Monday, June 15, 2020

Advertising and Diversity. A retrospective and some questions (which won't be answered.)

This will likely get me in trouble on about 19 different fronts. But what’s a blog for but to express your feelings, thoughts and beliefs as candidly as you can without fear of being ostracized, rebuked, excoriated or banished from the industry. Besides, I’ve already been banished from the industry—and my life has improved while in exile, not deteriorated.

So, as the kids say, WTF 😈.

Over the past couple of days, every white, male, multi-millionaire head of the Holding Companies that exercise oligopoly-control over the advertising industry, thereby colluding to depress wages so they can earn eight-figure compensation packages and can return ‘shareholder value,’ has spoken out against the “systemic racism” of the industry they purport to lead.

They have shaken their heads and formed committees and temporarily changed their logos on Linked In. They have spearheaded task-forces and vowed, this time, to fundamentally change that system of racism. They’ve even trotted out their new heads of diversity and inclusion or their heads of culture to show just how committed they are, this time, to make things right.

BTW, this article was from “The New York Times,” from over 601 months ago.

“Some of the city's top ad agencies, which were slapped around a couple of years back by the City Commission on Human Rights for their poor showing in minority group hiring, have now got ten a little pat on the back.

“When the 12 agencies appeared before the commission in 1968, they had 492 Negro and 199 Puerto Rican employes. That was 5.6 per cent of the total of 12,206.

“Today, the percentage is 11.3 of a total 12,134 with the breakdown, 1,015, or 8.4 per cent black, and 350, or 2.9 per cent Puerto Rican.

“"While the job is by no means finished,’ said Eleanor Holmes Norton, commission chairman, ‘the commission does regard the results of these months of negotiations by commission and agency officials as a heartening sign that progress can be made if the will is there to surmount obstacles.’

“Perhaps more important is the increase from 131 to 355 in the number of minority group members in professional job categories. That is an increase from 1.9 to 5.4 per cent, of today's total of 6,628.

“‘These figures,’ said the commissioner talking of the whole report, ‘show a definite improvement in the Opening up of this prestige industry.’”

This article is from over 300 months ago:

Edward L. Wax, chairman and chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising Worldwide in New York, part of Cordiant P.L.C., outlined a comprehensive "diversity initiatives plan" to recruit, hire and retain more full-time employees who are black, Indian, of Asian descent or speak Spanish. With minority members comprising fewer than 10 percent of its employees, the agency industry languishes near the bottom of occupations ranked for diversity by the Federal Government.
"I honestly don't think there has been any conspiracy to keep our business white," said Mr. Wax, who is also the 1994-95 chairman of the association. Still, he added, "the fact remains that our poor performance is primarily due to one single factor: that many agency managements have not made a sufficient commitment to increase diversity in their agencies."

Then there are these two from 593 months ago and 604 months ago:

This article was from 599 months ago. Some large agencies, including my old man's thought spending money on "minority education" was more important than awards. 
To quote Sarah Palin, 'How's that hopey, changey thing working out for ya?'

“When asked to comment on the announcement by the Leo Burnett Company that it was withdrawing from advertising awards competitions and was putting the entry money into the educational area instead, several agency executives said exactly the same thing: “I wish we had thought of it first.”
“Among them was Stanley Tannenbaum, chairman of Kenyon & Eckhardt, who decided to be the second to make the move.
“’We're definitely not going to participate,’ he said. ‘We will use the money toward a fund to help educate minority groups….’
“And, although he was also sorry he wasn't first and feels that awards are getting “out of hand,” Al Hampel, creative director of Benton & Bowles, said, “but that's not saying we're ready, to get out of them.”
Even among those who didn't support the Burnett move there was a widespread feeling that there were just too many awards competitions.

“…The attitude, however, was hardly unanimous. James Durfee, president of Carl Ally, Inc., commented, 'No matter how they're run, they're worth something. I wouldn't want to cut them out for our people.'

“'It's about time that every body take a good cold look,' said Richard Gilbert of Gilbert Advertising, about each of the competitions. 'Do they serve the industry or the people who run them?'”

Here’s why I think today’s effort to bring more people of color into the advertising industry will fail like the ones cited about and about two or three dozen other efforts I recall from my nearly 50 years as a person conscious of the exigencies of the business.

1.The current holding company model is unwilling to spend the funds to invest in training people (regardless of their race, creed or color.)
2. The current holding company model is unwilling to tell clients that they need more time to do their assignments (because they have people who are less-experienced doing that work.)
3. Clients are unwilling to allow agencies to take more time or charge higher fees in order to accommodate the recruitment and training of people of color.
4. The current holding company model is no longer to willing to work as a ‘teaching hospital’ and help people (regardless of their race, creed or color) learn the ropes of the business.
5. The current holding company model has turned the entire advertising industry into a low wage industry (the median salary within the Interpublic Group is under $72,000. Meaning that half of IPG’s employees make under $300/day. That’s hardly a living wage in the big cities that are home to most ad people, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Berlin and the like.)
6. The current holding company model is impoverished. Employees have been furloughed, wages have been cut or frozen and raises in many circumstances have all but disappeared.
7. Current holding company leadership is not selling advertising as a profession to people from diverse backgrounds. What’s more, given the financial realities noted in points 5 and 6 above, selling the advertising industry as a viable profession would be challenging to say the least.

Of course, any of the above steps requires the expenditure of a lot of money. I’d bet there’s not a single agency holding company that will agree to stop investing in awards shows until an appropriate level of diverse representation is achieved. I’d bet not a single agency holding company would agree to begin to invest in educational programs of young people from diverse backgrounds. And I’d bet not a single agency holding company chieftain (all of whom have salaries between seven and eight digits) would forgo half of their salaries—say a reduction from $16 million a year to $8 million a year—to accomplish the steps I’ve outlined above.

Further, I’d bet not a single client would allow their agencies more time and more expense to make the changes necessary to begin bringing diverse people into the fold.

The question amid all the furrowed brows, corporate tsk tsking, finger-wagging, noble speeches and august committees is the same as it’s been for almost 60 years. Will you talk about change or will you outline a five-year plan with specific objectives and an agreed upon budget (preferably in escrow) to achieve those goals? Next, what will happen if those goals aren’t achieved? Will the holding companies and their chieftains have to forfeit compensation and pay fines?

Last, this humble blog, a one-man operation gets over 70,000 readers a week—most of them I presume from our industry. Any chance any of the holding company people I’m addressing in this space will actually comment? Or will you just pretend this blog doesn’t exist, and doesn't influence thousands of advertising people—in much the same way you pretend people of color don’t exist?

Tell me this, Mr. Sadoun, Mr. Roth, Mr. Wren, Mr. Read, and Mr. Bollore: Why, this time, will it be different?


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