Thursday, March 09, 2006

NEWS FLASH! Advertising Industry Doesn't Like Minorities

ALSO: ANTS LIKE PICNICS. I apologize for the shocking photo, but it accurately depicts the 2006 mindset of ad industry creative honchos towards minorities. Instead of hiring African-American or Latino writers & art directors, they hire Wigger Hipsters and figure that covers those demographics. I've worked in this industry for 15 years and, believe me, this is not an exaggeration. Which is why it is about fucking time the City called the local good old boys network (AdAge, reg. required) on their despicable practices.
(Misogyny is also the norm. If you know a female account exec, creative, or producer, ask her how many times she’s been disgustingly advanced on by her male co-workers, as compared to how many times her ideas have been taken seriously.)

22 Comments:

Blogger What we need are more problems said...

From Ad Age: "Another executive familiar with the matter said at one point the commission asked one of the agencies involved whether it would be willing to accept a “vague, general” agreement on hiring a particular of number of minorities. The agency wanted more information on the possible agreement before committing, but got none."

Would "Yes" have been to complicated an answer for this agency?

Apparently so. Such arrogance.

9:48 AM  
Blogger spinachdip said...

I think a problem that is as problematic, if not more so, than good ol' boyism is the entry barrier to advertising.

You're going to have trouble getting into the industry if you don't have a safety net that lets you be broke in cities with high costs of living while you pound the pavement and take unpaid internships.

And you better have a polished book unless you're the second coming of Bill Bernbach, so that's $20,000+ on tuition and portfolios, not to mention access to a computer and design software.

If you were a kid growing up in the ghetto, you wouldn't make that much investment to get a job that's going to pay $30-$45k coming out of school, because you can't afford to.

Combine that with HR departments' tendency to hire ones of their own, you have a Wonderbread industry. So yeah, trying to hire minorities will be a nice change, but that's not going to change the culture.

10:20 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Agree with your sentiment Spinach, but not all the details. You don't need a college education, nor a full 4 or even 2 years at an "ad" school. You can go to SVA say nonmatriculating, and just take 1 or 2 concept classes to put your portfolio together. I know. That's how I did it—all for less than a thousand bucks. Inflation would make it more now, but not that much more.

10:28 AM  
Blogger White Dade said...

Would hiring more minorities, though, beu nfair to those that go through the Hell that S-Dip describes, only to be passed over for someone else due to come "Minority Hiring agreement?" This debate extends to all aspects of life, I suppose.

11:16 AM  
Blogger spinachdip said...

In theory, yes, it is a bit unfair. But in real life, once you factor out the outliers -the obviously brilliant ones and the ones who have no business applying for the job- there's no real way to quantify if one candidate's better than the other. Chances are, white, middle class kids with testicles have a leg up on poorer, darker, or testicle-less candidates.

And the assumption is that there are qualified minorities getting passed over for candidates who have connections or "really clicked" with the recruiter.

I don't know if a hiring agreement is so great, but I also don't know if there's a better way to get agencies to hire more minorities.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something I've always wondered about adpeople: considering how reprehensible most creative directors are and how their poor creative judgments and bad decision-making so often result in their employees losing their jobs, why is it that more people in advertising don't take it upon themselves to shoot and kill their creative director?

Seriously.

Given the amount of damage that creative directors cause to the financial and personal lives of their underlings, it only makes sense that someone should feel quite justified in giving their creative director's ticket to the afterlife an early punch.

But they never do. How come?

Well, I think I know the answer.

Because adpeople are complete and utter cowards.

Adpeople can be reamed up their butt by their boss in ways that even Ned Beatty couldn't imagine and yet they still won't do anything about it.

This is a long-winded way to respond to your lament about the lack of minority representation in the advertising community. It's not reasonable to expect agencies to hire minorities because that would take a certain amount of courage, and as I've said, this is something that adpeople preternaturally lack. You'd be more likely to see George Bush convert to Islam than witness an ad person do something that demanded even one scintilla of personal strength or integrity.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

ouch.

3:20 PM  
Blogger The Laughing Frog said...

Yeah, this story hit all the major trades this week--Ad Age, Adweek, Mediaweek, MediaLifeMagazine, etc. Probably not Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News, or variety, but anyway.

I spent 18 years in media research on the agency side working with media planners and buyers, so I know media better than creative or account management, but it seems to me that most of the minorities hired were of Asian descent. I hopped the fence and have been doing nbasically the same thing for the past five years, but on the data/software supplier side of the business.

Since we cater to ad agency media departments and the media themselves, our client sales and support people really do have to know the media business, and most people we hire come from an agency, a publisher, or data supplier. Given that our company has quite a bit of diversity in terms of having Hispanics, Blacks and Asians on staff, I don't understand the agency mentality.

Yet, I do know that ad agencies won't hire anyone for a position in media or account management who doesn't have at least an undergrad degree. Not a single agency for which I've worked over the years (the assortment includes large--DDB, McCann, what was FCB/Bozell after True North bought Bozell, Bates before it imploded, and some small ones as well) would, for anything other than an administrative assistant position, and those are awfully scarce nowadays. When admin. asst. positions were more plentiful, then yes, minorities were normally hired to fill the posititon. That could be the reason things are "worse" now than they used to be.

Just a thought, anyway.

Do you read http://advertisingsux.blogspot.com/ ? I love her blog. Female copywriter. Her rants are as good as yours, but less general in nature.

I rarely comment here, but I do read you blog regularly, and have linked to you in my Froggie sidebar.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Make the logo bigger said...

There’s a Chicago creative named Haji Williams who has a lot more negative experiences and great insights to speak on than most, certainly more than me. Check him out. His book is called Knock The Hustle recommended by creatives like Ernie Schenck.

Fuck it. Let’s talk race. A probe won’t do much to address the problem in this country. It will only force a quota system to be put in place, nothing more. You can’t legislate this issue away.

Get them before a committee, and all agencies will respond with the arguement that “we only hire the most qualified candidates regardless of blah, blah, blah. And if none of them are minorities, well hey, that’s not our fault.“

The economics of breaking into the biz is a serious issue, I agree, but it shouldn’t overshadow the race issue. It’s just too easy to look at inner-city youth and say, cause-and-effect, yup, drug-dealers or kids without a father who play hoops all day: too stupid to be creatives. Gang-bangers? Let them all kill each other because they’re all no-good immigrants. Probably illegals too! We want to market to you – we just don’t want you around. And so it goes.

Why not institute a training program where agencies bring in all types of high-school kids from the cities and suburbs? NASCAR is doing that now in Philly with at-risk youth. I mean if you can teach someone to turn left for 300 miles, you can teach them to make a logo bigger. I learned. As anon mentions though, it won't happen in the ad world - not yet.

Creatives or anyone who’s not a victim of race will simply say, ’Well, we ONLY judge on ability.’ Really? But why not take some raw talent and groom it then? Jordan wasn’t a starter on his high-school hoops team, but I think he turned out ok. Not every creative is great right from the get-go. But if agencies don’t even bother to even search for and nuture talent beyond their own backyards, how can they say they’re doing enough?

The only real minority hiring occurs when large agencies partner with smaller ‘specialty’ (read: urban) ones for assignments that promote brands like liquor/beer to low-income minority communities. I’ve done that stuff. It}s all the same, like a John Leguizamo outdoor for Hennessy Cognac placed in Hispanic neighborhoods and cities. There’s something you never see, huh. Funny, how come there’s no outdoor in Hyannis with Ted Kennedy for Gordon’s gin?

Once minorities are empowered to think they can control how brands are marketed to them, then change can start to happen. Speaking of, it’s slightly different for brands. It’s about one color – green. They love the sales even though their new customer wasn’t who they thought it would be. Timberland and Range Rover immediately come to mind. On one hand, the brand cringed at the bling crowd, but on the other, they couldn’t deny the sales.


Not trying to inflame the debate here, but you only need look around at the places/industries you’ve worked to see that race is an issue.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The industry's view of consumers leaves a bit to be desired, too.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever think that maybe minorities don't work in advertising because they're too talented to work in an advertising? Maybe they have better and more creative things to do than write boring ads for boring clients spreading their boring stories about themselves.

Let's face it: ad agencies are nowhere near as creative as they like to think they are. This blog is one long argument trying to prove that fact.

When you consider the amazing artistic and cultural contributions African-Americans, for example, make to this society, it shouldn't be surprising that their sons and daughters would want to continue in the footsteps of their elders.

What would you rather be doing, writing songs for Motown or writing a commercial that steals from Motown's songbook?

Plus to work at an agency, you pretty much need to be a fratboy goober whose idea of funny is people falling down drunk or a Henry-Kissinger-glasses-wearing-nerd trying to pass for cool. Some people can't pull off these archetypes. Others don't want to.

Ad agencies hire from a very narrow perspective. Walk in any agency and everyone looks exactly alike. There's a sameness to the people that matches the sameness of the ads we see today.

Agencies like to believe they're about cutting through the clutter and standing out, but really everyone is desperately trying to fit in.

I think one of the things that's true about today's minority populations is that while they want to be part of the American experience, they are also trying to stand out with an identity that is all their own. The advertising industry is no place to do that.

Plus today's minorities are involved in a noble pursuit--the survival of their people in a country where that hasn't always been easy for minorities. Advertising, believe it or not, is not the most noble of professions.

If you were an Asian parent, what would you most like to see your daughter doing, becoming an art director working on a cigarette account or a doctor?

8:34 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

who ever said advertising was anything near noble? Not me, that's for fucking sure. I was a "noble" journalist for 7 years before I entered this biz strictly for the money. Nice of you to speak for all minorities, but I know a few African-American and Latino writers/artists who would love a shot at working in advertising, to, you know, make some fucking money. how horrible of them.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's all about making money, there are a lot better places to do that than advertising (unless you're the evil genius Martin Sorrell).

Advertising doesn't pay anywhere near what it used to pay relative to other industries--mostly because all of us are working to pay off the debt that was incurred when agencies went on their merger mania a generation ago. (Thanks to you and I and our diminished salaries and piss-poor profit-sharing, former Grey CEO Ed Meyer is getting to live very well in the south of France or wherever he took his purloined loot.)

If you want to make money, go to Wall Street. They make a zillion times what we make on Madison Avenue. And they aren't angry about it. They don't feel the need to rant about their industry like you do--not when they're being rewarded with a king's ransom.

And one of the best things about Wall Street is you don't have to stay in it forever. I know a guy who retired a millionaire from the old Salomon Brothers at age 32.

If I were a poor minority kid looking to make a financial score, I'd much rather take my street skills and apply it where it can have the biggest bang. Advertising doesn't offer the same rewards. Quite frankly, advertising is for people who aren't good, tough or talented enough to succeed on Wall Street.

10:38 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

I'm sure as Hell too stupid for Wall Street. But, if you're a writer/artist—even WIHTOUT a college education—advertising still remains a good possibility to make good money. Maybe the one good thing about many agencies is that they don't give a crap about your formal ed. The same can't be said for Wall Street firms, that's for sure.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous angelina said...

sure--minorities and women working on Wall Street---because THAT'S a MUCH more diverse field than advertising.

the only way to tell those assholes apart is by their cufflinks.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW...OK, african-american wall streeter here (why am i reading an ad blog?? bc its funny).

"the only way to tell those assholes apart is by their cufflinks." (c) Angelina

as a sporadic cuff-link wearer (who doesn't love those silk knots), i take offense to that comment.

also, please don't believe the hype about the land of milk and honey that is wall street. these same issues pervade wall street and similar discussions take place on a daily basis. the only reason there is more "diversity" on wall street is because being a banker, trader, etc. is less subjective. if you can make $$$ and do deals, someone has to hire you bc you will help them make more $$$.

also, the numerous lawsuits over the past decade have made banks much more cautious about reverting back to the "good old days" of the 1980's.

the comments from previous posters with regards to developing talent and the need for senior managers to take a risk, all come into play.

a combination of "the subtle racism of low expecatations", covert AND overt prejudice and the propensity to hire and mentor people who look "like you" are to blame for the lack of diversity in many industries.

i agree that you can't legislate away the issue, but you can't ignore it either just because its difficult to discuss.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Make the logo bigger said...

aa wall-streeter - help out me first. Sirius? I'm dying here. When’s it going back up?

;-p


"i agree that you can't legislate away the issue, but you can't ignore it either just because its difficult to discuss."

Agree, but I think we’re all definitely not ignoring the issue since we're going on about it pretty well here. Looks like the ones ignoring it are the ones not posting.

The legislate comment just goes out to agencies that think simply because they insitute a quota, the problem is magically solved.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Make the logo bigger said...

(sorry, dyslexia again - shoulda been 'help me out')

5:50 PM  
Blogger The Laughing Frog said...

Makethelogobigger has a point. We are having a pretty good discussion about the issue here, so we certainly are not the ones ignoring it. And we're all aware about how it's been splashed throughout the trade press.

In media departments, it's mostly about "does this person seem bright, is comfortable with math, and can do the job," as opposed to subjective critiques about portfolios. But even there, the "bright" aspect is subjective. If you're looking for a research person, you want smart as a whip but don't generally need a PhD, but for a planner, you may just want a number cruncher who grasps basic concepts.

The agency for which I once worked that seemed to me the least diverse was Bates. It was an old boys' network, that while not discriminating overtly against women, did against racial minorities, inasmuch as there weren't any. The debate was whether Jew or Christian was the minority, and that was probably only in the NY office where even that was debatable. It was WASP-Central.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An outsider's question... What is the annual comp of someone with the Copyranter's tenure in the business? $80K? $180K? $280K? Just looking for some perspective.

Here's my two cents on race...

In EVERY industry in America, whites have an institutional advantage over blacks and to a slightly lesser extent Latinos. Asians are stereotypically viewed as bright, hard-working, etc. so they have far less racial issues to overcome.

We all know the numbers stacked up against blacks... higher rates versus whites in unemployment, drop-outs, divorce, single mothers, children per family, students per class, illiteracy, population in prison, violent deaths, drug addiction, liquor stores per square mile, gun stores per square mile, etc.

These factual realities represent significant hurdles for any individual to overcome in the competition for jobs.

However, it should also be said that Americans are generally provided with far more opportunity than people of most countries. Unfortunately most Americans do not fully exploit the opportunities they encounter in life, especially at a young age as it relates to education which will establish credibility, lead to contacts and potentially open doors down the road.

If you're born smart and poor in Brazil, Nigeria, Egypt, the Phillipines, Thailand, India, Indonesia, China, Russia or most countries that comprise 95% of the world's population, YOU ARE FUCKED! You are born poor. You will live poor. You will die poor. And so will your children. The state in these countries provide no means via public education for individuals to better their lot in life.

Here you have a chance. Granted, it's a micro-fucking-scopic chance, but it is still aa chance.

Sure, blacks have the chips stacked against them here, but it's there for the taking for those determined enough - and lucky enough - to want it.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 16-17 years ago I worked at the NY office of a big global agency, and we had virtually NO minorities (outside the mailroom and secretarial pool). Women were "ghetto-ized": HR, low-level production, and creative on un-glamorous or "female" accounts (cleaning products, personal hygiene, etc.).

The agency decided to address the minority issue in its usual head-up-its-ass way (didn't even recognize it had a woman problem, although harassment was rampant). Somehow I ended up on a committee. Upper management was truly mystified. Claimed that when they visited colleges, minorities never approached. At what colleges did they recruit, I asked. Princeton, Yale, Brown... I suggested City College, maybe a SUNY.

Eventually they did hire a young African-American copywriter, and they were so anxious to hang on to him, and they let him know it, he got away with murder. He wasn't very good. But they treated him as though he was the Voice of All Blacks. And he began to believe it. He was from a very wealthy family, went to an exclusive prep school, etc., but all of a sudden transformed into Malcolm X. He was totally obnoxious, but it was very funny to see this young ignorant kid having so much power over these agency bigshots.

But obviously stupid. And they still haven't figured it out.

2:31 PM  
Blogger ninaberries said...

remember that guy jayson blair? that was awesome when the times was on that "hire minorities" mission. that always works.

11:19 PM  

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