Wednesday, May 05, 2010

7645: Super Bowl Ads Are Super White.

From Adweek…

Creation of Super Bowl Spots a Whites-Only Affair
A report says there were no minority-group members among the lead creative directors for SB spots

By Mark Dolliver

The game’s players and coaches are ethnically diverse. The audience is diverse. But, says a report released today in a press conference at the NAACP’s New York office, the roster of creative directors behind Super Bowl advertising is anything but diverse.

Conducted by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the study examined the creative leaders behind the 67 spots that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. It tracked down race and gender data for the creative directors of 58 of those spots, of which 52 were produced by professional staff at ad agencies. For these 52 spots, 100 percent of the lead creative directors were white, and 94 percent were white men.

Indeed, says the report, the only minority-group creative director for a Super Bowl spot this year was a Latino man who’d won the ad hoc role in a contest by Doritos and led the creation of its “House Rules” commercial. (As it happens, that was one of the spots singled out for disapprobation at the press conference, criticized for what was termed a stereotypical depiction of a black woman as a single mother.)

The report linked the behind-the-scenes lack of ethnic diversity to a similar shortcoming in what was seen onscreen. It said just four of the 67 commercials airing during the game “featured a person of color in the lead role.” Moreover, it adds, “minority actors that were present in ads had a limited speaking role or received just a few seconds of camera time.” The report lauded Bud Light’s commercials as an exception to this tendency.

If agencies are apt to be unsurprised by the study’s findings, the circumstances of its development and presentation might arrest their attention nonetheless. The study was conducted at the request of the Madison Avenue Project, a joint undertaking of the NAACP and law firm Mehri & Skalet. Since its founding last year, the Madison Avenue Project has been pressuring the ad-agency business to diversify its staffing, including at the upper ranks. The press conference at which the findings were presented was hosted by the NAACP’s interim general counsel, Laura Blackburne. One of the speakers was Cyrus Mehri, a founding partner of Mehri & Skalet. And the term “lawsuit” was intoned more than once.

Blackburne said the NAACP was working with Merhi on developing possible litigation against ad agencies, if they don’t show “vivid” commitment and action to diversify their staffs. And she indicated that she and her colleagues won’t easily be put off. “We’re not interested in a pat on the head,” she said. “We’re interested in systemic change.” Alluding to the prospect of lawsuits, she added, “We need a big hammer, and we think we’re developing that.”

Speaking of the current career-path environment for the too-few minority staffers at big agencies, Blackburne said, “It’s not just a glass ceiling; it’s a steel trapdoor that closes down on people of color.”

For his part, Mehri saw the report as an implicit rebuttal to people in the industry who insist its lack of staffing diversity is a bygone problem that has been solved. “There are those in the industry who are in a state of denial,” he said. Asked what sort of legal action the Madison Avenue Project contemplates to shake the industry out of this, he mentioned suits charging violation of employment-discrimination law.

If the report makes unpleasant reading for ad-agency executives, one further remark at the press conference indicated they should get used to it. Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, said the intent is to do such a study every year. This year’s report is meant as a benchmark from which, he hopes, the ad industry will measure its progress in staff diversity. “We hope that this study prompts the Madison Avenue ad agencies to begin the process of change themselves,” he said.

No comments: