Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

09 July 2008

Agency Diversity? Not So Much.

Here's Ad Age's take on the agency diversity hearing that occurred Monday night. It was a full house -- 27 people! -- but of the 16 major NY ad agencies invited, only two sent reps: Arnold and Saatchi.

For what it's worth, Make the Logo Bigger went too. Apparently things got really heated and a lot of old topics were flayed by newly-angry agency attendees: minorities' inability to afford ad school, lack of ad career awareness in ordinary high schools, and the classic "Where are all the black people?" question.

Collective conclusions:
  • Hit agencies in the wallet. Get angry about stereotypes in ads!
  • The diversity problem cannot be addressed until agencies admit they have a problem.
  • This is everybody's challenge to solve: creative, account management, strategic planning, even clients' (via Kenji Summers).
I suggested Bill cover the event in the style of a pulp comic, but he wasn't amused. I think one of his eyelids twitched though.

As a minority I feel pretty ambivalent about the diversity topic. I have never worked at an agency, so I don't have any real insight on how overt the racial ceilings are. I do know that there are a lot of minorities that are happy to take advantage of condescending "affirmative action" policies, even if those policies tarnish their merits among peers. And there are minorities that would prefer to fight their way to the top without a boost from some guilty white execs. Some see any attempt by Whitey to reach out as a personal affront. (Berkeley was full of these kinds of groups.)

I also don't think most agencies are consciously prejudiced; they might just be behaving in ways they find common and familiar. "This is the way things have always been done. And anyway, minorities stay together; they start their own agencies!"

Seriously. Ever been to ad:tech Miami? The LatAms are pretty stringent about sharing business cards with people they aren't already planning to work with. The diasporas stay together, and they seem to like it that way.

So we've got defensive minority groups on one end and defensive white agencies on the other. Tough nut to crack. And reason #485 why margaritas should be free in Manhattan.


Kenji Summers said...

Hey Angela,

I visited your blog while managing my professional/personal brand (Ie. googling my name lol). I actually work for a media planning and execution agency. The racism or prejudice in ad agencies is a problem that is finally getting the attention it deserves. The hearing was troubling because the convo was kept between the disenfranchised and "choir." I hope there soon can be discussion between the young AEs/creative and older agency execs.


p.s. nice blog and I took your shelf for my blog lol

Angela Natividad said...

Kenji --

After hearing so much about it, I wish someone had taken a video. It would have been useful to "leak," for the purposes of kicking up more heated discussion.

LOL, I'll check out your shelf sometime. It's interesting to see what other people are reading.