Thursday, March 31, 2005

Essay Nineteen

[The following was forwarded to me, so I’m sharing it with y’all. I’m keeping the writer’s identity semi-anonymous since I don’t know the individual personally.]


I am deeply disturbed after hearing about R.J. Dale Advertising having to undergo three separate audits conducted by the State of Illinois in less than a year after receiving the General Market advertising assignment of the Illinois State Lottery account. This Black owned and operated agency has undergone excessive scrutiny that I think has been unnecessary. When will this stop? They earned the account after competing against several other advertising agencies — and having done an outstanding job that obviously produced the results the Illinois State Lottery was looking for when they handled the Urban portion of the account.

I am asking my friends to send correspondence to Governor Blagojevich to stop the auditing of this agency.

Contact, the Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706, (217) 782-0244, or (312) 814-2121 [TTY (888) 261-3336]. Also, feel free to contact your local Illinois Senators about this matter.

Many thanks for joining me in this effort.

Warmest regards,


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Essay Eighteen

Here are a few MultiCultClassics Minutes:

• McDonald’s is seeking more street cred, now offering loot to rappers for Big Mac rhymes. Apparently, the fast food leader was not lovin’ the dope tracks being produced by Leo Burnett, DDB and Burrell. Imagine that. Of course, there’s a catch with this McDeal. For starters, the Mickey DJ’s in Oak Brook, Illinois must approve all lyrics prior to payment. This can only be good news for MC Hammer.

• American Girl continues to stand behind its controversial Latina doll, despite increased protests. Latinos have taken offense to the character’s fictional origin — where Marisol Luna flees her dangerous urban ‘hood for the suburbs. The company refuses to admit any wrongdoing, eagerly revealing the story was actually written by a Latino author. American Girl also sells a Black doll whose tale states she was a former slave. Future dolls will probably include Native American Girl running a casino with her alcoholic father, Asian American Girl working at a dry cleaner, and Italian American Girl with Mafia ties. You go, Girl.

• This week’s edition of Advertising Age features a photo of Tom Burrell with his Hall of Fame award. Burrell is joined by agency successors Fay Ferguson, McGhee Williams and Steve Conner. When Burrell retired last year, the press releases claimed the trio would run the shop as equals. But the Ad Age photo caption only lists Ferguson and Williams as co-CEOs. Did someone decide three’s a crowd?

• The Reverend Jesse Jackson is on a whirlwind tour, hooking up with Michael Jackson and Terri Schiavo. Keep hype alive!

• Speaking of Michael Jackson, it’s sad to see his latest claims of being a victim of racism. Did R. Kelly ever resort to playing the race card? But it’s most pathetic to see the talk-show folks joke that Jackson doesn’t qualify as a victim because he’s no longer Black — why do these closet Klan members consider themselves comedians?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Essay Seventeen

[Essay Seventeen is a semi-sequel to Essay Fourteen, which discussed how recently called out Adweek and Advertising Age for the publications’ woefully inadequate representation of minorities.]

To celebrate Easter, I’m offering a basket filled with free advice to Adweek and Advertising Age. These multicultural munchies can help bring delicious diversity — and hopefully prevent nauseating visits from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. Bon appetit!

• Advertising Age, make your Multicultural page a weekly feature (versus the irregular event it’s become). If it’s too hard to completely fill the space every week, you’re not trying hard enough.

• Story Idea: Last year Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York office faced a potential racial discrimination lawsuit. What’s the verdict?

• Hey, here’s a novel notion — both publications should consider hiring some minority columnists and reporters.

• Story Idea: The New York City Commission on Human Rights is supposedly probing the industry’s diversity issues. How’s the investigation going?

• Adweek, include work from minority advertising agencies in your monthly creative reviews.

• Story Idea: Thomas Burrell retired and was inducted into the AAF Hall of Fame. How about an interview?

• Story Idea (cont’d): Burrell left his agency to a team seeking to move beyond African American advertising. How goes the movement?

• Advertising Age, does AdAge/IAG’s Top Spots record responses for minority viewers? If not, why?

• Story Idea: Y&R Chairman-CEO Ann Fudge allegedly launched initiatives to improve the company’s diversity. Is the agency making progress?

• Adweek, invite contributors from Marketing Y Medios to occasionally write for Adweek.

• Story Idea: Let’s give some press to the nearly invisible Asian American advertising agencies.

• In 2005 Advertising Age and Adweek let Black History Month pass with virtually zero Black references. Don’t blow it again next year. Plus, keep Hispanic Heritage Month in mind for future issues.

• Story Idea: Adweek interviewed minority creatives who choose to work at minority agencies — now interview minority creatives working at mass market agencies.

• Both publications’ editorial boards should put the following books on their personal reading lists: Proversity by Lawrence Otis Graham, Beyond Race And Gender by R. Roosevelt Thomas, Success Runs In Our Race by George Fraser, and The New Mainstream by Guy Garcia.

• Story Idea: Showcase minority suppliers — the directors, production companies, music houses, photographers, illustrators, designers, and others who make it all happen.

Here are a few tasty treats for minority advertising agencies to consume…

• Partner with Adweek and Advertising Age. Let’s be real — the staffers at these publications are painfully White, so they’ll need your help to develop relevant and correct editorial content.

• Fight off the lethargy resulting from years of being ignored. Remaining segregated contributes to the problems.

• Improve your self-promotional efforts.

• Produce work that demands industry attention.

I could continue, but I’ve got an egg hunt to attend. Happy Holiday!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Essay Sixteen

Essay Fifteen got me thinking about a question that’s bound to upset some folks. But here it is:

Who is producing the best Black advertising in the industry — Black advertising agencies or Mass Market advertising agencies?

Advertisers like Nike, adidas and Reebok consistently showcase outstanding campaigns that appeal to Black consumers. Not much of the work is coming from Black advertising agencies.

Citi presents breakthrough spots depicting Blacks in fresh and non-stereotypical ways — via Fallon in Minneapolis (hardly the Multicultural Mecca of the Midwest).

McDonald’s lame campaign allegedly speaks to a young, urban audience. Yet it might be surprising to discover which ads are generated by Leo Burnett and DDB (versus Burrell).

The growing list of advertisers whose Mass Market agencies produce messages with Black appeal includes Toyota, Mitsubishi, Bacardi, Budweiser, Miller Brewing Company, Coca-Cola, 7-Up, Sierra Mist, Sprite, Gatorade, Hallmark, ESPN, CoverGirl, U.S. Army, Sony, Motorola, Nokia, Cingular, Apple, IBM, JCPenny, Target, Gap, Banana Republic, Right Guard, FedEx, Walt Disney, HBO and many, many more.

America appears to be making progress (albeit minimal) with Black advertising imagery. But it’s a whole other story with Black advertising agencies.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Essay Fifteen

Now Adweek presents a story titled: Crossing Over — Some creatives move to multicultural shops to counter ‘the blind spot.’

I can’t speak for everyone — particularly the Hispanic folks — but I’m guessing the creatives making the move are in the minority. (SFX: rim shot.)

Perry Fair, an associate creative director featured in the report, offers some quirky contradictions. He speaks of an incident that “reinforced his decision to leave the world of mass market agencies to work at a minority shop.” Yet he also apparently “cut his copywriting teeth working on Nike print ads at Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore.” Wieden + Kennedy arguably produces some of the best multicultural advertising in the industry for Nike. True Agency, Fair’s current workplace, would be hard-pressed to match the level of excellence and multicultural appeal. Hell, parent shop TBWA\Chiat\Day shows more skills with its adidas campaign.

Next, Fair disses the efforts of most multicultural agencies, expressing his boredom with the standard clichés. But then Adweek displays Fair’s campaign for the Nissan Infiniti with a print ad exhibiting Black music artists beside the car. Wow. A Black ad starring Black music artists. Plus, a headline reading, “Black Rhythm by the Infiniti FX45.” Lead us to The Promised Land, Reverend Fair! Better check with your eye doctor before commenting on others’ blind spots.

True executive creative director Christopher Davis proclaims, “Minority insights are based on a lifetime of cultural absorption and several years of craft.” Fair admits that his personal interests stray outside of the culture, professing more boredom with hip-hop and basketball. These brothas appear to be a few years short of honing their craft. Then again, ya can’t knock the hustle.

Adweek unintentionally exposes a lot of the issues surrounding multicultural advertising, especially Black advertising. Every generation steps up with the same gripes (have the complaints become clichés?), including the newly-emerging disdain for the accomplishments of peers. Talk about black-on-black racism! Somebody call Rodney King to holler, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Does Adweek have the guts to present counterpoints with Don Coleman of GlobalHue, Byron Lewis of UniWorld or AAF Hall of Famer Thomas Burrell? Do any of these ad leaders have the guts to deliver counterpoints?

Here’s the big question: Does the (stereo)typical Adweek reader even care?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Essay Fourteen

Newsflash! exposes Adweek and Advertising Age for the publications’ “dearth of diverse imagery.” The critical article details the abysmal lack of people with disabilities and people of color in both magazines. literally scoured through recent issues for photos of the disabled and minorities—and ultimately found few to none.

Lawd today! What a shocker! declares Advertising Age and Adweek “don’t reflect reality.” In the publications’ defense, the content really does reflect the audience.

If you conducted the same experiment on magazines like Jet and Ebony, the results would be similar—albeit in the opposite direction.

So if publications are targeting an industry where minorities are barely visible, why should anyone be surprised over the report?

Don’t find fault with Adweek and Advertising Age.

The real problem lies with the Advertising Industry.

(View the full article at today!)

Welcome, New Readers

Welcome to

In the Advertising Industry, racism continues to be a major problem.

Diversity programs flounder.

Self-regulatory initiatives move more slowly than the legal actions in our court systems.

It seems like everyone wants to pretend nothing’s wrong. Sadly, the only folks speaking out are outsiders—from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to New York City Council member Larry Seabrook and the New York City Human Rights Commission.

Insiders can’t go public unless they’re ready to leave the industry entirely—because they’d have to face the politics that lead to job loss and more.

It’s time to create discussions and debates. And this blog is designed to do just that. was created by an advertising insider with a unique perspective on today’s multicultural issues. The writer has worked extensively at mass market agencies and multicultural agencies, witnessing firsthand all the things most folks will ignore or even deny.


Then share it with everyone you know.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Essay (Lucky) Thirteen

Solving the problems of racism and diversity in the advertising industry demands radical tactics.

First, let’s check out three tactics that suck.

Self-regulation sucks. The industry is mired in mergers, which means the only important color is green. Or it’s cool to be in the black, whether you’re employing blacks or not. Principles, initiatives, guidelines, mission statements and recommended practices have turned out to be hype. And adfolks know hype doesn’t sell.

Using the legal system really sucks—despite anything OJ or Robert Blake might tell you. Lawsuits require too much time, money and emotional turmoil. Adfolks know the frustrations of coping with lawyers when you’re just seeking to get ad copy approval. It becomes infinitely worse when you’re seeking to get justice.

Turning to the government sucks bigtime. The War on Terror is the top priority, and everything else is on the back burner. Unless you can package your diversity concepts with the exact whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, you won’t find a captive audience in this arena.

So how do we kick-start the revolution?

Organized protests are a tactic that shows promise. This tactic has been unsuccessful to date, which kinda sucks. Yet a few calculated adjustments may get the party going.

Most organized protests are too old school. Picket lines are like pick-up lines—they get quick attention but rarely end with a score. These protests are usually masterminded by local politicians, community leaders and media personalities. While their efforts deserve respect and appreciation, it’s odd that outsiders should lead the demonstrations solo. Then again, insiders risk career suicide when they go public. But maybe these two forces can hook up in other ways.

Additionally, protesting at advertising agencies gets you nowhere. Protesting at advertisers’ headquarters is equally bad, as most of these corporations are equally guilty of shady employment practices.

It’s time to bring new and improved methods to organized protests.

For starters, group gatherings are no longer necessary. The possibility of a 10-second sound bite on the evening news is not worth the hassle. Besides, we’re all too busy to attend these congregations. So let’s use the Internet, phones and regular mail to spread the word and execute goals. Technology makes it simple to organize without physically joining together.

As previously mentioned, protesting at advertising agencies and advertisers’ headquarters is a waste of time. But the ultimate objective remains getting advertising agencies to change. And this will only happen when the advertiser bosses tell the advertising agencies to change. Thus, the game must be brought to the advertisers—with some different moves.

The truth is, most folks don’t give a rat’s ass about advertising agencies’ diversity problems. The majority of folks barely know advertising agencies exist. But they will care to discover the advertisers they support are partnering with advertising agencies averse to diversity. For the advertisers, it becomes guilt by association.

Hence, the first step is announcing the truth to the consumer public. The local politicians, community leaders and media personalities who struggled dealing directly with advertising agencies and advertisers should have no trouble communicating to the consumer public. Insiders can assist through personal connections, staying virtually anonymous. Take the grapevine online, fellow citizens.

The next step is encouraging folks to write, call and email their displeasure to advertisers. For a list of advertisers, check the multicultural section of the American Advertising Federation’s website ( The advertisers listed here claim they want change, but the lack of progress demonstrates a little insincerity. If anything, they need to seriously increase their involvement.

Everyone must play a role in this bold adventure. Share this information with your family, friends and neighbors. Once the grandmas and aunties are enlisted, we’ll be on our way to the revolution. Let the buzz and viral marketing begin!


Free Bonus! Here’s a sample letter to copy:

Dear (insert advertiser name),

I have supported your brand for many years. I have given you my trust and rewarded you with my patronage.

I recently learned the advertising agency you employ has a dreadful record regarding diversity in its workforce. This disturbs me greatly, as I thought you were a fair and socially-responsible company associating with like-minded companies.

Please work with your advertising agency to immediately correct this unacceptable situation. Otherwise, I will take my business elsewhere—plus, I’ll encourage my family and friends to do the same.

Your valued customer,

(insert personal signature)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Essay Twelve

Bonus Rant!

The American Advertising Federation (AAF) needs a name change, considering their indifference to African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans. My initial idea—which won’t even require drastic revisions to their logo—is Anglo Advertising Federation.

Despite the organization’s multicultural committees and initiatives (check it all out on their website at, there has been no real progress in the areas of racism and diversity in the industry.

If an advertising agency consistently failed to deliver on goals, it would be subject to immediate review and termination. Why don’t the same standards apply to the AAF?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Essay Eleven

Hispanics officially surpassed African Americans as the largest minority group in America. Oxymoron aside, it looks like they’re duplicating the feat in the advertising industry too. Multicultural agencies—particularly African American agencies—should take note, because our Hispanic partners are doing lots of things right.

If you want to see a symbol of the success, check out Marketing Y Medios from the publishers of Adweek. This monthly magazine says it all—in plain English. It’s a forum to introduce and debate issues, allowing Hispanic business leaders to publicly build prominence and credibility. Insights and statistical data continue to show the target’s diversity. Case studies and creative highlights present the innovative spirit that seems to define the category. Columnists add personality and attitude. Hell, there’s even a comic strip! Of course, it’s the perfect vehicle for Hispanic advertising agencies to hawk their capabilities via print ads. In short, this magazine really makes a strong case for Hispanic marketing, ultimately inviting future clients to consider the business-building benefits.

Hispanic adfolks are pushing the positives. Even when critiquing potentially offensive or stereotypical efforts, they usually balance things by also saluting the good efforts (in contrast to the African American criticism detailed in the preceding Essay Ten). Plus, they’re staying professional, avoiding the political intimidation and implications that often accompany ethnic initiatives.

If Marketing Y Medios suddenly stopped appearing on newsstands, someone would simply find more ways to get the word out and keep increasing the momentum.

There are lessons to be learned here—for multicultural agencies and mass market agencies too. As the Hispanic population grows, one can only wonder how long it will take before Hispanic advertising agencies gain enough power to assume the majority role.

(For readers who missed the typically harsh and acidic tone, don’t worry—it returns in full force with the next posting.)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Essay Ten

The following letter appeared in Adweek on February 21, 2005:

Recent Twix spot: What were they thinking?

I was surprised recently to see the very disturbing television spot for Twix featuring the African American couple [in which the wife asks the husband if her pants make her look fat, and the camera then zooms in on her butt, which makes it look huge]. Obviously, there was no consideration as to whether the spot would be offensive to African American women or women in general. It perpetuates a stereotype of black women that we would all prefer to put behind us (no pun intended).

What’s more disturbing is that Mars has an affiliation with a very fine and respected African American ad agency, UniWorld. Clearly no one bothered to consult with them on this creative.

Two major faux pas!

McGhee Williams
Managing partner


For anyone actually paying attention to the contents of this blog (a small and lonely group, I suspect), it should be clear by now that I believe the advertising industry has lots of problems regarding race and diversity. But, damn—McGhee Williams is taking the revolution a little too seriously.

I think the Twix spot is funny. The truth is, it’s hardly an original idea—a wife or girlfriend asking if something makes her look fat is a common joke. And Twix plays it out in pretty common fashion. So what’s the faux pas here?

An informal poll of African American friends and associates—including women—failed to find a single person offended by the spot. Dave Chappelle and the Wayans Brothers routinely deliver material that’s much more racy (no pun intended). Granted, these comedians are established personalities, so audiences expect their broad comedy styles. But Twix doesn’t come anywhere near these guys’ level of outrageous behavior.

I have no doubt that McGhee Williams found the spot offensive. I’m sure others also found it offensive—just as certain people find reasons to take offense to every ad on the air. However, to position the message as racially insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes is going overboard.

McGhee Williams’ remarks become more complicated because African Americans make up a diverse group. Attempting to categorize everyone’s reactions is impossible. Plus, it actually leads to creating and perpetuating stereotypes, which is not McGhee Williams’ objective (I hope). I definitely do not need a spokesperson for my perspectives.

Having worked at agencies like Burrell, I’ll say with absolute certainty that McGhee Williams has produced many spots ultimately deemed offensive by African Americans. We’re an easily offended group. McGhee Williams’ response to the Twix ad confirms this quite clearly. I’ll bet there are plenty of Burrell and UniWorld spots perpetuating stereotypes too (stay tuned—this topic deserves a future posting).

Maybe McGhee Williams is sensitive about the size of her own booty. I recommend that she pull her head out of her ass and lighten up already. Let’s protest the real offenses in our industry.

[Special thanks to Miss P for input on this posting.]

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Essay Nine

A recent press release from direct response behemoth Draft opens with the following:

“In early 2004, Draft New York launched the first dedicated multicultural unit in the direct response industry, offering core competencies in both above-the-line and below-the-line disciplines.”

Well, technically, I guess it’s accurate to claim being the first in the industry. But it should be noted that multicultural advertising agencies have been providing dedicated direct response efforts to clients for many years. Just ask anyone at places like GlobalHue, Burrell, Orci & Associates and more. Plus, it’s pretty likely that some agency has charted these waters before (I’ll send a copy of Jackie Robinson’s biography to the first reader who identifies a pre-Draft pioneer).

While it’s terrific to see Draft has discovered minorities, does anyone besides me wonder what the hell took them so long? The direct response industry has been around for generations. Lester Wunderman was practicing the trade back in the 1950s (if Wunderman had applied his Columbia Record Club tactics to Motown, he could have snagged some serious bling). So it’s odd that Draft becomes the visionary in the 21st century.

Equally disturbing is the interview that follows in the Draft press release. Larry Harris—EVP, Director of Integrated and Cross-Cultural Communications—speaks about the challenges and issues surrounding multicultural marketing. Harris essentially regurgitates everything that’s already been said by every multicultural advertising agency in history. What makes it so disturbing is realizing that even today, the argument for targeting ethnic consumers must continue to be presented.

It should be interesting to watch Draft explore the undiscovered country. While the press release communicates the standard viewpoints, there are no case studies or evidence to demonstrate the company has relevant expertise in the field. If Draft ever requires help, they need only contact any multicultural advertising agency in the industry.

Essay Eight

Yo, I’ve got a killer concept for a new reality tv show that’s sure to draw the interest of mega-producer Mark Burnett. And if Burnett takes a pass, I’ll definitely sell it to BET.

The working title is: Da Apprentice.

Here’s the lowdown. Ethnic Advertising Legend Thomas Burrell assumes the Trump-like role. To keep things interesting—plus inject crossover appeal and sex appeal—Burrell will team up with Wayne Brady and Omorosa.

The contestants will be comprised of the top non-Black gurus of the advertising industry: Alex Bogusky, Lee Clow, Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein, Donny Deutsch and more.

Every week, these players will try to create campaigns targeting African American consumers. Drama and hijinks abound when they must perform under the same conditions as the professionals employed at typical ethnic advertising agencies.

The corporate obstacle course starts with insufficient research and outdated consumer insights. Concepts must be developed under shorter timelines with fewer resources. As always, the compensation and production budgets will be significantly less than the industry norms. Plus, cameo appearances by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will keep everyone on edge.

The contestants must also present their ideas to clueless, conservative clients who will ask, “What’s Black about it?” while requesting revisions with more “cultural relevance.” Automatic rejections will go to anything that doesn’t prominently feature a family reunion, barbecue, gospel choir, graduation, graffiti, sassy grandma, jazz band, double dutch, Kwanzaa, barbershop, dancers, disc jockey, dreadlocks/afros/braids, basketball, Black celebrities, pimped ride, hip-hop or the word “style.” In addition, the clients will demand the use of minority suppliers in order to meet company quotas.

Burrell, Brady and Omorosa will judge the finished projects, regularly firing the weakest performers in a boardroom filled with Afrocentric artwork. Burrell’s termination catchphrase could be something like, “You’re jive.”

The surviving contestant wins a year-long internship at an ethnic advertising agency and a free subscription to Jet magazine.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Essay Seven

Now Muslims are complaining about the portrayal of characters from their community in “24,” the Fox hit series. Fox has taken extraordinary actions to calm the storm, airing and even producing public service announcements.

Hell, the one show with enough guts to portray a Black Man as President of the United States still fumbles in the PC Bowl.

But to be honest, I’m more outraged that they killed off Aisha Tyler’s character. She’s hot.

To the unhappy Muslims, let me say, “Welcome to Primetime, Baby!”

If it’s any consolation, other minorities have lots more than y’all to gripe about regarding stereotypical and negative depictions.

Then again, we do have Univision and BET as sources of cultural pride.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Essay Six

Today I was summoned into an emergency meeting for a new business pitch. The rainmakers required unique expertise on a critical topic. And apparently, they turned to me after failed initial attempts at locating the Mailroom Dude.

Here’s the story. The prospective client had inquired about the agency’s capabilities in addressing African American consumers. This request posed quite a challenge, as the agency has zero capabilities—hell, they don’t even have disabilities in this area.

In a company of 150+ employees, the only African Americans are the Mailroom Dude and yours truly. And I later learned they debated seeking me out because some folks didn’t think I was African American (the result of being somewhat light-skinned, I guess).

It’s always interesting to watch White Folks stumble into the great cultural divide. The conversations often feature at least one person employing Afro-American, while the rest are never quite sure if using Black is appropriate. You’ll occasionally encounter someone still comfortable with Negro—but these old-timers are pretty rare.

Being called upon to represent the collective minority is both a big responsibility and a big pain in the ass. Guesses become gospel, and stereotypes perpetuate with each personal anecdote. The Junior Account Executive records every spoken word like a court stenographer, probably hoping for something to later mix into his Eminem-inspired rhymes. The Creative Director who routinely blows off your opinions suddenly leans in like Kwai Chang Caine bowing before the blind Master. And I always have to wonder when the Director of Account Planning proclaims, “People are people!”

I’m tempted to offer false testimony—like convince them that Wayne Brady is the quintessential spokesperson. But I ultimately play it polite and professional. Which maybe makes me a lot like Wayne Brady.

No offense, Wayne.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Call For Shout Outs

Got any radical ideas? Been a victim of discrimination or diversity—or regularly mistaken for mailroom staff? Type your social status report and share your views.

The revolution will not be televised. But now it can accessed via the Internet.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Essay Five

The following are a newspaper column and my response…

Why don't we call them brawl games?
By Clarence Page
(published November 28, 2004)

There's an old joke about a guy who went to a fight and saw a hockey game break out. Things have not gotten that bad yet at the National Basketball Association, although you might think so from coverage of the recent "basketbrawl" at a Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game in Detroit's Palace of Auburn Hills. Coming just in time to give Americans something besides politics to discuss over Thanksgiving dinner, the jaw-dropping footage has aired over and over again like an ad for some sort of a "Negroes Gone Wild" video.

As a black American who takes pride in the way historical black sports heroes like Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan helped ease social barriers and racial tensions, I am not only outraged but downright wounded by the sight of black players who call themselves "professionals" losing their cool in a fracas with fans sitting in expensive seats.

Sure, some of those fans deserved a good whupping when their boorish heckling turned violent. But even when responding to thrown objects that included a chair, a large cup filled with a beverage, and showers of beer and popcorn, there's no way that a player is going to come out ahead in the eyes of most onlookers.

Imagine, for example, the backlash against Larry Bird back in his playing days if he had decided to put the smackdown on black filmmaker Spike Lee's relentless heckling from courtside. Bird could have squashed the pint-sized Lee like a bug, but his good-guy image remains intact today because he didn't.

So my kudos go out to NBA Commissioner David Stern for imposing tough penalties on Indiana forward Ron Artest and other players involved in the brawl. Banishment from future games should be the appropriate minimum punishment for fans determined to be involved in the melee too. Oakland County (Mich.) prosecutor David Gorcyca said he would seek felony charges against whoever threw the chair. Good for him. Obnoxious shouting is bad enough. Throwing furniture is felonious.

The next step, in my view, should be the ejection of excessively obnoxious fans, although in some towns that could virtually clear out the arena.

And I am not sure what punishment is appropriate other than shame and ridicule for commentators who care to shed more heat than light on the mess in Michigan. Their names are too numerous to list here, but you know them when you read them or hear them.

One in particular is worthy of note. See if you can guess from the following quotes:

- "This is the hip-hop culture on parade. This is gang behavior on parade minus the guns. That's the culture that the NBA has become."

" ... You look at NBA players and the uniforms, you don't have to go back very far. The uniforms have changed totally. They're now in gang colors. They are in gang styles.

" ... Just rename the city of Detroit to New Fallujah, Mich., and then what happens at the Palace of Auburn Hills will be understood by everybody who goes there."

" ... By the way, has anybody noticed all these outbreaks, all this violence, all this stuff happens in blue cities, ladies and gentlemen? I mean, you don't see this happening in Charlotte [N.C.]. You don't see this sort of stuff happening. But you do see it happening out of Miami; you do see it happening in the blue cities out there. So, you know, call L.A. 'New Mosul, Calif.' You could call New York 'Baghdad, N.Y.,' and this helps people put this in perspective ..."

Yes, those hyperventilated gems, among others, were uttered by Rush Limbaugh, the famous conservative radio talk host and recovering drug addict.

Praising his own "courage" for telling it like it is, Limbaugh noted that his take surely would be "tagged as racist." Well, not by me. Overblown? Unsupported by facts? Pandering to rap-music haters? Oh, yes. But not racist. After all, a lot of us black folks would agree with a lot of what he says, not because we're self-hating but because we care.

But Limbaugh's slap at blue state America soared at warp speed to some other zone of reality. One only had to look to the very day after the Detroit disaster to see the Clemson vs. South Carolina college football game erupt into an ugly 10-minute, fourth-quarter brawl that looked like two helmeted street gangs going at it.

To their credit, officials at both schools decided to punish their players by not accepting any bowl bids this year. Good. That's the collegiate equivalent of going nuclear, as sports punishments go, and it sends an important signal to college athletes and others about the value of discipline: Keep your cool and keep your ego in check.

If only our pro athletics could learn the same lesson. Then, who knows? It might even spread to us commentators.


Dear Clarence Page:

Racism and racial issues are too complex and paradoxical. That’s one reason why folks like Rush Limbaugh are idiots—they seek to simplify and compress matters into their own narrow-minded sound bites. You should be careful to avoid doing likewise.

I’m not sure your Larry Bird-Spike Lee example is completely valid. For starters, Lee never threw a cup of beer at Bird. I have no doubt that Bird would have gone after Lee in such a scenario (heck, Bird recently admitted that he wasn’t sure how he might respond if he was in Ron Artest’s nikes). In fact, I have no doubt that Bird would have been revered by the public for going after Lee in this fantasy situation.

One key point to consider is the emotion behind fan misbehavior. In Lee’s case, the misbehavior is based on rivalry—it’s essentially trash-talking. In Artest’s case, I believe the motivations are more insidious. The racial slurs fans heap on players would constitute discrimination and hate crimes in any other situation. Throwing a cup of beer takes the hate to another level, bordering on assault.

Charles Barkley recently noted how NBA players are routinely labeled with terms like thug and punk. Let’s be honest—these are really substitutes for nigger.

Here’s another point to consider: when Artest was first physically attacked by Ben Wallace, Artest backed off and showed restraint. Why? Because, like it or not, the attack was a part of the game. Plus, Wallace could probably kick Artest’s ass. Nonetheless, Artest recognized Wallace’s aggression as “acceptable” behavior. However, being doused by a fan seconds later was an entirely different story. The fan’s act showed disrespect and outright hatred. It’s one thing to recognize certain players seek to physically injure opposing players. It’s quite another thing for fans to display such evil.

You’re right to note the commentators who continue to pour fuel on the flames. Their actions and hate-inspiring words are a huge part of the problem. Let me know when you and your newspaper’s editorial board suspend your own sports columnists for their contributions to this mess.

I’ll leave the additional arguments regarding social status and rough upbringings to the sociologists and clergymen. But you’ve got to admit, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal looked like men caught in a race riot—and in many respects, that’s exactly what it was.

Essay Four

Chris Rock once observed that old black men are the most racist people in the world—“a brother in his sixties hates everybody.”

This may explain Bill Cosby’s recent ranting and raving.

It’s unfortunate that such a beloved icon is now generating unnecessary and unproductive controversy. It’s even more unfortunate that his remarks are probably building greater racial divides between Americans, which ultimately makes it more difficult to constructively address matters. And it’s most unfortunate that Cosby apparently doesn’t realize his true potential in solving the real issues.

If Cosby would calm down for a moment, he might begin to see that this isn’t a black problem. It’s an American problem. Like it or not, Americans will have to work collectively to initiate change and create progress.

Cosby could be an unstoppable force in the efforts. After all, he holds such rare status in America with his tremendous crossover appeal. There are only a handful of individuals possessing the ability to bring people together by dissolving racial differences: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey are among the list (and most of these folks have opted not to publicly engage in political issues). Cosby should consider his influential strengths and use them to rally all Americans for the cause.

Imagine Cosby appearing before Congress. No politician would dare to dispute or ignore him. If President Bush needs the ultimate photo op, assemble Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Cosby into the Oval Office. Cosby injected politics into these issues from the start, making his comments at NAACP and Rainbow/PUSH events. He now needs to take his show to a broader audience and larger political arena.

Cosby also has nearly unlimited power in the media, particularly with network television. He needs to exert pressure for more positive coverage of the black community.

Right now, the entire affair appears relegated (or segregated) to the black sector of society. It’s interesting that mostly black columnists are discussing the issues. Are non-black columnists afraid to even touch it, as politically-correct landmines abound? Or are they simply disinterested, figuring it’s just a black thing? Whatever the reasons, the end result can only be incomplete if the topic remains confined to isolated events and individuals.

And Cosby runs the risk of becoming nothing more than an annoying sound bite—a rambling, angry, old black man.

Essay Three

Back in 1997, Chris Rock sparked some controversy with his rant, “I hate niggers.” In fact, Bill Cosby even scolded Rock for the younger comic’s stand-up routine. Now Cosby essentially makes the same critical commentary—albeit without the comedic edge—and he appears to have no problem accepting the applause his routine generates.

It sure would be nice if the real solution to the issues presented by Rock and Cosby simply involved looking in the mirror, as Cosby insists. But the truth is, a mirror is probably the last item needed right now. The issues won’t be solved until everyone stops viewing things as blacks’ problems. Rather, we need to view them as America’s problems or society’s problems—or heaven forbid, humanity’s problems.

It’s not your dirty laundry. It’s America’s dirty laundry. It’s not black-on-black crime. It’s citizen-on-citizen crime—or better yet, it’s crime (incidentally, any social scientist can show the relationships between crime and poverty, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one arguing that crime is inherently racial). Keeping things segregated has never been an effective solution for anything. What’s more, it ultimately perpetuates stereotypes, fosters ignorance and fuels biased thinking.

Let’s give Cosby the benefit of the doubt and believe that he’s honestly motivated to create positive social change. Unfortunately, negative persuasion won’t sell progress any more than it will sell Jell-O Pudding Pops. Cosby could do more good by influencing his media friends to spend time reporting on community volunteers versus community villains. Guess what? The volunteers clearly outnumber the villains. But you’d never know it from reading the newspapers or watching the idiot box.

It’s interesting that the media quietly allows Cosby to air his grievances. If President Bush, John Kerry or Rush Limbaugh made the same remarks, every talk show host and newspaper columnist would be debating the monologues 24/7. And why is Cosby more qualified or justified to make the case here? Is a black multimillionaire really more in tune with poor people than non-black multimillionaires—or is anyone else, for that matter?

One newspaper columnist related Cosby’s soapbox grumbling with the Million Man March. Sadly, the two events may possibly have similar end results. Presenting a platform can be inspiring; but without an action plan, it’s all rather pointless.

Tactics that include self-blaming, self-motivation, self-regulation, self-reliance, self-respect or even self-hypnosis have been ineffective because the issues were not self-generated. While these tactics can and should be employed, they’re only a small part of the overall solution. Otherwise, Booker T. Washington would be a greater hero than Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X.

I could go on, but I’ve got my own problems to worry about. And that’s the real problem with all of this.

Essay Two

Making Multiculturalism Work in the Marketplace was the theme of a September 2004 AAF Forum. That’s a pretty lofty goal for an industry failing to make multiculturalism work in the workplace.

The gala featured an event titled: Strategies for Creating Successful Partnerships with Ethnic Advertising Agencies. Scheduled to present the strategies were IPG Chairman David Bell, Leo Burnett CEO Tom Bernardin, DDB Chairman & CEO Keith Reinhard and BBDO Chairman & CEO Allen Rosenshine. Based on the photographs in the AAF’s promotional materials, these leaders appeared to be Old White Men.

Did AAF officials consider including leaders from ethnic advertising agencies? Perhaps invitations were extended and politely declined. Nonetheless, it seemed odd to discuss partnerships without equal representation from the partners.

Anyone who has worked at an ethnic advertising agency will attest—albeit behind closed doors and off the record—that the partners are rarely equal when agencies team up. Mass market advertising agencies often assume dominating roles in these relationships, controlling the concepts, schedules and budgets. Indeed, one continuing challenge for all ethnic agencies involves creating work that rivals the quality of mass market agencies’ efforts—and do it with less time, staff and money. The truth is, most people employed at mass market agencies wouldn’t survive at ethnic shops. The job demands would be more than they could ever handle.

Some might argue that mass market agencies should lead the charge when teaming up with ethnic agencies. But most ethnic shops usually discover mass market agencies’ campaigns rarely recognize multicultural consumers, employing taglines that don’t translate or imagery that won’t relate to all segments. Rather than producing messages that truly target audiences, ethnic shops must often force fit their contributions.

Most would agree that advertisers benefit from a unified brand personality. But who is most qualified to play the role of inventor? More importantly, how should the experiments be conducted?

Procter & Gamble recently launched an initiative to better distribute assignments across all its agencies. At a kick-off gathering, multicultural advertising icon Thomas Burrell insisted that the client should be responsible for managing the integrated brainstorm. Burrell recognized that in today’s arena, ethnic agencies and mass market agencies are direct competitors. And if mass market agencies continued to enjoy majority rule, the initiative would not realize its potential. Only time will tell if the P&G gambit generates meaningful progress.

In the past decade, mass market advertising agencies have attempted to increase their multicultural capabilities, usually by buying ethnic shops. But like most mergers, the inevitable culture shock associated with these alliances creates even greater segregation. However, the merger-related issues are rarely based on ethnicity; rather, it’s all about economics. Most mass market shops generate revenue a lot differently than their ethnic counterparts, so the parent company ultimately struggles to make a profit. Plus, political issues may surface if ethnic shops lose minority-ownership status.

With all of this in mind, one can only wonder what strategies Bell, Bernardin, Reinhard and Rosenshine offered on September 22. Clients should pay close attention, and critically analyze the implications and responsibilities before allowing anyone to execute new directives. And hopefully, ethnic agencies will be true partners in developing the strategies.

And here’s a final, bonus rant. The AAF Forum also featured an event titled: Return on Investment from Incorporating Multiculturalism into Marketing Strategies. Ethnic advertising agencies have existed for over 40 years, yet people still must make cases for multiculturalism?

In the words of Marvin Gaye, What’s going on?

Essay One

In 1995 Ed Wax, then CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, drops the bomb: Mix up industry peeps to mirror the U.S. ethnic population by 2005—and we’ll party like it’s 1999. Word.

In 2004 Wax’s Dream is not only unrealized, but Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York office is embroiled in a potential racial discrimination lawsuit.

It makes me wanna holler.

Miller Brewing Co. apologizes for failing to give props to African American artists on its series of commemorative rock ‘n’ roll cans, despite the brewer’s sponsorship of prominent black performers in related concert promotions. Is it a Freudian slip that Elvis Presley and Blondie got cans instead of Chuck Berry and James Brown?

Welcome to Miller Time—unless you’re an African American.

Interpublic Group launches a program in which ten minority interns rotate like Ruby Bridges among seven IPG shops. Given that these agencies probably employ scores of interns annually—and possibly hundreds throughout the IPG network—showcasing this program is like bragging about sending a loaf of Wonder Bread to Sudan.

IPG efforts 2B PC R BS.

Sears Roebuck & Co. decides to desegregate and/or disintegrate its multicultural unit. Quiet as it’s kept, minorities make up the majority of Sears’ customer base in key regions. So maybe the faltering retailer should’ve eliminated its general marketing divisions instead.

Ironically, the good life is no longer guaranteed—and it doesn’t reflect real life.

Young & Rubicam’s Chairman-CEO Ann Fudge expresses surprise at the advertising industry’s “dearth of diversity”—and the trade publication covering the story uses the headline, “Death of diversity.”

Proofreading is a terrible thing to waste.

Brown & Williamson receives heat for hawking its Kool cigarettes with hip-hop imagery.

Too bad—Kool Moe Dee really needed the work.

Nielsen Media Research gets caught allegedly undercounting minorities.

Was Nielsen operating with some twisted version of the Three-Fifths Compromise Agreement?

Waffle House faces a lawsuit for discriminating against black customers in Georgia.

Insert your own clever references to Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth.

News stories involving diversity—and its ugly companion racism—usually only appear in advertising trade publications during the two months designated to Black History and Hispanic Heritage. Maybe it’s a twisted sign of progress that the topics are now routinely appearing throughout the year. Or perhaps it’s time for open and honest discussions, followed by deliberate and measurable actions.

Advertising agencies and advertisers alike appear to be equally disinterested in equal opportunities and diversity. Sadly, corporations like Sears have never been able to execute radical change in any area, much to the delight of Wal-Mart, Target and other successful competitors. But even more disturbing is the inability of advertising agencies to do the right thing, given their self-proclaimed liberal tendencies, cutting-edge cultural savvy and semi-proactive nature.

Industry leaders allegedly brainstorm for ways to attract minorities to the business. Though in most cases, they wind up hiring minorities to brainstorm for ways to attract minorities to the business. But no one wants to admit that our true actions—whether calculated or not—actually discourage minorities from seeking advertising and marketing careers. With the exception of mailroom opportunities (and it’s no wonder that DDB’s Office Max character was inspired by the agency’s mailroom staff), the prospects of succeeding in advertising for non-whites are slim like Shady, if you know what I’m saying. And minorities know what I’m saying.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re in an evil industry, filled with hateful, genocide-scheming racists. In fact, it’s unlikely that the investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights will uncover any illegal activities—especially given the complicated ways of our justice system. But to deny that there’s a serious problem requires high levels of apathy and ignorance.

So when’s the last time you checked your apathy and ignorance levels?

Apathy runs rampant in the wake of restructuring and downsizing. Industry leaders focus on revenue to the point where billable hours are more important than big ideas. It’s all about making profits by any means necessary. We’re constantly seeking to generate maximum results with the minimum amount of time, money and people. As a result, everyone’s professional and personal priority lists probably don’t even include dealing with diversity. And given the lousy job market, it’s almost understandable. Diversity, affirmative action and quotas were all good when jobs were plentiful. But now it’s a dog-eat-dog world, dawg.

Why is apathy so insidious? Because it inevitably leads us to believe that diversity-related issues are not our problem. Instead, we may believe these issues need to be handled by minorities and Human Resources managers. Unfortunately, our inability to see our collective contributions to the dilemma only compounds matters. It may be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but we all need to work together to achieve real progress.

Ignorance is a harsh word. It makes people feel insulted, angry and defensive. But ignorance is at the very heart of this entire mess. So let’s come to grips with it sooner than later.

In 1997 Lawrence Otis Graham wrote Proversity, the title being a term the author coined to stand for Progressive Diversity. In the book, Graham identified three types of bias: Active Bias, Passive Bias and Deceptive Bias. Active Bias refers to blatant and open displays of biased behavior, where all parties are aware of the bias (for example, the Ku Klux Klan would fall into the Active Bias category). With Passive Bias, the source of the biased behavior is unaware of their bias, but the other involved parties are very much aware (the aforementioned Miller Brewing Co. incident might be an example of Passive Bias). Deceptive Bias entails the biased party being aware of their attitudes and actions, but the other involved parties are unaware (sorry, but offering examples for this category might result in accusations of defamation).

If you follow Graham’s line of thinking, you’ll probably decide that there is little Active Bias in the industry. And let’s hope that Deceptive Bias is an extremely rare occurrence (although it’s likely that minorities perceive many attempts at Deceptive Bias). The majority of our diversity issues fall into the Passive Bias realm. In other words, most of us are unintentionally insensitive on the cultural tip.

What distinguishes Passive Bias from the other types is that it’s not based on malicious or sinister motives. Again, it’s essentially a matter of being unfamiliar with each other’s traditions, attitudes and life experiences.

To be clear, biased behavior—whether active, passive or deceptive—is not exclusive to non-minorities. Behind closed doors and off the record, whites employed at “multicultural” shops will readily admit to experiencing biased behavior that would qualify as reverse discrimination. These rare individuals probably have a better perspective than anyone on what minorities face in general market agencies. Additionally, biased behavior is even present within ethnic groups and/or groups sharing cultural characteristics (i.e., religion, race, lifestyle, etc.).

So if just about everyone displays varying levels of Passive Bias, how can we create open, honest and inclusive work environments? By being open, honest and inclusive. By making an effort to get to know each other. By starting meaningful dialogues that foster personal and collective growth. By showing the courage to step outside of our own cultural comfort zones. By trying to understand and respect our differences. By finding commonalities and shared values—and ultimately teaming up to achieve shared goals.

That’s all there is to it. Did I lead you to believe there might be a more unique, insightful and breakthrough answer? My bad. Plus, I swiped most of the advice from Graham (not to mention Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Gandhi, The Dalai Lama and my mother).

But don’t expect to fix things immediately. These issues have festered over generations. The solutions may take just as long to execute. Perhaps it’s best to realize this will be an ongoing and dynamic process, filled with endless curves and gyrations. But let’s agree that procrastinating or ignoring things are unacceptable responses. Any initiatives we define as “baby steps” should be frowned upon too. Revolution and radical change are much more inspiring concepts to embrace. If you can’t handle revolution and radical change, you really need to find a new line of work.

Here’s a final thought to consider: Will continued inaction make our Passive Bias appear to be Active or Deceptive?

Peace out.