A comment left for a previous post featuring the Campaign Editor’s Letter merits its own post, as the commentator is Adonis Hoffman. MultiCultClassics has spotlighted Hoffman in the past, after mistakenly believing a book he wrote was the kind of stereotypical diversity propaganda often peddled by organizations like the 4As; however, the book turned out to be quite thoughtful, insightful and brilliant. Anyway, here’s Hoffman’s latest comment:
With all due respect to my former colleagues in the advertising industry, this is the same old, same old, and although it is lamentable, it is not surprising.
After leaving Congress and the FCC, I served as senior vice president and legal counsel at the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4As) from 2000 to 2010. At the time, I was one of the few Black executives or attorneys in the industry. When the holding companies and several ad agencies were investigated by the New York Human Rights Civil Rights Commission (2004) and later sued for discrimination, I helped to develop the industry’s effort to systematically address the diversity issue, testifying on behalf of the industry in NYC and in Congress. Heck, we even wrote a book—roadmap really—to help agency execs “do diversity right”. While the initiative was not nearly sufficient to do away with decades of exclusion, it was a start with solid programs, timetables and recommendations. Like so many other well-meaning efforts, I suspect it just died on the vine.
You are correct to point out that there are more diversity officers, diversity events, diversity awards, diversity dinners, diversity discussions, diversity divas, diversity experts, and diversity seminars than anyone can digest. And yet there is no more diversity. Hmmm.
Maybe the answer lies in the simple fact that agency executives are not racist. They just are more comfortable with the illusion of inclusion rather than inclusion itself. That is why we can fill the room with diversity internships, but stumble to find one or two “qualified” account directors or whatever the top jobs are called these days. It’s just easier to feel better about giving a disadvantaged, but deserving, young Latino or African American student a break than to push out a mediocre, middle-aged white guy to give his slot to a hungry, equally (or more) talented minority professional.
The rules of convention die hard, so not much will change in the advertising industry despite all the chatter, outrage, shoulder shrugging, and mealy-mouth platitudes from industry and association leaders about the need to do better. The handwriting is on the wall. If African Americans want parity, they will have to create a parallel universe where their work is smarter, better, and cannot be denied. Then they will get half as much. Good luck with that.
The more things change … the more they stay the same.