Monday, January 31, 2011
This week’s issue of Advertising Age—i.e., the one printed on paper—completely covers the confounding contradictions, corruption and crimes comprising the counter-colorblindness on Madison Avenue.
The front cover displays a corner callout for an interior spread of reports on pages 4-5 that spotlights “cross-cultural” controversies, questionable quotas and the shady NBCU-Comcast deal.
The final four pages feature a Special Advertising Section from the AAF, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Most Promising Minority Students Program. The paid propaganda hypes the rousing recruitment results of the youth-wooing effort, while the piece on page 4 appears to contradict the congratulatory hoopla. Specifically, the AAF section’s headline proclaims: “Most Promising Alumni Report Career Success.” In contrast, the Ad Age story’s headline declares: “Sorry state of diversity in advertising is not just hiring, but culture problem.”
To bring it all full circle, the magazine’s back cover promotes Toast The Agency A-List—an annual salute to the ad shops honored by the trade publication as being the best in the business. The top winner? Wieden + Kennedy, whose iconic leader openly admitted the industry’s diversity situation is “fucked up.” The gala event, incidentally, is sold out.
Not surprisingly, the various articles published this week at Advertising Age are drawing comments. The following perspectives by the always passionate and provocative Harry Webber cannot be matched or ignored. Well, actually, the White folks will likely ignore Webber.
No really. As an industry. You people are an embarrassment to the American ideal of liberty and justice for all. And you are an insult to the memory of every black or Hispanic soldier who ever shed blood or lost lives for American ideals on foreign soil.
But not just because of your narrow-minded and myopic worldview. Your arrogance in the face of a documented history of biased hiring practices and brutal, systemic racism has singled you out as an example of an under-educated culture of self-important Neanderthals that have elevated the worst of our Nations character flaws to a mean-spirited art form.
This ongoing act of white supremacy will continue as long as this industry is allowed to indulge in de facto apartheid. The truth is that this industry is not diverse for one reason and one reason alone. You people simply don’t want to work with anybody who doesn’t look like you. That’s it.
There is no conspiracy here to deprive people of their equal rights. There is a culture here that seeks to replicate the esthetic of the Third Reich. Nobody says, “Don’t hire that guy because he’s black.” It is simply “understood” that a black person is just “not the right fit” for the team.
How do you live with yourselves? How do you face the black child that comes home with your tween-aged daughter, announced as her “Best Friend For Life,” knowing her father or mother would be dismissed as a candidate for employment in your firm because of something as trivial as the pigmentation of their skin?
I have witnessed your handiwork in the broken lives of those you have robbed of any chance of a meaningful future. When Derek Walker wrote, “I love advertising, but advertising doesn’t love me,” I cried at the funeral of his life’s aspirations. When they found the great Georg Olden dead in the front seat of his gold Cadillac, his reward for a lifetime of amazing work a self-inflicted bullet to his fertile brain, a part of me went with him to Paradise. When I think of generations of gifted black and Hispanic creatives whose books got them interviews only to be told, “Have you considered Burrell?”, my heart shudders with grief. When they are left unattended to and abandoned by interviewers who simply turned on their heel when they saw the owner of the portfolio’s ethnicity, a little part of me dies with their spirit as they sit there and wait. And wait. And wait.
How can you people be so ruthless to your fellow human beings? And then pat yourselves on the back for being masters of the universe.
This article is another testament to your worth as individuals and your merit as an industry. You boast of your technical achievements, yet you embrace the mentality of red-neck sharecroppers. How do you face yourselves in the mirror?
Advertising sucks. Not because of what it does, but because of what it’s done. Pitiful.
The words that Derek posted are not my words. They are the words informed by the honor and privilege of working under the great advertising minds of our era. They are the words of Tony Isadore, Bob Elgort and Marv Lefkowitz, who taught New Yorkers to “Give A Damn.” They are the words of Jim Millman and Irv Weinberg, who allowed me to explain why Dr Pepper was the “Most Misunderstood Soft Drink In America.” These words come from working with Mike Becker, who gave the world “Earth Day” and was my partner in teaching America “I am Stuck On Band-Aid Brand.” These words come by way of Helmut Krone and Gene Case, who allowed me to say, “Thanks I Needed That.” They are inspired by Ed McCabe, who said yes when I asked him to teach the first Minority Ad Course for the 4A’s, and Jock Elliott, who put the power of the 4A’s behind the effort. These words resonate because of what I learned from Charlie Moss, Bob Wilvers, Julianna’s dad Paul Margulies, who allowed me to state the fact that “Quality Is Job 1.”
I am a product of Madison Avenue. My words have sold billions of dollars in goods and services. Not millions…billions. I have been molded by the best minds in advertising so that I could put into the words above what it means to be black in a world that would deny me the right to support my family, in spite of such a pedigree.
The programs listed in this article have existed for decades. Yet the government has determined that they have had no effect on the ranks of our industry.
At a certain point it becomes obvious that the issue is one of cultural preference. At a certain point it becomes clear that the idea of a level playing field has no place in such a culture.
After the “Great War” the Allies attempted to change the social structure of Japan, one of the world’s most segregated societies. They failed. The response of the Japanese was elegantly simple. You cannot legislate personal preference. The advertising industry is ample proof of that statement.
We cannot legislate the personal preferences of the advertising industry. Even though the law of the land demands it. Even though the President and his Attorney General could have never risen to such heights had they chosen advertising instead of public service.
I had the great privilege of working for those listed above. The credit for the words Derek posted belongs to each of them for seeing me as a talent and not just a token. But the greatest insight of all came from my very first employer, Mr. Berry Gordy Jr., when I asked him why general market radio stations flatly refused to play the music of Motown. “Why ask why? It is what it is.”
Why ask why? Advertising is what it is. The deck being stacked is what it is. Deplorable is what it is.
From The Los Angeles Times…
A civil rights hero gets his day
Fred Korematsu, a young man who refused to be hauled away during World War II because of his heritage, took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, six years after his death, a statewide holiday honors his courage.
By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Hayward, Calif.
Twenty-nine eager fifth-grade faces stare up at Ines Trinh between recess and lunch one day last week. The children have been studying stories about perseverance in the face of pain; “Give It All You’ve Got,” the lesson’s catchy theme, is printed in big letters on a poster in Room 21.
The teacher has just read her young students at Lorenzo Manor Elementary School a book called “The Bracelet.” It’s the story of Emi, a Berkeley second-grader sent to an internment camp during World War II just because she was Japanese American. New vocabulary words: “Injustice.” “Inequality.”
And finally, “resist.” Because fictional Emi’s story is followed by the true tale of Fred Korematsu, a young man who refused to be rounded up and hauled away because of his heritage. Who was arrested. Who fought the government and lost. And finally, 40 years later, who fought the government and won.
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen or felt like something was not right,” Trinh asks her students. More than a dozen hands shoot up. “Now, put your hand up if you actually did something about it.”
There are knitted brows, furtive glances and a long pause. Trinh nods, sympathetic. This is, after all, a lesson on courage, on one of history’s tragic chapters, an introduction to a brand-new hero.
And, along with it, a new holiday.
Korematsu, a Medal of Freedom recipient who died in 2005, would have turned 92 on Sunday. Instead, schools throughout the state are celebrating the first Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. Signed into law last September by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is believed to be the first statewide holiday honoring an Asian American anywhere in the country. A nascent effort is underway for a federal Korematsu Day.
At the heart of this month’s celebrations is the idea of resilience, that a great country can correct its mistakes and an ordinary man can make a difference.
Or as Trinh tells her class: “I see things sometimes that are not right, but I don’t always have the courage to do something about it. When we think about heroes, people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Fred Korematsu, these are people who actually spoke up and did something about it.”
Read the full story here.
The February 2011 issue of Black Enterprise magazine salutes Top Executives In Marketing & Advertising. According to the publication, “Our editors identify the innovators who drive sales of the world’s leading brands.”
The methodology behind the selection process included contacting the nation’s leading 100 U.S. advertisers, the top 100 global marketers, prominent White advertising agencies and Black advertising agencies. Additionally, BE editors excluded executives from nonprofit organizations, general counsels, chief diversity officers, human resources officers, corporate foundation executives and senior managers who oversee media relations, public affairs, investor relations, community development and government affairs.
The professionals chosen from advertising agencies had to hold C-suite roles like CEO, CMO or creative director and/or senior executive positions in management, sales and creative departments. Additionally, they had to oversee significant lines of businesses and make major contributions in terms of revenue and leadership.
Of the 52 stars BE found in advertising agencies, just 11 are employed at White firms. Of the 11 from White firms, 7 reside in media agencies—and at least 3 of them serve in the multicultural divisions of their respective media agencies.
In short, Black Enterprise could only identify 4 Black top executives working in White advertising agencies.
Of course, the number would have increased dramatically if the editors had allowed chief diversity officers into the mix.
Plus, with all the minority youth outreach programs out there, look for the grand total to perhaps reach double digits—within the next 2-3 generations.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
In past weeks, the traffic at MultiCultClassics has more than tripled. Realizing the unlikelihood of a sudden interest in advertising industry diversity, Site Meter was analyzed to reveal the new visitors were arriving to ogle the recent Salma Hayek post. To express thanks for the surge in viewership, MultiCultClassics proudly presents additional Hayek content. Muchas gracias!
Advertising Age published a lengthy examination of the recent “Cross-Cultural” hoopla. The story essentially rehashes perspectives delivered in 2010—it’s the Reader’s Digest version of the Ad Age ANA Multicultural Conference report, Pepper Miller’s response, MultiCultClassic’s rebuttal and Ken Muench’s manifesto. Check out the original sources for deeper viewpoints and comments.
From Advertising Age…
Minority Content Helped Seal NBC Universal Deal for Comcast
But Will Commitment Help Marketers Looking to Spend More Advertising Dollars in the Sector?
By Edmund Lee
NEW YORK—As it turns out, minority programming became the linchpin to Comcast’s expensive and hard-fought campaign to win federal approval for its merger with NBC Universal. In what some observers saw as a cynical, yet savvy ploy, the cable giant specifically sought to appease Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat who had expressed concerns that the merger would drown out diverse voices in an increasingly conglomerated media world.
Comcast put her at ease by agreeing to add at least four African-American-managed or -owned cable networks and four Latino-owned or -managed networks over the next eight years, as well as some English-language programming geared toward Asian Americans. Subsequently, Ms. Clyburn voted to approve the merger in a 4-1 ruling that turned Comcast into what some now see as the most powerful media company on the planet.
Eight more minority-owned or minority-managed channels would seem to be good news for general-market marketers that say they want to spend in the minority media sector but often can’t find enough places to put their money. But will that actually help marketers looking to spend more advertising dollars in the sector?
It’s a touchy subject and one that few industry executives would publicly say was even a matter of concern. Over the years, major marketers have openly stated their commitment to spend more advertising dollars in minority media, whether in TV, magazines or newspapers, but goals varied from company to company and were entirely voluntary, making it a fairly opaque process. Companies did not have to answer to any independent body or open their books to show exactly how much they had spent in minority-owned media. In addition, there were questions over what constituted minority ownership or management.
“What is minority-owned media?” one media buyer asked. “BET is owned by Viacom, and they say they’re urban content, but if a channel like BET doesn’t get what they want, they start accusing people of being biased.”
Most marketers, according to this person, are looking to reach as many consumers as possible, regardless of ethnicity, and reaching out to minority media is often done separately, typically as part of a corporate “goodwill” initiative, without any real concern over the advertising’s effectiveness. “When they do that, it doesn’t come out of the advertising budget,” the buyer said.
Comcast’s concessions came partly under pressure from various advocacy groups, which underscores that these new channels, which are yet to be named, were borne out of a political arrangement instead of a business one.
“I have to admit to being always a little bit skeptical to corporate actions that are being defined first and foremost as actions taken because of the twisting of elbows,” said Jeff Yang, VP-global media entertainment technology at consumer research firm Iconoculture and a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m not saying that these initiatives are going to fail,” he continued. “I do think, however, we need to be vigilant that these types of investment are not seen as nominal bones thrown to allay the very real concerns on the part of minority advocates.”
Whether Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal will make it any easier for companies looking to make those “goodwill” commitments, however, is still unknown.
“It’s hard to say if the merger means anything to our clients about minority groups,” said Ethan Heftman, senior VP-director of national broadcast at Initiative. “Decisions around that are similar to every other decision we make for our clients—it’s about what business opportunity are they trying to fulfill?”
From Advertising Age…
Sorry State of Diversity in Advertising Is Also a Culture Problem
Despite Temporary Hike in Minority Creatives After Recruiting Efforts, Agency Environments Seem to Be Turning New Hires Away
By Michael Bush
NEW YORK—It’s 2011, and while many things have changed in the advertising industry, the sorry state of diversity hiring isn’t among them.
Despite some positive trends over the past year—general-market agencies are hiring more Hispanics (as they try to win more Hispanic business)—a number of watchdog groups and industry professionals still think the situation is far from good.
Though the most current figures aren’t yet available, the New York City Commission on Human Rights doesn’t seem to be satisfied with progress made since it intervened in 2006. And while holding companies say they’re making progress, the threat of a class-action lawsuit still looms.
Hiring, of course, is only part of the problem. The failure to retain minority talent, which many believe is due to the lack of an encouraging environment, is the other issue.
Carol Watson, president, Tangerine Watson, a cross-cultural talent consultancy, said she hasn’t seen dramatic differences in minority hiring over the past year but has noticed one positive trend.
“Employee resource groups and affinity groups are a big thing now for general-market agencies that get a lot of multicultural assignments,” Ms. Watson said. “There has been more hiring, of Hispanics in particular, for these groups that pitch and consult clients, discuss messaging and help identify all of the opportunities in multicultural marketplace.”
Rob Norman, CEO of WPP’s Group M North America, said diversity hiring has occupied more of his time than he thought it would since taking the CEO role one year ago. He said the agency has brought on a full-time diversity recruiter. But he said that all of the programs and efforts may never be enough to rectify the problem.
“Not only do you have to recruit people that are diverse, you have to create environments under which those people are comfortable working in,” Mr. Norman said. “There’s also a wider issue for the industry of making it more attractive and inclusive. The hardest thing is making people aware that our industry exists, that it’s open to a broad range of talent and it’s a credible profession for people to seek out.”
Clifford Mulqueen, deputy commissioner general counsel at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, said the commission will soon be releasing a report on its investigation into the diversity hiring practices of 15 ad agencies including Arnold, Euro RSCG, Saatchi & Saatchi, Grey Direct and Grey Interactive, Y&R, Ogilvy & Mather, Kaplan, DraftFCB, Gotham, BBDO, DDB, Merkley and Partners and PHD.
After finding fault with the diversity-hiring practices at many of the big ad agencies in New York, in 2006 the commission signed a memorandum with them. The sides came to an understanding that the agencies would increase their minority hiring. “We asked them to set goals for three years and from information they provided two years ago most of them actually met or exceeded their goals over that three-year period,” he said. The commission went back to the agencies in 2009 looking for more current demographics and hoping that positive hiring trends had continued. It wasn’t happy with what it saw.
“The numbers weren’t as good as you might have thought they were based on the information they provided for that three-year period,” Mr. Mulqueen said. “Now we are in the process of analyzing that information and we are going to issue a report on those findings.”
“A court action may not be the way to go,” Mr. Mulqueen said. “It seems like they have to do something to change the entire culture.”
In an email, Heide Gardner, senior VP-chief diversity and inclusion officer of Interpublic Group of Cos., said the holding companies have improved for women and minorities. “Our workforce data show continued progress across our U.S. operations. Looking at the 2010 numbers, we see year-over-year improvement for women and people of color at both the manager and executive levels. And despite an overall headcount reduction due to the broader economic conditions, our population of people of color at all management levels increased by about 11% last year, and women by over 40%.” Interpublic, it should be pointed out, ties diversity-hiring targets to executive incentive compensation.
Cyrus Mehri, an attorney at Mehri & Skalet, who filed charges with the EEOC against the various holding companies and a number of their agencies for discriminatory hiring practices and one of the people behind the Madison Ave. Project, said this is an industry that’s behind the times in terms of diversity hiring. “As a result it’s missing opportunities in terms of talent and business opportunities,” Mr. Mehri said.
Mr. Mehri points to a study centered around Super Bowl 2010, which found that of the 60 or so commercials aired during the game, not one of them was captained by a minority creative director. “That’s a shocking revelation,” he said.
What’s Being Done?
A look at a few of the efforts designed to boost diversity in the ad industry
4A’S MAIP (MULTICULTURAL ADVERTISING INTERN PROGRAM)
Places multicultural students in 10-week paid, full-time summer internships at member agencies nationwide.
AAF MOST-PROMISING MINORITY STUDENT
Established in 1996
Awards and recruiting conference connect the advertising industry with the nation’s top minority college seniors.
MARCUS GRAHAM PROJECT
Established in 2007
The project’s mission is to identify, expose, mentor and train ethnically diverse men and women between the ages of 16 and 34 in all aspects of the media industry.
Established in 2005
AdColor is intended to promote increased diversity in the advertising, marketing and media industries, while inspiring current and future communications professionals of color by celebrating the accomplishments of diverse role models and industry leaders.
AAF MOSAIC AWARDS
Established in 2001
The awards recognize successful multicultural marketing and diversity efforts.
Established in 2011
BrandLabs connects Minneapolis marketers and agencies with students at low-income high schools and allows students to take advertising classes and apply for internships at some of the city’s ad shops.
4A’S AND HOWARD UNIVERSITY’S JOHN H. JOHNSON SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATIONS
Established in 2008
The partnership is intended to establish a center to address challenges, eliminate barriers and identify opportunities to achieve a more diverse and inclusive advertising industry workforce at middle to senior management levels.
MEDIAVEST DIVERSITY WEEK
Established in 2010
Diversity Week celebrates MediaVest’s community and diversity efforts, as well as the establishment of MediaVest’s Diversity Council. It includes sessions on understanding the dual responsibilities of working parents, celebrating individuality in the workplace, and showcasing multicultural communication work produced by MV42 and Liquid Thread.
SMG DIVERSITY EXCHANGE WITH AAF MOSAIC CENTER
Established in 2010
The Exchange is an interactive workshop that showcases emerging minority- and women-owned media suppliers, with the aim to help level the playing field, by providing education, access and networking opportunities to these suppliers.
SMG L.I.N.K.S. (LIFESTYLE AND INTEREST NETWORKS FOR KNOWLEDGE AND SUPPORT)
Established in 2006
L.I.N.K.S. was created to bring new and current employees with common interests together by spurring participation between nine affinity groups including African-American, Asian, Latino, GLBTA and more.
GROUP M PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
Established in 2010
It is available to students in CCNY’s Advertising/Public Relations Program, with an emphasis on undergrads with diverse backgrounds. The project consists of a scholarship program and a separate enrichment fund designed to benefit a wide range of Ad/PR majors by allowing them to participate in professional development opportunities.
Is Oprah’s Network Too White?
By Allison Samuels
Farah J. Griffin’s 82-year-old mother, Wilhelmenia, hasn’t missed an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show since it debuted nearly 20 years ago. So when Winfrey’s 24-hour Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) debuted on Jan. 1, Griffin upgraded her mother’s cable package so she could watch from her Philadelphia home. Only now, Griffin wants more for her money. “I know it’s still early in the process,” says Griffin, a professor of English and African-American studies at Columbia University. “That said, I really want to see more variation. I’m not saying she should just focus on black shows or black programming. But I’d like it to have shows that are interesting to women of all ages, backgrounds, and races, not just white women.”
Does Oprah’s network need more diversity? Many African-American women seem to think so, including Black Entertainment cofounder Sheila Johnson, who says that Winfrey should “open her circle a bit more,” and blogs such as Hello Beautiful and Clutch, which have complained bitterly about the absence of black faces and voices on the fledging network. Winfrey’s friend Gayle King, who is African-American, hosts a talk show, as does Lisa Ling, an Asian-American, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Turkish-American. Oprah’s own show, Master Class, has also featured Jay-Z and Condoleezza Rice. But most of the high-profile programs are lead by white people: Dr. Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Peter Walsh, Cristina Ferrare, Dr. Laura Berman, Randall Sullivan, Dr. Indre Viskontas, along with shows starring Shania Twain, Rosie O’Donnell, and Sarah Ferguson, scheduled to debut later this year. What gives? “Oprah is the network’s diversity,” says Todd Boyd, a professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. “And that’s been the way she’s operated from the beginning of her career, so I’m not sure why there is even a question about more diversity. That’s really not who she is or who she ever was.”
That may be true, but it no longer appears to be enough. While OWN averaged 1.1 million viewers in primetime in its first week, that number was down to 287,000 last week. Viewership among women over 25, the network’s core demographic, has fallen 20 percent each week since the debut. With the African-American drama The Game having pulled in a record 7.3 million viewers on BET, it’s hard not to wonder if OWN’s troubles stem from the network’s failure to give black audiences what’s sorely lacking elsewhere. “It’s so upsetting to see what’s on TV today and to see the way most shows still depict blacks, and particularly black women, in a negative light,” says Mora Johns, a Chicago high-school teacher. “So I do look to OWN for more of a balance to show who we really are. I hope that’s coming.” Not everyone thinks it’s fair to saddle Oprah with singlehandedly diversifying TV. “When does she just get to be Oprah?” asks Salim Akil, executive producer of The Game. “If Oprah was purposely denying anyone the opportunity to present themselves to her for employment, then that’s a problem. But if she’s doing her thing the best way she knows how, then we should just applaud her and keep moving.” The folks at OWN don’t see a problem, either. “Our job is to reflect the entire audience that is a part of the world vision Oprah has, and that includes blacks, whites, men, women, and everyone,” says Christina Norman, CEO or OWN. “One show and one network cannot do it all.” Fair enough. But the question is: can one woman—Oprah—do more?
With Joshua Alston
From The Chicago Tribune…
Just what are your kids learning when you use “Cinderella” or “The Little Mermaid” as a baby sitter?
Besides, that is, driving you up the wall with repetitious, high-pitched renditions of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” or “Under the Sea”?
A study from Appalachian State University in North Carolina says you’re teaching them to distrust pretty much anyone who couldn’t appear on the cover of Vogue or GQ. The researchers reaffirmed what most parents know: Disney movies depict physically attractive animated characters as good, and ugly characters as bad — as in, the puppy-stealing Cruella De Vil (“If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will”).
But professor Doris Bazzini, chief author of the study, says nobody ever had taken a thorough look at just how much more virtuous the better-looking Disney characters are than are the homely ones. The physical attractiveness of characters “predicted how positively they were portrayed,” the researchers found. If this theme sounds familiar, think back to the mid-1990s and a kerfuffle over Pocahontas, in real life a 17th-century Algonquin, but in Disney’s rendition an ethnically indistinguishable hottie.
Nobody wants his or her kids assuming someone with warts has a toady personality. Bazzini cautions, though, that the stereotypes in Disney movies reinforce what researchers have found to be a proclivity among people of all age groups for trusting good-looking people: Earlier studies found that watching movies with comely good guys can influence adults to say they would prefer to befriend people who are attractive over those who aren’t.
Bazzini determined that kids ages 6 to 12 actually are less susceptible to such bias in Disney movies than adults are to the same bias in movies for grown-ups: Kids who watched “Cinderella” weren’t any more likely to choose a good-looking friend than those who watched “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Maybe instead of blaming Disney’s influence on our children, we parents ought to admit that our own prejudices don’t fall far from the tree.
Bazzini and her co-authors note, though, that kids are still impressionable — and this bias can increase with more and more movie- and TV-watching.
What’s a parent to do when it’s time for the kids to sit still while dinner’s cooking?
There are always audiobooks — or better yet, real books. If you still need help, maybe it’s best to avoid Cinderella and other humanoid cartoon characters and instead enlist Mickey, Bugs and Shrek.
From The New York Times…
Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above
By Susan Saulny
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In another time or place, the game of “What Are You?” that was played one night last fall at the University of Maryland might have been mean, or menacing: Laura Wood’s peers were picking apart her every feature in an effort to guess her race.
“How many mixtures do you have?” one young man asked above the chatter of about 50 students. With her tan skin and curly brown hair, Ms. Wood’s ancestry could have spanned the globe.
“I’m mixed with two things,” she said politely.
“Are you mulatto?” asked Paul Skym, another student, using a word once tinged with shame that is enjoying a comeback in some young circles. When Ms. Wood confirmed that she is indeed black and white, Mr. Skym, who is Asian and white, boasted, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” in affirmation of their mutual mixed lineage.
Then the group of friends — formally, the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association — erupted into laughter and cheers, a routine show of their mixed-race pride.
The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage.
One in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities, according to data from 2008 and 2009 that was analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Multiracial and multiethnic Americans (usually grouped together as “mixed race”) are one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups. And experts expect the racial results of the 2010 census, which will start to be released next month, to show the trend continuing or accelerating.
Many young adults of mixed backgrounds are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for generations in favor of a much more fluid sense of identity. Ask Michelle López-Mullins, a 20-year-old junior and the president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, how she marks her race on forms like the census, and she says, “It depends on the day, and it depends on the options.”
They are also using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable.
“I think it’s really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that,” said Ms. Wood, the 19-year-old vice president of the group. “If someone tries to call me black I say, ‘yes — and white.’ People have the right not to acknowledge everything, but don’t do it because society tells you that you can’t.”
No one knows quite how the growth of the multiracial population will change the country. Optimists say the blending of the races is a step toward transcending race, to a place where America is free of bigotry, prejudice and programs like affirmative action.
Pessimists say that a more powerful multiracial movement will lead to more stratification and come at the expense of the number and influence of other minority groups, particularly African-Americans.
Read the full story here.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
The commercial for Mickey D’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is such a load of bullshit. The voiceover ends the spot by declaring, “The simple joy of loving what’s good for you. That’s what we’re made of.” Loving what’s good for you? Somebody should remind Mickey D’s that its recent profits have been attributed to sales for coffee and McRib® sandwiches.
Working the weekend with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Ted Williams, the homeless guy who went from viral video to voiceover, is back in the news. Actually, the tent he once lived in received press coverage. It went up for auction on eBay, with part of the proceeds going a homeless charity. Hey, Kraft should have bought the tent and featured it in a commercial for Macaroni & Cheese.
• A new study shows women in the House of Representatives and the Senate draw more money in federal projects for their districts versus their male peers. Wonder if any female lawmakers bid on Ted Williams’ tent.
From The Los Angeles Times…
Some food for thought on the menu at UC Irvine
Was a chicken-and-waffles special on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in such bad taste?
By Sandy Banks
At least it wasn’t watermelon. At least the cafeteria workers weren’t in blackface or wearing Afro wigs.
I can’t muster up much outrage over chicken and waffles, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day cafeteria special at the center of a flap on the campus of UC Irvine.
Some black students complained that the meal, promoted on placards in Pippin Commons, trivialized their public commemoration of the slain civil rights giant. I wish they’d just consider it an opportunity, instead, to enjoy good cafeteria food for once.
It’s not that I don’t understand their perception of insult in the menu choice, or the hyper-sensitivity of young people who feel isolated and ignored because they are collectively such a tiny sliver — 2% — of the demographic pie of the Orange County campus.
When you wake up to find the N-word has been scrawled on your dormitory door, as Black Student Union Co-Chair Ricardo Sparks did two years ago as a freshman, it is easy to be suspicious of a gesture that seems to equate a civil rights giant with a finger-licking-good soul food standard.
But the public hoopla over the incident has turned the students into symbols of misguided political correctness, backed the university into an unnecessary series of mea culpas, and may have hijacked a dialogue that could pave the way for better relations on campus.
It’s hard to imagine that’s what King would have wanted.
The controversy started small and snowballed this week: a complaint from Sparks, a Facebook photo, a blog post in the OC Weekly, a story in The Times, an hourlong program forum with listeners on KPCC, and a national mocking by Rush Limbaugh.
UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said she has fielded more calls and e-mail on this subject than on any other she can recall. She hesitated when I asked what their focus was.
“The tenor has been: Are we putting ourselves in a place where we can’t do anything that relates to a culture that we are not familiar with without including people of that culture?” she said, choosing her words carefully, as if she were tap dancing through a mine field.
Which, in effect, she was. Because talking about race is difficult. It hasn’t gotten any easier with a black man in the White House. And it’s probably more complicated in California than just about anywhere else.
The Irvine situation is a case in point. The culprit in this culinary blunder wasn’t some “white chef who is a redneck from Mississippi or somewhere,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Thomas Parham, who happens to be black.
He’s a Filipino chef, who took his cue from black students “when he wanted to do something sensitive culturally” for the King holiday menu. Chicken was the meat of the day.
He asked black students for advice, and they suggested the chicken and waffles combo.
“This is a guy who takes great pride in creating ‘comfort food’ for the students,” Parham said. “Somebody who was really trying to do something nice, that was perceived differently by a small group of people.
“No racist intent, nothing hostile about it. … But people who jumped to faulty conclusions without considering the context and intentions.”
As a black intellectual with multiple psychology degrees, Parham understands the students’ perspective.
“The cultural sensitivity of these kids is a little raw,” he told me, launching into an explanation of the link between Southern foods and stereotypes and why black folks tend to be particularly sensitive to culinary imagery … even if that culinary offering has transcendent mouth-watering appeal.
Maybe we ought to blame Roscoe’s for the problem. The popular chain Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles has made the unlikely combo — a Harlem staple with roots in the Deep South — an L.A. soul food icon. So I paid a visit to the restaurant’s Hollywood branch on Thursday to see how the controversy was playing there.
The first few customers I tried to interview were too busy chowing down to talk. But a group of punk rock fans from Huntington Beach, grabbing a bite before a Social Distortion concert, were glad to join the chorus bashing the UC Irvine protesters for making a big deal out of nothing.
“It’s good food, it’s got nothing to do with race,” said Tessa Antonelli, who frequents the Long Beach Roscoe’s whenever she can. “I think they were just looking for something to complain about.”
Christopher White, the restaurant’s night shift lead, said he hadn’t heard about the UC Irvine flap. He got a kick out of the notion of chicken and waffles as a racist symbol of white oppression.
But he also understood the students’ reaction. He’s a middle-age black man, like Parham, drawing on similar values, but a very different background.
White grew up in Louisiana and spent time in prison, where the institutional response to any “black holiday” was a soul food dinner for the inmates.
“Your first reaction is ‘It’s an insult’,” he said. It feels like you’re being patronized, made fun of, singled out. “So a lot of times we blow things out of proportion,” he said. “You don’t see the whole picture. You don’t talk with other people about it.”
At Roscoe’s in Hollywood, he has to deal with customers from every demographic. Sometimes you look around, he said, and there’s not a black customer in the place.
“I’ve learned,” he said, “you can’t blame everything on race. It seems to me that whites are trying their best to make things better. They’re trying to be accommodating.
“That cook, he may have been reaching out, but the young people didn’t see it like that.”
Then he hustled off to usher in a lively group of black teenagers, boisterous and ravenous and blissfully oblivious to the racial implications inherent in a menu choice.
Gotta hand it to IPG for its continued self-promotion regarding diversity. Now the New York Urban League is saluting the holding company with the 2011 Champions of Diversity Award. Um, has anyone been tracking the culturally clueless work regularly spewing from leading IPG shops like Draftfcb and McCann? In the end, IPG’s diversity propaganda might be its most breakthrough and effective campaign ever.
Omnicom has dedicated a section of its website to diversity—replete with a list of goals, videos and assorted politically-correct propaganda. Perhaps someday the holding company will have an inclusive workforce to validate the online rhetoric.
Friday, January 28, 2011
(MultiCultClassics credits ESPN’s C’MON MAN! for sparking this new, semi-regular blog series.)
Advertising Creative Honcho Steffan Postaer wrote at his blog—Gods of Advertising—about the blurring line he perceives between “followers and haters” among us. It’s not exactly a unique or provocative perspective. And it’s barely coherent in certain sections. Yet what makes the post noteworthy is Postaer’s opening, which features gushing references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (The post was originally published on the 2011 MLK holiday.) Postaer salutes “Letters (sic) from a Birmingham Jail” and the “I Have a Dream” speech before reverently declaring, “Despite all evil in the world, we are better because Dr. King was in it.” The blogger then segues to the Tucson shooting and the uncivil “conversation” taking place in society, ultimately shifting to the venom and vitriol directed toward him at AgencySpy.
For starters, MultiCultClassics examined the phenomenon of online ad-boss bashing in 2007, contending that much of it was likely justified. Whatever. But for Postaer to place his personal tribulations in the same breath as the Tucson victims and MLK is pretty self-absorbed thinking. The man should consider letting the civil rights icon inspire efforts to bring diversity to the advertising industry. Hey, bet such a notion never crossed Postaer’s mind.
C’MON WHITE MAN!
MDC Partners boasts a tagline that reads, “Where Great Talent Lives.” Regarding diversity, check out the search results alongside portraits of the holding company’s executive management.
Undressing the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Taraji P. Henson is the newest celebrity to be featured in PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign. “I don’t think a living being should suffer for the sake of fashion, period. End of story,” said Henson. “You don’t have to kill an animal just because you want to be hot and fly. And I really stand by that.” She really stands by that totally naked, in fact.
• Surveys indicate Americans plan to spend more this year on Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day celebrations. Unless you’re related to Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Advertising Age published another fluff piece involving a minority youth outreach program. The One Club gushed over its Creative Boot Camp in typical press release fashion. Students participating in the program have the chance to win a one-year membership with the elitist organization. Isn’t that about the length of time Julius Dunn was a “member” of The One Club? Plus, the lucky students could land internships at Publicis and Deutsch—bastions of inclusiveness spotlighted by MultiCultClassics this week here and here. Whatever. If the organization really wants to do something breakthrough, it should consider bringing diversity not to the advertising industry, but rather, to The One Club Creative Hall of Fame.
One Club Hosts Boot Camp for N.Y. Students
Agency Creatives Offer Education, Advice at Four-Day Workshop
By Nancy Webster
The One Club continues the momentum of its Creative Boot Camp this week as it hosts nearly 100 students at a four-day workshop at Macaulay Honors College in New York. Open to all City University of New York students, the Creative Boot Camp is designed to blaze a path to the creative side of the ad world for students of multicultural backgrounds. The program is sponsored by Publicis USA and Deutsch and features creative professionals from BBDO, New York; GlobalHue; Draftfcb; Dentsu America; JWT; and Ogilvy & Mather.
The One Club helps educate college students around the country in its series of Creative Boot Camps, such as the one held in Atlanta in November.
The Creative Boot Camp concept launched in the U.S. at Macaulay in January 2010 with the workshop and a social-network site that supports the importance of connecting with peers, mentors and colleagues in the industry. A second Boot Camp took place in Atlanta in November, drawing students from historically black colleges Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College. Future camps are planned for Chicago and Los Angeles along with a return to Atlanta. The One Club has hosted a similar program in China for nearly a decade.
Last year, the One Club expected just a handful of students to sign up. Instead, hundreds from around the country heard the call, says Mary Warlick, CEO, the One Club.
Tiffany Edwards, education & diversity director for the One Club, attributes the growing interest to recruitment efforts, including career fairs, campus presentations and word of mouth/networking with participants and mentors. Best of all, Boot Camp alums have enlisted in the industry: Chanie Kaminker, an intern at Global Hue and marketing intern at Comedy Central; Danny Pacheo, global assistant account exec at Y&R; Chavonne Hodges, education assistant at the One Club; and Carol Tavarez, advertising management intern at Y&R.
The Creative Boot Camp starts the week by grouping the students into teams to develop a project from concept to final presentation under the guidance of industry mentors, including Carlos Fernandez and Paul Fix, creative directors from JWT, and Diana Krulik-Bentzen, group copy supervisor, and Ray Colon, art supervisor, Draftfcb, New York.
Presentations and awards take place today, the final day of the event. Three top teams will be honored, being awarded one-year memberships to the One Club, with the first-place team winning free tickets to the One Show. Deutsch and Publicis Worldwide will give internships to the top students.
Deutsch is another prominent agency with no visible commitment to diversity—although the place offers the standard support for minority youth outreach programs. The agency website proclaims one noteworthy belief: “Integrated People, Not Integrated Departments.” However, it’s a reference to integrated disciplines versus integrated cultures. For Deutsch, integration is not related to inclusion.
(No word if Donny Deutsch’s new TV show will feature interracial romance.)
The Los Angeles Times reported that fried chicken and waffles were served at UC Irvine’s campus dining hall to commemorate MLK Day. No word if the meal included syrup from Aunt Jemima.
UC Irvine says fried chicken and waffle dinner on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was insensitive
The meal was served on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of UC Irvine’s three-day symposium in honor of the civil rights leader. Student organizations complained that the menu was insensitive.
By Nate Jackson, Los Angeles Times
A last-minute decision to serve fried chicken and waffles at a campus dining hall in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. was a regrettable choice and lacked sensitivity, UC Irvine officials acknowledged Wednesday.
The meal was served at Pippin Commons on Jan. 17, the first day of UC Irvine’s 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. symposium. The theme of the three-day campus event was “Uniting Our Voice for Change.” Past speakers have included Julian Bond, the late Dick Gregory and the late Yolanda King, the civil rights leader’s daughter.
The menu and a sign in the dining hall reading “MLK Holiday Special: Chicken and Waffles” were pulled together at the last minute by a chef and other cafeteria staff members, said UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.
The culinary choices were made without any university oversight, Lawhon said.
UC Irvine student Ricardo Sparks, the 20-year-old co-chairman of the university’s Black Student Union, lodged a formal complaint with the administration.
Sparks said the decision’s insensitivity has outraged the student union and other ethnic student organizations on campus.
“It’s just another in a long line of small events on our campus that aren’t meant to be taken in a certain way, but are at least questionable in their cultural legitimacy,” said John Murillo III, director of communications for the Black Student Union.
That the incident occurred during the symposium was especially disappointing, Murillo said.
“It takes all the radicalism and activism that we tried to do with the symposium and then [the cafeteria] serves chicken and waffles and takes away from all the stuff that we did,” Murillo said.
Officials at UC Irvine agreed Wednesday that serving chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was not in “good taste.”
Lawhon said the menu’s intention was to offer comfort food for students in conjunction with the holiday.
“But it probably wasn’t the most sensitive thing,” she said.
Thomas Parham, vice chancellor of student affairs, tried unsuccessfully to schedule a meeting with Sparks and another student who had filed a complaint, Lawhon said. Sparks said he had waited to respond until he rallied other students to attend to meeting.
University officials said they are trying to set up a meeting with Sparks and other critics for next week.
The chef has not been disciplined, Lawhon said, and it was unclear if any action would be taken in the future.
Officials with Aramark Corp., which provides dining services for student housing, said they would conduct cultural sensitivity training for all managers and chefs.
Sparks and other students alleged that racially inappropriate incidents have been dealt with lightly in the past.
“I understand people have prejudice and ignorance,” Sparks said. “But this is out in the community and nobody is saying anything about it.”
Publicis’ annoying website intro boasts, “We Are Multicultural.” Yet its Contagious People and Executive Committee appear to be predominately White. Although there is one Brazilian executive with a serious Afro.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Advertising Age reported Y&R lost the Hilton Hotels account to Cramer-Krasselt. The story didn’t give details on the lengthy pitch, but it’s safe to say zero minority advertising agencies checked in—despite the hotel chain’s Diversity Programs that start off with this proclamation from President and CEO Stephen F. Bollenbach: “Our Diversity Initiatives at Hilton Hotels Corporation are designed to produce quantifiable and qualitative results which go beyond just establishing and maintaining a diverse workforce.” However, Hilton isn’t ready to let minority adpeople into the proverbial penthouse suite.
Y&R Loses Hilton Hotels to Cramer-Krasselt
Move Is Latest in a String of Account Losses for WPP Agency
By Rupal Parekh
NEW YORK -- WPP’s Y&R has lost yet another account: Hilton Hotels. A spokesman for the marketer told Ad Age that Chicago-based independent Cramer-Krasselt has been named the new agency of record for the flagship hotel brand of Hilton Worldwide.
C-K representatives declined to comment on the matter, while Y&R representatives did not return requests for comment by press time.
The move came after a lengthy pitch, according to executives familiar with the matter. Ad Age last March reported that Hilton was reaching out to agencies beyond Y&R, which has handled the brand since 2005, for ideas on its flagship account. Joanne Davis Consulting managed the review process.
Hilton’s marketing budget has stayed relatively stable in the past few years. It devotes nearly $50 million to domestic measured media, according to Kantar.
Hilton Hotels operates more than 500 hotels in 76 countries. The review does not include other brands owned by parent Hilton Worldwide, which include Doubletree, Conrad, Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites, Hampton and Waldorf-Astoria.
The hotel chain’s departure from the Y&R roster is just the latest in a growing string of losses for the agency’s U.S. operations. It lost 7Up, the last piece it had of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group account, after a 40-year relationship when the beverage giant moved the brand to McGarryBowen without a review. And after 50 years of working with Y&R, MetLife moved its $65 million account to CP&B.
Two other key Y&R accounts, Accenture and Dell, are currently in review.
Mad news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…
• Intel hired a new creative director—Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am. The artist will contribute music and help to develop devices. So how come Madison Avenue keeps insisting they can’t find any minority creative director candidates?
• A Black rhino calf was born at the St. Louis Zoo on January 14. Madison Avenue executives will probably seek to enroll the endangered newborn into a minority youth outreach program—because, doggone it, young Blacks aren’t even aware of the career opportunities in the advertising industry.
IPG is “committed to being our industry’s most inclusive holding company.” Given our industry’s overall record with diversity, IPG is not setting the bar very high.