Friday, May 09, 2008

5453: Yo Comment.

A few spirited comments appeared at’s The Big Tent in response to news of the initiative involving Howard University and the 4As. After noting the Open Letter To Nancy Hill, here’s what one person had to say…

When the City of New York handed out subpoenas to more than a dozen agency CEO’s to appear before the Human Rights Commission, the public face of the 4A’s found it more fitting to talk about the upcoming Advertising Week festivities. Behind the scenes, however, the industry retained a powerful City Hall lobbyist to try to sweep the entire unsightly spectacle under the rug, so as not to mar those upcoming festivities. This is the leadership legacy of the advertising industry 40 years after the government first held their feet to the fire. Yet when that same government threatened to levy an advertising tax, the 4A’s moved Heaven and Earth to defeat it. This is the legacy of putting first things first in advertising. Diversity is not a priority in advertising. When L. Ross Love, Vice President of Worldwide Advertising for P&G, demanded that his agencies embrace diversity, he was suddenly forced into an early retirement. It appears that what is a priority in the agency business is to hold strong at the status quo. Which is Minorities Need Not Apply. The one thing that Ms. Hill could do to show that her heart is in the right place would be to publish a yearly headcount of minority employees at the member agencies ranked by salary. But she won’t. Another thing she could do would be to require that member agencies register as Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employers with the Feds. But she won’t. Or maybe she could insist that the search firms that supply the bulk of mid-to-upper echelon job candidates submit a minority headcount similar to those used in commercial casting. But she won’t. As for her seizing the position of Chief Diversity Officer, she won’t be doing that either. It seems the only thing Ms. Hill has done in that area in the past is create a Hispanic agency at Lowe to keep that business from going to minority owned shops and be a “voice” for the need for more diversity. However, I challenge anyone to find a minority Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director, Management Supervisor, EVP Media or any other high-ranking minority employee at Lowe, Doner, Baltimore, Goldberg Moser O’Neill and Hill Holliday, San Francisco and New York, and TBWA\Chiat\Day, St. Louis and Los Angeles (her former agencies). Of course, there is Doug Alligood at BBDO. Perhaps she can claim him. No, I would not look to Ms. Hill for anything more than business as usual at the 4A’s. Which is as it should be. With the mess this business is in with outdated business models and outmoded compensation standards, the last thing she should be focused on is a non-starter like diversity. — Harry Webber, Los Angeles, CA

Additionally, in response to early reporting on the new initiative, here’s what others had to say…

Howard University? Great school. Certainly the first place Razorfish, Chiat Day or Anomaly will be going to get candidates for their summer intern programs. A million bucks to do what nobody really wants done. Good one. And who will they get to head up their Center of Excellence In Advertising? Certainly nobody from our industry. Few award-winning creatives have a Masters Degree. That leaves academians and account guys. Lots of expertise in excellence in that talent pool. The truth is that there are only a handful of institutions that our industry looks to for first pick draft choices. On the management side, you have Harvard B-School, Wharton, U of I Champaign, Kellogg and that’s it. On the creative side, you have SVA, Art Center, Miami Portfolio and RSD maybe. I didn’t see Howard or any other traditionally black college on any gotta see lists I’ve ever seen. I have nothing against Howard. Hell, I got married there. I certainly have nothing against Black Universities. Vince Daddiego, Forrest Long, Joan Blaish and I taught America that “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste” centuries ago at Y&R. But this is not a viable solution. This is a low budget publicity stunt. A minority scholarship to Harvard or Wharton would have been more in line. But then they would have to hire the graduates. And that would have defeated the purpose. Now they can pawn them off to Burrell or Uniworld. Way to go, Ms. Hill. Keep up the good work. The 4A’s is living up to its name. “Always Against Any Advancement.” —Harry Webber, Los Angeles, CA

This is great and I definitely support the 4A’s supporting a great school like Howard University, but it is the typical old school answer to solving the real issue of racism and hoping to have some defense when the real facts about the lack of executives (or even medium- to high-level middle managers) of color in the advertising industry is called out by others.

If you get thousands of talented people of color excited about advertising while they are in school at Howard and then, in turn, get them to choose this field as their “dream career,” how long will it be once they are in it that they realize that the support and advancement system available to their general market counterparts just does not exist for people of color in advertising?

Even when this talent goes to a “urban focused” agency to get the experience and work in an environment that they are allowed to excel in, when they try to move beyond that into the world of larger agencies, that experience is typically dismissed and not valued by both high-level hiring executives at those agencies and top recruiters that work for them. Moving from one of the traditionally urban agencies into a general market agency typically means a step down or backwards in the career of viable candidates.

The vast majority of truly talented people of color in this biz have either gone on to industries where they are embraced and nurtured or have developed ventures that they own to try to write their own ticket.

The issue is bigger than a donation that (on a yearly basis) doesn’t even amount to the salary of one high-ranking executive at any of the top general market agencies. The feet of the large agencies needs to be held to the fire on this issue on a constant and public basis by the 4A’s, the government and the clients that pay for their existence if this situation is ever really going to change in a positive way. —David Watkins, New York, NY

As an HBCU alum and PR professional I think this is terrific news. My hope is that it draws still greater attention to the glaring lack of minority advertising and PR practitioners in the general market space. —Christopher Brown IV, Chicago, IL

1 comment:

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