Friday, January 07, 2011

8332: Brilliant Concept, Questionable Execution.

Advertising Age supplemented its fluff piece on BrandLab with a fluff podcast episode via Ad Age Outlook. Bob Knorpp and reporter E.J. Schultz discussed the minority youth outreach program, noting a few more details behind the effort. For example, Schultz said BrandLab selects low-income high schools where at least 40 percent of the students are minorities, and 40 percent are participating with government-sponsored free lunch programs.

OK, MultiCultClassics continues to struggle with examining programs like BrandLab. On the one hand, the folks involved probably have the best of intentions. Yet the execution here seems a bit screwy. Try not to take offense to the following paragraphs.

First, why target low-income minorities? It feels a tad insulting, as if the presumption is that all minorities are poor. MultiCultClassics also wonders if it involves politics—that is, the program must meet certain guidelines to qualify for aid and tax benefits. Even Knorpp referred to BrandLab as a philanthropic endeavor (versus a professional recruitment tool).

The MultiCultClassics staff has been in the ad game for a while, and has literally and personally connected with many minorities in the field. Can’t think of a single minority advertising executive who was raised in a low-income setting—especially when considering the generations after Baby Boomers. Granted, MultiCultClassics doesn’t have research data to support the matter. But it appears that most minority advertising executives have economic backgrounds similar to their White peers. And please note the qualifier is economic, not social, cultural, geographic, etc.

Madison Avenue isn’t scouring poor White neighborhoods in search of the next Alex Bogusky. So why only visit underserved communities for future minority adpeople?

Hey, since Ted Williams is suddenly landing commercial gigs, shall we now direct our minority recruitment attention on homeless shelters?

BrandLab and minority youth outreach program advocates might argue that it’s imperative to make young minorities realize there are opportunities in our industry. Agreed. But everyone seems oblivious (or perhaps culturally clueless) to an easier solution: hire more minorities today, not decades down the road. When minority kids start to see advertising executives in their communities—when Mr. Brimm next door is a creative director and Ms. Miller across the street is a research director and Mr. Steffens down the block is an account director—then they will clearly recognize and believe there is a place for them in our ranks.

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