Sunday, August 26, 2007

Essay 4379

The editorial below appeared at—a MultiCultClassics response immediately follows…


Diversity Debate Can Get Rough, but It’s Necessary

An Ad Age Editorial

There are few things in the industry on which we can reach consensus, but it’s safe to say that we can all agree on this: Marketing is never easy; marketing to a diverse audience is harder still.

Procter & Gamble has made two major moves in the arena recently. The first, which we wrote about last week, involved moving its Hispanic-marketing unit from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and giving it a home with the rest of the marketing team at company headquarters. The second, which we cover this week, is its “My Black is Beautiful” program under the lead of Najoh Reid.

It will be interesting to see how the discussions surrounding these moves play out. While P&G will undoubtedly win praise, the marketer is also opening itself up to criticism. Some in the Hispanic advertising and marketing community argue that Hispanic marketing is a distinct entity and should not be folded into general marketing. They’ll be watching closely to see how the move to Cincinnati affects P&G’s Hispanic messaging. For “My Black Is Beautiful,” it’s not beyond belief that someone will point out that the marketer is simply trying to cash in on the insecurities of a specific group.

Regardless, P&G is right to push ahead. And the debate swirling around such moves is welcome. Too often, the general-market side of the industry seems too paralyzed by fear to have real discussions about multiculturalism and diversity.

Even broaching the subject puts one at risk of offending any number of people for any number of reasons. Diversity is not multiculturalism is not race [sic]. As we learned while ironing out the details of our new diversity-related blog, The Big Tent (, if one has a discussion relying on the old black-and-white dichotomy of the American cultural divide, the Hispanic market will point out that it’s the biggest -- and biggest-spending -- minority group (and not a race, mind you). And the gay community, as well as disabled Americans, will remind you that defining diversity by race and ethnicity is too limiting.

They were all right. And we actually learned a thing or two we wouldn’t have learned had we not broached the subject.

Which is exactly why the industry -- all of it, not just the minority shops and watchdogs -- should be discussing these things in the first place.


It’s nice to see Advertising Age attempt to enhance its editorial content with diversity. It’s also disturbing to see the continued cultural cluelessness demonstrated by the supposed industry experts.

For starters, calling P&G’s “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign groundbreaking (see Essay 4378) shows a definite unfamiliarity with minority marketing. While this well-intentioned effort may have broad reach, it’s hardly unique. Additionally, comparing the initiative to Dove’s “Real Beauty” bullshit is inaccurate—particularly since the Dove perspectives remain primarily White. Vaseline recently ran a campaign for its lotions celebrating Black skin (the website appears to have vanished). Hell, virtually every health, beauty and fashion brand targeting Black women—including many P&G products—has adopted a “My Black Is Beautiful” stance at least once in their respective marketing histories. On abstract levels, there are numerous corporations wooing minorities with such tactics. Mickey D’s hypes the “365 Black” campaign, designed to honor Black History past February, and a host of advertisers have created identical year-round propaganda. Other minority segments undoubtedly feature similar semi-patronizing concepts.

That aside, there’s a bigger related story receiving zero press coverage. A few years ago, P&G kicked off plans to distribute more assignments to minority agencies. It’s unclear how successful this scheme has been, although the White agencies maintain political and financial strangleholds on the accounts (e.g., Grey Advertising allegedly produced commercials introducing Pantene’s Black hair care products, despite the fact that a capable minority shop is on Pantene’s agency roster). If they really wish to exhibit diversity innovation, P&G should award total control of any brand to a minority firm. Unfortunately, it looks like “My Black Is Beautiful” does not apply to the mega-advertiser’s minority partners.

Finally, Advertising Age is correct in recognizing race and ethnicity limit diversity discussions. But the truth is, minorities have never charged that it’s just a racial and ethnic thing (minorities, incidentally, is not a term labeling people solely based on their skin color or land of origin). Rather, the issues revolve around the global offenses of discrimination and exclusivity—which go way beyond race and ethnicity. In the end, it’s impossible to hold diversity discussions when all the involved players don’t come to the proverbial roundtable.

1 comment:

on a lark said...

yes, p&g 'is simply trying to cash in on the insecurities of a specific group'.

we all have a doll story, a date with a dashiki and a nappily-ever-after. the p&g program trivializes the self-hate that manifests as the color complex—which is a broader discussion for all people of colour.

i'm sorry. i want to get behind ms. reid on this, but it's just too little, too late...and too lame.