Friday, December 03, 2010
8222: Introducing Shifty Segregation® on Mad Ave.
Wanted to take a moment to sniff the bullshit recently excreted by The Wall Street Journal.
For starters, the headline of the piece—Ad Firms Heed Diversity—is inaccurate. The typical dictionary defines “heed” as follows: to give careful attention to. Hey, Madison Avenue has absolutely failed to give careful attention to diversity for over 80 years, even when faced with political pressures and threats of class-action lawsuits. Ad firms don’t heed diversity; rather, ad firms need diversity.
More importantly, The Wall Street Journal story is not really about diversity. The phenomenon being spotlighted deserves an original term: Shifty Segregation®.
The advertising agencies in the piece—Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners, Draftfcb and Crispin Porter + Bogusky—are merely conspiring with clients to rejigger the current segregation in our industry.
Let’s briefly break down the existing Madison Avenue landscape. On one side, there are the White agencies. On the other side, there is the corporate ghetto inhabited by minority agencies. From revenue to resources to respect, the minority agencies remain separate and unequal. And in many ways, Shifty Segregation® won’t change the basic injustices.
Shifty Segregation® literally shifts the segregation. That is, minority executives slide from minority agencies into White agencies and resume their second-class citizenship. Multicultural divisions are nothing more than compartmentalized colored people. Contrary to the rhetoric, minorities won’t regularly assume a seat at the table when it’s time to conceive the big idea for a brand. The hoopla surrounding “cross-cultural integration” is just another smokescreen. Forget U.S. Census figures and predictions. Our industry’s White power structure is alive and well and it ain’t going anywhere.
Shifty Segregation® involves shiftiness too. It allows White agencies to spike their diversity hiring numbers while ignoring the primary objectives behind diversity. For example, if Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners was truly interested in dismantling exclusivity, candidates like Sandra Alfaro would be considered for lead positions on general-market accounts. Instead, White agencies are creating additional minority slots within their hallways—not significantly different than the segregated roles of mailroom attendant, security, receptionist, administrative assistant, janitor and Chief Diversity Officer.
Shifty Segregation® features other shifty components. Clients enjoy the benefits of consolidating their marketing budgets, despite public pledges to diversity supplier programs. Minority agencies lose the cash crumbs that have inadequately sustained them forever; plus, they are further shut out from participating in pitches for general-market assignments. Cyrus Mehri experiences greater obstacles in mounting a class-action lawsuit against Madison Avenue.
Shifty Segregation® is not the new black. It’s the old scam to keep Blacks, Browns and assorted people of color in their traditional places on Madison Avenue.