Coloring in Today's Advertising Mosaic: The CAF's New Race Relations Advisory Council Offers Help to Marketers

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THE recent controversy in Halifax over a Juicy Fruit ad is one kind of situation the CAF's Race Relations Advisory Council on Advertising hopes to help advertisers avoid.

But, primarily, the council hopes to make advertisers' work easier and more effective.

"We want to be the most informative source of information (on visible minorities) to the advertising industry," says co-chair Jennifer Lynn.

The council, set up last year by the Canadian Advertising Foundation, plans to offer advertisers up-to-date information so "they know when they go to produce an ad that includes a visible minority, that they've done the best thing possible, in terms of making sure that they don't intentionally offend anyone," says Lynn.

Since advertising is always somewhat subjective, there are never guarantees, but having appropriate data on hand and access to knowledgeable sources "can help them put aside any fears that they may have of doing it incorrectly," she says.

Producing hard, usable data is the first priority for the RRACA.

As with all data generated by the advertising industry, its primary use is expected to be helping marketers identify and reach their targets.

"The advertising industry revolves around research," says Lynn, "so we have to understand and give them those tools to make the right decisions."

The RRACA's members have been meeting regularly for a year to give shape to the organization.

Early in 1990, the possibility of forming an industry group to help marketers adapt to Canada's multicultural reality came up at an Ontario provincial government conference.

But Lynn gives the lion's share of the credit for the move to CAF president and chief executive officer John Coleman.

"I cannot executive John Coleman enough for taking a leadership role here," she says.

The council was set up because "advertisers, in order to do their jobs well, have to be cognizant of the changing factors and they have to be sensitive to societal issues," says Lynn.

The CAF has always recognized and supported that view, she says.

After all, "advertisers pride themselves, and their whole industry prides itself, on being able to perceive and to be ahead of the game," Lynn says.

"So, why not in this area?"

The all-volunteer council has eight members:

* Lynn, president of Lynn Communications;

*Co-chair Hasanat Ahmad Syed, editor and publisher of New Canada;

* Tom LePoidevin, senior vice-president and director of client services, Vickers and Benson;

* Andy Lubinsky, director of national marketing, McDonald's Restaurants;

* Sandi Ross, actor;

* Alex Semeniuk, marketing and broadcast consultant;

* Haroon Siddiqui, editorial page editor, the Toronto Star; and

* Madeline Ziniak, director of community liaison and program development, CFMT-TV.

While the current members are all in Toronto, the group's focus is definitely national, Lynn says.

"Our mandate is national. There are branches of the CAF across the country and we all, as individuals, have contacts that can be resources."

Organizers sought out members "who understand the concerns and parameters within which the advertising industry works," says Lynn.

The members' various perspectives and experiences, both professional and personal, are an important part of what the council has to offer the advertising and marketing community.

Although the CAF brought it into the world, the RRACA is an independent body.

"The CAF supplies administrative support, but in terms of decision-making and the direction in which the council wants to go, that is up to the council members," says Lynn. …