Will the advertising industry finally confess it’s indifference to encouraging diversity?

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013

Does the advertising industry’s PR offensive about commitment to diversity stand up in the real world? Advertising has a remarkable ability to create a perception of a product or issue that’s different than the reality some experience at the point of product contact (I’ve never gotten a hamburger that looks as un-squished, steaming hot and pristine as I see in the commercials). I fear, it’s a skill the industry is using to cover up its own weaknesses: a dearth of minorities in the business. A lack of ethnically and culturally diverse talent despite the industry’s yearly proclamations of commitment to diversity and strong recruiting efforts. Yet, its measurable failings have reached the point of dangerous as the demographic landscape of the US is changing. A demographic equivalent in advertising as a heavily male fashion industry creating and selling women’s cutting-edge fashion. The people most likely in-tune to the market are the furthest removed. And it’s hard to argue women aren’t qualified because they don’t understand the market.

If it’s an alarm going off, you oddly don’t sense panic from the industry itself. Rather, as I mentioned before, in the trades, we read an almost ritualistically repeated declaration of “we’re working hard to find talented minorities” delivered in the same (leave us alone, we’ll get to it) tone as your sluggish 12-year-old promising to get up out of bed in the morning. Problem is, this has been an issue for decades. Even before my time as far back as the 60s.

Advertising, the business that I love, is essentially a problem solving business. This issue has gone on so long with supposedly so many smart, brilliant people one the case, it makes me start to wonder: is this a problem they really want to solve? If so, riddle me this, Batman…

Advertising claims it can’t find qualified minorities even as African Americans and other groups drive many aspects and are thought leaders of mainstream culture. The same culture that agency creatives poach for commercial use. So if minorities are good enough to “steal” from, why are they so unqualified or so hard to find they can’t be hired?

Advertising has always been a business where people trained in economics, teaching, pharmacology and office assistants can become account managers and creative executives. Many falling into the business serendipitously or through the back door of the fabled mailroom hire. Yet this seems to be an industry that can’t identify or recruit minorities (and groups soon not to be minorities) simply trying to go through the front door?

Just asking. How about a just answer?

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