Sounds like corporate speak for “We’re screwed.”
• Hanesbrands is closing 9 plants worldwide and cutting 8,100 jobs. Hope the axed employees include Charlie Sheen and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
• California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law prohibiting people from sending or receiving text messages while driving. Schwarzenegger declared, “Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians.” Right. It just means Californians will have their hands free for cell phones, coffee cups, makeup, electric razors and handguns.
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.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tired news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Two pilots were spanked and fired for sleeping during a Hawaiian Go airlines flight with 40 passengers on board. The two failed to respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers for about 17 minutes, and even flew past the arriving airport. No word if the pilots were charged a fee for the extra bags under their eyes.
• Linens ’n Things appears closer to falling asleep forever, as its chief financial officer left the failing company after a 20-year stint. Guess he’s moving on to better ’n Things.
• Don’t sleep on this. The 2008 ADCOLOR® Award winners have been named, with Russell Simmons nabbing the All Star trophy. Congratulations to the honorees.
The epilogue of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers seeks to wrap things up, yet indicates the story is far from over. The section sprints through the 1980s and 1990s, and reintroduces present day players like the New York City Commission on Human Rights. It’s probable that Chambers will ultimately gather enough material for a sequel.
Also worth mentioning are the 30+ pages of notes. As stated in previous posts, the author did his homework. Chambers’ thoroughness and ability to connect the events to a bigger picture ranks him alongside advertising writers including Randall Rothenberg and Warren Berger. The book really is an unprecedented collection of information.
On Tuesday, Madison Avenue executives gathered for a hearing in New York, with industry honchos offering testimony on the state of diversity. Commissioner Patricia Gatling said she was “cautiously optimistic” over the possibilities for change. Let’s hope everyone involved has picked up a copy of Madison Avenue and the Color Line. Reading it could significantly accelerate the progress.
This is the final installment of MultiCultClassics’ running review of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. See the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Mad Ave’s Other Diversity Problem
Commercial Closet Calls on Agencies to Eliminate LGBT Stereotypes in Ads
By Andrew Hampp
NEW YORK -- Race isn’t the only diversity issue causing a stir in the ad industry. A letter being distributed to agency heads this week is calling out Madison Avenue for its stereotypical portrayal of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The letter was drafted by Michael Wilke, executive director of Commercial Closet Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to educate the ad industry on the preferred ways to incorporate or refer to the LGBT community in advertising. The letter’s signers range from New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to Nancy Hill, CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
In the letter, the participants ask the ad industry to “re-examine any lingering conventional wisdom that LGBT stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia are considered successful approaches to selling products by actually testing it with general audiences.”
In an interview, Mr. Wilke said the call to action wasn’t prompted by any particular incident or LGBT-insensitive campaign but rather a “critical mass of things that have been followed by the media that are showing a greater awareness and the potential for change. I guess you could say I was looking to create momentum on those things.”
Mr. Wilke cited recent ads from Nike and Snickers that were considered homophobic as part of that critical mass, adding, however, that the marketers’ responses to those spots showed signs of limited progress. “More often than in the past, advertisers are taking [insensitive ads] down quickly when they realize they’re not being well-received -- and not usually with an actual apology, just acknowledging things are not going well.”
Occasionally, corporations will make good on advertising that’s seen as homophobic by creating gay-inclusive ads, such as the “Lipstick” spot T-Mobile aired in 2005 as a response to its 2003 “Basketball” commercial, which was viewed as saying insufficient masculinity was socially unacceptable. But such corporate turnarounds are still rare, Mr. Wilke said.
Some agencies also are starting to get more organized in their LGBT efforts. Three years ago, Havas’ Arnold Worldwide established AMEN, the Arnold Multlicultural Employee Network, to create more awareness around diversity. Earlier this summer, the agency added ARC, the Arnold Rainbow Coalition, to “see some similarities between both of our fights,” said Tiffany R. Warren, AMEN’s director, referring to race and gender. “Generally when diversity is talked about, it really begins and ends with ethnicity. … Hopefully this will be a sounding call to the industry to look at this issue seriously.” Ms. Warren is also Arnold Worldwide VP-director of multicultural programs and community outreach and a contributor to Ad Age’s Big Tent blog.
Katie Kelly, an associate broadcast producer for Arnold and the New York chair of ARC, said, “Brands are already asking: ‘How can we start incorporating LGBT issues into our campaigns?’”
Mr. Wilke said he hopes the letter will create awareness of Commercial Closet as well as its signatories’ assistance in bringing sensitivities to light. “We want to increase attention to both positive as well as problematic representations. The more attention given to them, the quicker responses we’ll see by those companies.”
The letter’s signatories include New York Sen. Thomas Duane; New York State Assembly members Deborah Glick; Daniel O’Donnell and Micah Kellner; New York City Council member Rosie Mendez; Michael McLaren, U.S. president of McCann Erickson; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; New York City Comptroller William Thompson; and Tony Wright, CEO of Lowe Worldwide.
Ad Agencies Making Progress on Hiring Minorities, After All
Human Rights Commission: Most Met or Exceeded Pact Goals
By Rupal Parekh
NEW YORK -- Many people aren’t satisfied with Madison Avenue’s progress on the diversity front, but Patricia Gatling, head of the New York City Human Rights Commission, today said she is “cautiously optimistic” that ad agencies will ramp up the numbers of minority executives in their ranks.
Ms. Gatling was speaking at a public hearing at City Hall called by New York City Councilman and Civil Rights Committee Chairman Larry B. Seabrook. The goal of the hearing was to discuss the progress (and lack thereof, in some cases) of the agencies that two years ago signed a pact to boost minority hiring and set individual goals.
As part of her testimony, Ms. Gatling reiterated statistics released this spring that found that five of the 16 ad agencies that signed on have not met all their minority-hiring goals in the first year of their diversity pact with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. However, the remaining agencies either met or exceeded all their 2007 goals.
BBDO, DDB behind
Of the shops that signed a memorandum of understanding with the commission in 2006 vowing to boost diversity, five did not meet their goals. Four of them were from the country’s biggest holding company, Omnicom Group: BBDO, DDB, Merkley & Partners and PHD. The fifth was Publicis Groupe’s Kaplan Thaler Group.
While it eventually caved and signed the pact with its competitors, Omnicom went its own way at first. It pledged more than $2 million for diversity initiatives, including the establishment of an advertising, media and marketing curriculum at the historically black Medgar Evers College.
Weldon H. Latham, a diversity counsel to Omnicom who testified at today’s hearing, said the holding company’s CEO, John Wren, has firmly communicated to those shops that they must come into compliance by the end of 2008. “We gotta make sure that those numbers get up,” Mr. Seabrook told Mr. Latham, recommending that Omnicom appoint an executive solely to monitor the agencies’ progress.
Those that failed to meet their self-created diversity goals have hired consultants to help them improve their numbers, Ms. Gatling said as part of her testimony.
Hiring up 25%
Meanwhile, the other agencies that signed the agreement have all met or exceeded their goals, said Ms. Gatling. They are: Havas’ Arnold and Euro RSCG; WPP Group’s Grey Direct and Grey Interactive, Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy & Mather; and Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Avrett Free Ginsberg, Gotham and DraftFCB (counted as two agencies because it was created out of the merger of Draft and FCB Worldwide). The average goal was 18% for minority hiring and the average result was 25%, Ms. Gatling said.
In certain cases, the agencies have raised their minority-hiring goals for 2008. For example, Ogilvy this year increased its goals 2%, and is aiming for 18% of its senior management and 35% of all staff to be of color.
The hearing garnered a far better turnout compared with those called two years ago, though agency and holding company chiefs were still absent. During Advertising Week 2006, Mr. Seabrook had called hearings decrying minority-owned media outlets’ lack of advertising, and nobody turned up. The agencies, Mr. Seabrook said at the time, “ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean.”
Reviving that metaphor today, Mr. Seabook said, “I’m putting some feathers back on you now,” as a means of commending the majority of the agencies for their progress.
In addition to an attorney for Omnicom, Interpublic Exec VP-Strategy Philippe Krakowsky and representatives for WPP also testified today about the status of their companies’ diversity initiatives, as did executives from Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi.
Saatchi was also one of two ad agencies that turned up for a public meeting called by the Human Rights Commission about the issue in July.
Representatives for Havas or Havas agencies did not testify.
Nancy Hill speaks
Also submitting testimony was Nancy Hill, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, who Mr. Seabrook commended on her presence, noting that her predecessor, O. Burtch Drake, had not shown up for hearings in the past.
There was strangely no talk of a potential threat of a class action lawsuit against the industry, but Mr. Seabrook promised to stay on top of the issue. “The commission is going to stay on your case and I’m going to stay on the commission’s case until we get it done and get it right,” Mr. Seabrook said at the conclusion of the hearing.
Coming out with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• American Idol alum Clay Aiken is revealing in People magazine that he’s gay. Wow. What next? Barack Obama will admit he’s Black. John McCain will declare he’s old. Madison Avenue will expose itself as racist.
• Circuit City CEO Philip J. Schoonover resigned. One analyst wrote, “Circuit City’s business has deteriorated dramatically over the last two years and although we do not lay the blame entirely on his shoulders, we do believe that some of Mr. Schoonover’s decisions definitely had a significantly negative impact.” Wow, that’s like declaring Clay Aiken is gay.
• Children’s book publisher Scholastic, Inc. is banning Bratz books from school book clubs and fairs, bowing to pressure from an advocacy group arguing the characters are too sexy. “When schools send these book club fliers home with children,” said the advocacy group spokesperson, “the message is that ‘We think these are fine and are good for your child.’” Heaven forbid kids might stick the fliers in their Bratz lunchboxes, Bratz backpacks or the pockets of their Bratz jeans and jackets.
“The Golden Age” is the title of the fifth chapter of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. Here Chambers spotlights the Black advertising agencies that launched in the 1960s and 1970s (including Vince Cullers Advertising, which technically opened in 1956), ultimately touching on the key characters, complexities and contradictions created by this section of the ad community.
Once again, the book shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. See the professionals who left the glass ceilings of White agencies to set up their own enterprises, often finding new barriers along the way. Hear how so many never viewed Black-targeted accounts as the endgame, but rather, the entry to general-market assignments that rarely materialized. Touch on topics like professionals’ consistent contention that specializing in minority audiences severely limited growth and profits—as well as the difficulty even minority shops experienced searching for qualified Black candidates. Taste samples of the campaigns produced by the innovative pioneers. Smell the bullshit that continues to restrict, pigeonhole and segregate minorities on Madison Avenue and beyond. In short, the chapter stimulates—and reels—the senses.
Chambers doesn’t hesitate to consider all angles, noting the contributions every player has made to the global problems and challenges. There are certainly implications for the current diversity dilemma. How will minority shops affect and be affected by the latest drama taking place in the advertising industry—will they lead or be led? The chapter serves food for thought to anyone involved with today’s efforts. And if you’re not involved, it’s high time to get started. An easy first step is buying this book.
This is the twelfth installment of MultiCultClassics’ running review of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. See the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The fifth chapter of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers featured adman Junius Edwards, who ran an advertising agency in the 1960s and 1970s. During a 1971 interview with a trade publication, Edwards remarked, “White teenagers have long regarded Negroes their own age as fashion trend setters. Fashion starts in the streets and filters up, not merely from youth to age, but from lower economic class to upper.” Now, for anyone who has ever worked in a minority shop, Edwards’ revelation is common knowledge. Indeed, most minority shops—and most minorities, for that matter—recognize the phenomenon continues today, due in great part to the influence of hip hop culture. Yet self-proclaimed futurist Marian Salzman still positions herself as the discoverer of wiggers on her website. Ironically, Salzman doesn’t recognize the trend for White folks to stumble upon something that’s been around forever and declare they invented it. Her online entry should include an asterisk and qualifier that reads: First White adwoman to belatedly notice wiggers. The futurist ought to spend more time studying the past. Hey, it will only cost about $40, which she’ll no doubt write off as a business expense.
This is the eleventh installment of MultiCultClassics’ running review of Madison Avenue and the Color Line by Jason Chambers. See the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
AdAge.com presented a fluff piece interviewing recruiters at headhunter firms and big advertising agencies, probing for insights and perspectives regarding the current job market. Not surprisingly, the +1,000-word report contained zero mentions of diversity. In fact, a few comments could actually be interpreted to mean shops are inclined to perpetuate the status quo:
“People are looking for mature, aggressive, in-command personalities. … I think when the economy suffers, they’re more concerned about stability and experienced management people who can command a presence automatically. It’s their safety net.”
Other comments hinted at new tactics, but probably weren’t directly addressing diversity:
“If we broaden our horizons, there are a lot of good people out there. We don’t put them in an old traditional role; we put them in roles that play to their strengths.”
If hearings and lawsuits move forward, someone must demand testimony from these recruiters. Granted, contrary to what the executives might think of themselves, most recruiters do not really influence hiring decisions. At big agencies, they tend to be screeners and/or supplemental human resources staffers. And lots of independent headhunters are failed pimps. The managers with hiring authority—creative directors and account directors—make the final calls.
Nonetheless, it’s imperative to discover what specific and deliberate efforts recruiters are promoting for diversity, especially in the big agencies. And more importantly, to hear how the people with hiring authority are supporting and complying with the initiatives.
Now that would be worthy of publication.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Is it ironic that AMC series Mad Men received 16 Emmy nominations—and somehow managed to nab six—but no actresses associated with the show received a single nod? Plus, were any minorities among the Mad Men winners—even the hairstylists and set designers? The one positive thing to come from the show’s Emmy victories: AMC opted against airing an original episode on Sunday.
Do-Nothing Execs Take One Step Closer to Diversity Suit
An Ad Age Editorial
We hate to say we told you so, but only two months ago in this space, we wrote the following about the lack of diversity in the advertising industry: “If agency executives don’t come to the table and start using their own sets of tools (and money) to unravel this mess, the next tool likely to be reached for will be lawyers.”
Of course, there is no lawsuit -- yet. But Cyrus Mehri, of the firm Mehri & Skalet, has commissioned his own study of the advertising industry. That study hasn’t been completed, but the preliminary findings aren’t a surprise to anyone. African-Americans account for 13% of the general population. By extrapolating from industries similar to advertising, they should account for 9.5% of the professional ranks and 7.2% of the managerial ranks. Instead they account for 5.8% of the professional ranks and a stunning 3.2% of the managerial ranks. And those figures include African-American specialty shops.
Mr. Mehri refused to comment on what exactly he planned to do with his findings, but one would have to assume that he didn’t commission this study out of idle curiosity.
“I want to be clear that our firm has commissioned this study because we do our homework before we come in with guns blazing,” he told Advertising Age, adding, “We’re serious players. … We’re going to build this up step by step. This is a world of difference compared to anything [the industry has] faced before.”
The majority of our readers may not think a lawsuit or the threat thereof will accomplish anything. But when one considers what lawsuits accomplished in the halls of Coca-Cola and Texaco and offices on Wall Street, it would have to be hubris -- or worse, absolute cluelessness -- to think that advertising agencies can somehow withstand this sort of assault.
Separately from the threat of lawsuit, the New York City Committee on Civil Rights has called a hearing this week. When a similar meeting was called two years ago, no one from the agencies showed up.
“What needs fixing isn’t the African-Americans; it’s the white guy running the agency. The leadership has to come from the top,” said Mr. Mehri.
Maybe some of those white guys could clear some time on their schedules to start leading on this issue.
Figuring it out in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• The New York Post reported the advertising industry is facing its worst slump since 2001. “No one knows the implications on corporate America of what transpired over the last week,” said chairman and CEO of MDC Partners Miles Nadal. “We still haven’t seen the bottom to all this.” Should make for a cheery time at Advertising Week in New York over the next few days. Plus, it gives executives the excuse they need to avoid Larry Seabrook. They’ll probably claim they couldn’t afford the cab fare to the hearings.
• A new poll showed one-third of White Democrats have negative feelings about Blacks, which could lead to problems for Barack Obama. Hey, has anyone ever conducted a similar poll among White advertising executives?
Can’t help but think the story above detailing General Motors’ multicultural marketing (Advertising Age, September 15, 2008) is a monster truckload of bullshit.
Less than a year ago, the automaker spun out and collided into arguably the most bizarre example of messed-up PR in recent history. It started with alleged misreporting from Advertising Age that announced GM was shifting its multicultural accounts to different shops, and even handing Black assignments to White agencies. Within days, minority media sources were criticizing the automaker. Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote a letter to GM Chairman-CEO Rich Wagoner. Rev. Al Sharpton broadcast concerns via his radio show. And consumers were organizing boycotts. GM ultimately tried to correct the alleged publishing mistakes—with GM North America Vice President Mark LaNeve granting interviews and posting online comments. Yet nothing was ever clearly resolved.
This latest piece of fluff inspires questions and contradicts earlier remarks.
In the story, General Motors appears to be boasting about its own diversity:
“We began to value the contribution of diversity to our business,” said Rod Gillum, VP-corporate responsibility and diversity, who has been at GM for 29 years. So from hiring a diverse group of engineers, designers and executives starting in the late 1960s, GM went on in 1999 to establish 10 affinity groups within the company, including African-Americans, Hispanics, women, people with disabilities, Chinese, Middle Eastern and more recently Native American.
The idea? “We need to hire people who could help us market to people like them, recruit people like them and retain people like them,” said Mr. Gillum, who also chairs the General Motors Foundation.
It’s always astonishing to see major advertisers embrace diversity while conspiring with White advertising agencies that have consistently failed to do likewise. Of course, companies like GM compensate by hiring minority agencies. But the minorities receive significantly less money. And in the end, GM perpetuates the industry’s segregation.
Regarding the scheme GM once dubbed as “a new approach to diversity marketing,” the specifics remain fuzzy. GM executive director-advertising and media operations Betsy Lazar supplied the standard corporate speak by saying, “The shift was part of a broader strategy to expand multicultural representation … aligning agencies with the retail channels.” Whatever.
GM claimed to increase its multicultural spending. However, the automaker won’t reveal the figures. In the minority world of advertising, increased funding doesn’t translate to proper funding. Plus, GM admitted to cutting its Asian-American agency—although the company insists the move “should not be construed as lack of interest in Asian-American marketing.”
It’s hard to determine how Black agencies benefited from the breakthrough strategy. When originally probed on the notion of giving Black assignments to White agencies, LaNeve declared, “…it will be an African-American agency that will get the Chevy business, and that will get the Cadillac-Saab-Hummer business.” However, the story above states, “Cadillac and Hummer moved African-American advertising to GM general-market shop Modernista…” LaNeve needs to wrangle his communications staff. Their interactions with the press are making him look like a liar.
The story above seems to indicate General Motors has essentially increased spending for Latino marketing. And increased the separate-but-unequal status of minorities in advertising. Ironically, the piece ends with a final nod to doing the proverbial right thing.
“As demographics shift, diversity becomes more and more important in getting your message out,” said GM’s Mr. Gillum. “Some people call it marketing. I call it value.”
Reading between the lines of this story, MultiCultClassics calls it business as usual.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Checking in on the news with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• News reports claim major airlines are allegedly seeking to improve customer service as they continue to boost fares and fees like second carry-on bag charges. The companies will probably impose a fee for every second positive customer service act.
• A Nevada judge dismissed the gun case against Jerry Lewis, who was packing a pistol in his luggage at a Las Vegas airport in July. Lewis claimed the gun was a gift that he had forgotten was in the luggage. Not sure what airlines would charge passengers for firearms in their second carry-on bag.
• Procter & Gamble is suing the government for $435 million, charging they were “erroneously and illegally assessed” in an IRS audit. That should make for a nice “stimulus” check.
From The New York Times…
New Mayor Takes Oath as Detroit Vows Rebirth
By Nick Bunkley
DETROIT — As workers on Friday finished restoring the Spirit of Detroit, the statue outside City Hall whose uplifting silhouette graces official business cards and letterhead, a new era began 12 floors above with the swearing in of an interim mayor who promised to remove the tarnish of his predecessor’s scandal.
In a ceremony decidedly more modest than the galas held for previous mayoral inaugurations, Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr., a former City Council president, was sworn in as Detroit’s 61st mayor, a job thrust upon him after Kwame M. Kilpatrick resigned after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.
After eight months of defiantly insisting he would be vindicated, Mr. Kilpatrick quit amid evidence that he had spent about $10 million in city funds largely to hide an extramarital affair with his chief of staff, who quickly resigned when text messages from her pager became public.
“This is that new beginning that people have been looking for,” said John M. Green, a Detroit resident who founded the Ralph Bunche Repository, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat. “Despite what everybody says about Detroit going into the drain, we’re not.”
Mr. Cockrel told an overflow crowd in the City Council auditorium that “this is our time to breathe life back into the city.” He laid out an agenda that included expanding the city’s convention center, cleaning up trash and “coming after” criminals.
“It is critical that we find closure, mend our wounds, treat our bumps and bruises and heal as a city,” he said. “It is also important that after that healing, we get back to work.”
[Read the full story here.]
Playing off its recent story about civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri, Advertising Age conducted a poll to see if ad people thought a lawsuit would work better than current efforts at solving the industry’s diversity dilemma. The final tally can be viewed above, with 57 percent voting no. The result is hardly surprising, demonstrating how Madison Avenue continues to pooh-pooh potential legal action or other intimidation tactics. Hell, ad men have been calling the bluff for over 50 years. Perhaps it’s time to make good on the threat and see what happens.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
There’s something outrageous about Adweek boasting to offer “Everything you need to reach America’s fastest-growing markets.” For starters, the publication couldn’t be more culturally clueless. The paint can imagery couldn’t be more contrived and clichéd. And the belief that all you need to address four distinct, multi-segmented audiences is a $299 catalog couldn’t be more insulting.