Tuesday, February 02, 2016

13041: Comment By Adonis Hoffman.

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.


slipping said...

It seems so hopeless sometimes. As an individual person, I don't know where to start to make any changes. Speaking up even in tiny ways doesn't go well, it has literally put my job at risk. I’m not making that much to start.

I'm getting more depressed watching there be fewer and fewer colleagues of color in advertising each year as they give up and find other careers, especially when the industry at large (mostly white) is saying that black people and brown people just don't apply for jobs, just don't have good work samples, just don't have education, just don't want it enough, etc.

You'd think that the Campbell Ewald news this week would put major agencies on alert. Nope. I had one of the most racist exchanges I've ever seen float past my desk today, and there's nothing I can do about it unless I want to kiss my livelihood goodbye permanently. It's just business as usual again in the ad world.

There’s no one to talk to with power to make changes, no one who seems to be listening, no one stepping in to do anything, and nobody except this blog that sees to have noticed and show proof of how much the actual numbers and faces have slipped in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Is there ever going to be a tipping point?

I mean, the 60s Civil Rights push didn't do it.

Cyrus Mehri's threat of a lawsuit didn't do it (it just gave rise to a veneer of Diversity Experts who do nothing but wave for the cameras).

Campbell Ewald losing the $113 MILLION DOLLAR USAA ACCOUNT seems to have done nothing.

I presume we'll all get some anti-bias training from the nice white ladies specializing in diversity this or that soon. Some pep talks from the black diversity officers. Press releases about the most racist agencies magically meriting an Adcolor award they nominated themselves for. Someone announcing an advertising training program for inner city kindergartners in three out of the way cities. The usual.

Then back to a collective yawn.

What is it going to take for actual changes to occur?

scratch said...

To see any actual change there would have to be a public relations disaster so enormous that it brought down half a billion dollars in accounts. So something at the holding company level, not at the agency level.

ANything else, the public at large just doesn't know about or care about. Even after the Campbell Ewald news last week there are articles popping up about how the advertising in this year's Super Bowl "is the most diverse ever, look at all the talent of color!".


So if the press and public doesn't care about what goes on behind the scenes at this stage, and can only see the faces on the screen as proof of how "diverse" advertising is, it would take something big as hell to change anything.

scratch said...

Smart guy. I hope he speaks up and out more often. We could use more voices like his.