Monday, April 02, 2012

9956: C’MON WHITE MAN! Episode 20.

(MultiCultClassics credits ESPN’s C’MON MAN! for sparking this semi-regular blog series.)

Advertising Age provided a snapshot of last week’s 4A’s conference in Los Angeles, including the following excerpt:

It’s been talked about for years, but it bears repeating: Agencies need to commit to hiring a diverse workforce at all levels. If they don’t, they risk creating work that doesn’t appeal to the changing demography of the nation. Speaking openly, Ogilvy North American Chairman-CEO John Seifert said the agency received its latest cultural survey last week, and called it “depressing” because “we hadn’t achieved what we set out to do.”

Ogilvy North American Chairman-CEO John Seifert represents the crème de la culturally clueless on Madison Avenue. He is among the leaders who publicly declare a commitment to diversity, yet personally and professionally don’t do a damn thing to address the situation. Rather, guys like Seifert wring their hands and furrow their brows, feigning deep concern when asked to comment on the subject.

In 2009, Seifert confessed the industry is “not exactly leading the way” in regards to diversity, and he admitted his agency was “not blind to the fact that there is so much more to do to recognize our ambitions.” The remarks were delivered while Seifert was rubbing elbows with Rev. Al Sharpton at the NAACP’s 100th anniversary celebration.

In 2011, Seifert “soft-launched” OgilvyCulture with all the enthusiasm of an Old White Guy attending a Black History Month event. At the time, Seifert admitted, “…[If] there has been a weakness in the marketing communications industry generally, it’s that the makeup of agencies is not reflective” of the consumers to whom they advertise. Regarding OgilvyCulture, Seifert said, “We’re feeling our way; I’ve said to everyone this is going to be messy for a while.” When has an agency leader ever predicted messiness for a new venture except when it involved the integration of minorities?

The Impact Study probably caught Seifert off guard, as the survey indicated minority employees held positive feelings about working at Ogilvy. Seifert responded with a statement saying, “While we are grateful to see our progress recognized, we still have so much to do in attracting and retraining the best and brightest talent from the cross-cultural landscape we serve.” Did Seifert make a Freudian slip, accidentally inserting “retraining” for “retaining”? A week later at the 4A’s soiree, Seifert showed signs of clinical depression over his agency’s failure to meet its diversity goals. What did he see that the Impact Survey participants did not?

Why are passive racists like Seifert permitted to keep their jobs when they consistently fail to create meaningful and measurable results with diversity? In every other area of our business, leaders are held accountable for success. Yet when it comes to replacing exclusivity with inclusivity, it’s completely acceptable to get away with a substandard performance—provided you hone the ability to act with contriteness and fake bipolar mania.


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