Adversity and Diversity in the Advertising Business

By Smikle, Ken | Diversity Employers, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Adversity and Diversity in the Advertising Business

Smikle, Ken, Diversity Employers

It appears that Madison Avenue has an image problem. The advertising industry often gives the appearance that it is at the forefront of cultural and social trends, and it uses that awareness to persuade us to buy the next "gotta have it" product But at a time when other industries and institutions are embracing diversity, inclusion, and the American ethnic mosaic, ad agencies are not standing by their commitments to recruit, hire, and promote more African Americans.

While their corporate clients are aggressively seeking diversity as an advantage for success in the 21st century, ad agencies seem headed for retreat into the past by ignoring the fact that they are alienating prospective employees, customers, and profits.

Indeed, the facts would make one wonder exactly how the industry will face up to the challenges of the next millennium with its poor record of hiring of Black, Hispanic, and Asian workers. Last year, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, African-American workers made up only 3.8% of the advertising industry. Ten years ago the percentage of Blacks in the business was exactly the same. Among managers in marketing, advertising, and public relations, the percentage that was African American was only 2.2% in 1995.

The figures, however, should not suggest that African-American students should not consider a career in advertising. On the contrary, the industry's long-held attitude of benign neglect seems poised for a turnaround as clients begin to question what ad agencies will have to offer in the near future.

African Americans, despite their low representation within the industry, have long been employed in all aspects of advertising as artists, copywriters, jingle composers, researchers, media planners, account executives, and managers of all types, to name just a few areas of responsibility. However, because there are few schools that offer advertising as a course of study, many people working in the business first started careers in other industries.

Don Richards, senior vice president at Leo Burnett in Chicago, has been working for some of the nation's largest agencies for the past thirty years. He graduated from the University of Chicago and was a system engineer at IBM before switching careers. Over the years he has watched the industry struggle with trying to improve its record on minority hiring, and he thinks it has a lot to do with the origins of the advertising business.

Don Richards says, "This is not just an advertising agency problem. I think that Corporate America still has to solve this problem." He thinks that the history and the culture of business are also parts of why change has come so slowly. The advertising agency business is small. The industry started out as a rich boy's industry concentrated in New York, and those in it catered to people whom they knew and who looked like themselves.

"Today, ad agencies realize that we are people who are sending out messages to the general public and that consumer constituency is changing dramatically. We're finally understanding that because it is a business of ideas it's best to get as many ideas from as many sources as you can. And one source that has been under tapped and under-represented is that minority segment. It just behooves us to get more of those ideas into the agency so that we can better understand, communicate, and sell to our consumer constituency."

A crusader for change

Procter & Gamble is the nation's largest advertiser, spending more than 41 billion annually to advertise and market hundreds of individual brand products. By virtue of its size, P&G has more advertising and marketing executives on its payroll than any other company. Overseeing those areas is Ross Love, Vice President of Advertising for P&G Worldwide. Ross Love is the highest ranking African-American corporate advertising executive in the country.

For all he has accomplished as a highly-respected professional in the ad business, Love's 28-year career at P&G began not by design but by accident. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Adversity and Diversity in the Advertising Business


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.