Campaign published updates on the discrimination lawsuit against JWT and WPP, with commentary from a collection of critics and critters. Of course, diverted diversity divas Kat Gordon and Cindy Gallop lamely lambasted the industry. A handful of anonymous ex-JWT executives weighed in too. Yet the arguably most peculiar—and seemingly contradictory—remarks came from 4As folks, and these statements warrant examination.
Outgoing 4As Chairman and CEO Nancy Hill said:
“There is license to have a lot of very honest conversations about the state of gender in the industry, and to a certain extent diversity in general. … This was something the industry needed to hear to wake up. Prior to this tipping point, there was a belief that there were a lot of isolated incidents, that this was not pervasive.”
So it appears that Hill believes Gustavo Martinez’s alleged words and deeds are symptomatic of a persistent problem. Hill’s experience with the trade organization—as well as her leadership roles in White advertising agencies—certainly adds credibility to her opinion.
Meanwhile, 4As Diversity & Inclusion Manager Taylor Yarbrough said:
“We have a lot of [MAIP] alums at JWT, and I haven’t heard them say they don’t want to work there. People look at it as an individual that made a mistake. It’s not like Uber, where so many individuals made so many mistakes that it must be a cultural thing. … It’s a larger societal thing that’s happening, especially after the presidential election. … This past Black History Month, so many agencies did so much more than I have ever seen. The whole office is having the conversation, not just the black affinity group. We’re seeing a shift in the way society is understanding diversity and inclusion and the problems of people outside of their communities.”
Okey-doke. Assessing these assertions requires deliberate dissection.
First of all, how many MAIP alums are employed by JWT? WPP Overlord Sir Martin Sorrell admitted women are underrepresented in leadership roles within his White holding company, while racial and ethnic minority representation is “unacceptably low.” So declaring that a miniature group of MAIP members has not complained about discriminatory working conditions at JWT ain’t saying much. Hell, it’s a safe bet that the entire staff is reluctant to voice an opinion right now. And perhaps JWT leadership has officially prohibited people from publicly speaking out—inviting them to use the awesome talk-to-me hotline for airing grievances instead.
Additionally, pointing to allegedly content MAIP alums hardly justifies proclaiming, “People look at it as an individual that made a mistake.” Keep in mind that outgoing Publicis Groupe Chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy got spanked for taking such a position. Sorry, but JWT and WPP make Uber look like the ACLU.
Yarbrough also said, “This past Black History Month, so many agencies did so much more than I have ever seen. The whole office is having the conversation, not just the black affinity group.” Really? Based on MultiCultClassics’ annual review, Black History Month propaganda was at an all-time low in 2017. Plus, the overwhelming majority of advertising agencies don’t even have a “Black affinity group” because most firms don’t have enough Blacks to form a group.
Yarbrough’s quote ends by observing, “We’re seeing a shift in the way society is understanding diversity and inclusion…” Perhaps, but the societal shift is different than the adland shift—which is actually more of a shaft. In the advertising industry, diversity and inclusion has shifted into promoting White women first, followed by Old White people, LGBT White people, disabled White people, foreigners with visas and house pets. Racial and ethnic minorities have been lowered to below the lowest rung on the proverbial totem pole.