Monday, July 05, 2010
7756: Corporate Cultural Collusion.
Madison Avenue’s continuing struggles with diversity have inspired MultiCultClassics to coin a new phrase: Corporate Cultural Collusion.
Corporate Cultural Collusion is an increasingly common phenomenon in our industry.
Last May, Advertising Age suggested Madison Avenue adopt its own version of the Rooney Rule to ignite inclusiveness. It’s an idealistic notion, as our industry has historically been unable and unwilling to execute any self-regulating measures.
Recent events, however, have revealed a better target for implementing the Rooney Rule: advertisers. After all, clients risk greater potential losses from negative publicity. Additionally, these companies have clearly contributed to the lack of diversity on Madison Avenue by engaging in Corporate Cultural Collusion.
Forget the allegations that certain clients instruct agencies to prohibit minorities from working on their accounts. Let’s even put aside how clients perpetuate the issues by using minority agencies to satisfy supplier diversity initiatives. Today’s advertisers employ different, more effective forms of Corporate Cultural Collusion.
The most blatant examples of client-sponsored Corporate Cultural Collusion involve account assignments. In the past months, multimillion-dollar brands like Chevrolet, Cadillac, Uncle Ben’s and IHOP have been handed to White agencies without a formal review. It’s the buddy system at its finest—and an opportunity to test the Rooney Rule.
When an account is up for grabs, the RFPs should include a section on each competing agency’s diversity objectives and achievements. Presenting hard numbers and case studies to prove inclusiveness must be mandatory. Additionally, each agency ought to introduce the diverse team that will service the account. If a new account requires hiring staff, the client must instruct the winning agency to meet specific employment goals to ensure diversity happens. Finally, clients should be required to invite minority agencies to pitch—to assume lead AOR status, not multicultural second-class citizenship.
Clients are forever hyping social responsibility. Coke brags about concern for children. P&G unveiled its sustainability supplier manifesto. The list goes on. Clients also consistently recognize and salute minorities with targeted programs, as well as patronizing messages during events like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, etc. And of course, clients promote internal diversity and supplier diversity via contrived ads that only seem to run in minority publications. Yet they don’t see the contradictions and hypocrisy of conspiring with advertising agencies where exclusivity reigns.
It’s time to put advertisers on notice and force them to live up to their word versus allowing them to let Corporate Cultural Collusion thrive.