The Truth about Diversity in Advertising

Black Enterprise, July 2006 | Go to article overview

The Truth about Diversity in Advertising


For the second year, BLACK ENTERPRISE has unveiled its list of corporate diversity leaders. There's good news and bad news.

We'll give you the good news first. After researching the largest 1,000 companies and 50 global entities with strong U.S. operations over the past several months, BE has developed its exclusive roster of The 40 Best Companies for Diversity. Even though our crackerjack team--Editor-in-Chief Alfred Edmond Jr.; Careers/Lifestyle Editor Sonia Alleyne; Vice President of Research Stacia Tackle; and Virtcom Enterprises, a strategy management firm that tracks corporate diversity trends--used more stringent requirements, more companies were able to make the cut.

Now, here comes the bad news. This year, we decided to also measure how companies spent their marketing and advertising dollars to reach the burgeoning black consumer market. Most companies failed to spend their dollars with black ad agencies and media companies or used majority firms that lack a solid commitment to diversity. In fact, the advertising industry as a whole has an abysmal track record related to the hiring, promotion, and retention of blacks and other ethnic minorities. Even though there are more than 500,000 people employed in advertising and related services, the 2000 Census reported only 6% of those are African American and 9% are Hispanic. Now, Madison Avenue is currently under investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights for its shoddy employment practices. The Commission found that in 1967--two years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, making affirmative action a presidential mandate--only 5% of the industry's workforce was black and Hispanic.

Advertising Age recently reported that Sen. John F. Kerry, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, has called for the Government Accountability Office to investigate the federal government's compliance with a policy designed to increase minority advertising contracting opportunities. Kerry responded to complaints from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade organization composed of black publishers, alleging that government agencies had not complied with Executive Order 13170, signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, to ensure supplier diversity on a federal level. …

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