Advertising

Do big agencies fear diversity? Do they feel introducing high level talent of color will begin chipping away at traditions of white leadership? Do they fear hiring ppl of color bc of their influence?

likesmart
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Just general run of the mill racism.

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Figured...but thought it might be something else!

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Ta Nahesi simply put it - the greatest threat to white supremacy is black success. I look at that statement, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say agencies are run by white supremacist, I do see some correlation to the lack of diversity in this industry. It’s funny to see few agencies championing black and brown success. Not just in one individual but as a whole. Where are the agencies who hire and grant opportunity to those people who help shape and influence culture? Where are the agencies that allow people of color to be successful in what they do best - leading culture. Seen too many times people of color being labeled as different and that being seen as a negative.

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likeupliftingsmartfunny
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Agreed. If poc don’t fit in a culture, it’s not a good culture

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Also, I think it would help to point out that racism isn’t just the classic image of a hillbilly foaming at the mouth, yelling out obvious slurs at people. Racism is *anything* where swapping the person’s race changes your judgement on someone as a person, in any way. These changes could be very subtle. But they add up.

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White men are hired based on potential. POCs are hired based on experience.

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likesmart
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I guess someone didn’t get the job they wanted and are blaming race...

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Grey 1 - Thank you for that response. I couldn’t agree more.

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Definitely. Watch them squirm when you present the idea of tossing out college degree requirements, then point out that half their current staff have degrees in fields totally unrelated to advertising. That “squirm” is deeply embedded prejudice.

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likesmartfunny
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No. I feel like you’re not going to change your POV on this, especially using terms like “white supremacy” so I can only say that the people I hire come from a pool of people who are predominately white and pretty even male to female. These are hires for creative. I wish to God there were more POC candidates, but they are simply harder to find. I have theories on the educational system that perhaps drives this, but again, I can’t really engage when you’re starting at racism rather than representation

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likesmart
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And all I’m saying is that none of that is 'discriminatory’. There is nothing in this back and forth that has anything to do with degree requirements being discriminatory, your claim is that they are expensive. And you’re ignoring that that cost effects many more white poor kids than any other group, simply because that’s the biggest group in the country. You should respect the idea that I’m telling you the truth. And that you very clearly know less about funding education than I do. You couldn’t possibly do the math without knowing where I lived and went to school. Also, most schools don’t have advertising programs, that’s why portfolio schools exist. Degree requirements aren’t discriminatory, funding is available to anyone, and most people need college as a baseline for a professional career. It’s not holding anyone back. You least of all.

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No.

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I don’t think they fear diversity. I think they just don’t think we’re good enough. They think hiring POCs means the work will suffer. They only give us chances if we’re coming from top-name agencies. What they fail to see is that our perspective is actually more in tune with consumers than that of a classic white male CD 🤷🏽‍♀️

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That’s a good point, and I don’t mean to flatly dismiss, but when “they” are out to get someone, it sounds too close to conspiracy, and I just don’t see that conspiracy. Lack of diversity YES, but it’s mostly due to a smaller pool of talent

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likesmart
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Yup. When it begins to be too colorful (more than 1 Color in leadership for a team), re-org, fire, whatever you do, whiten it to the best of leadership’s ability. If it’s not the leadership team, push the white workers to the top/managerial roles ASAP. On the flip side, they also build teams of mostly poc but then those teams are smaller, less funded and first to go when shit hits the fan

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likesmart
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Just stop with the whole owned voices thing. It implies that POC can’t make things for the white majority, men can’t make things for women, etc etc and vice versa. This is so obviously false that anyone believing it just shouldn’t be hired in the first place. To the extent that it’s part of your narrative, it weakens your overall narrative. OP: you haven’t hired yet. When you do, the practical realities of a limited pool of candidates plus the urgent need to fill roles with sure bets will qualify your view somewhat - it is truly hard to accomplish what you seem to think is easy. As in, truly, personally hard. For example, one nuance you leave unmentioned is that it’s actually hard to hire strong candidates from HBCUs when your org doesn’t already have black leaders. Many of the best candidates rightfully seem to prefer organizations with diverse leadership and a history of inclusivity and diversity. So, you’re often left with the 3rd/4th stringers. Say you hire them anyways. Put them in a competitive talent-based environment (any big agency) against people who aren’t really their peers in ability (or privilege) and you’ve got a pretty tough situation for all parties. That’s just one part of what makes your ideals easy to state and hard to bring into reality. These things are deceptively hard. That’s not an excuse. It’s just the truth.

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Please don’t start playing the you don’t understand how difficult it is. Any successful business requires the ability to overcome difficult obstacles. This is not an easy task, it’s extremely nuanced as you can tell by the amount of conversation behind had around this post. But it’s complexity isn’t something that we should use as an excuse to avoid solution. It’s easy to sit on this platform and act like you have the answers, and I hope I haven’t come off that way. I merely want meaningful conversation that leads to action. To your point maybe it’s a leadership answer. Then think outside the box and find black talent. The founder of translation came from music, maybe we should start looking there. I dont have the answers, but the amount of people that want to chalk it up to it being too difficult or even it not being a problem at all are the ones that aren’t affected

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Honestly that’s reading a lot into it. Assuming complex motivations is usually giving too much credit to people, their behavior is way more basic than that. People unfortunately gravitate to what’s easy and normal, without rational thought. There’s not a conspiracy here; although fair to assume there might be when evil like real estate red lining has existed. Definitely something from the past, but hard to imagine agency leaders actually sitting and thinking that now. It’s more gut driven, like it’s easier to outmaneuver people like you than figure out a new dynamic.

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I can speak for Grey: the global CEO is a white man. The global president (who really runs shit) is a gay black man. The Global head of Strategy is Indian. The other 10 or so members of senior/executive leadership are white and mostly straight men. There’s certainly an opportunity for Michael Houston (global president) to increase diversity amongst leadership but he hasn’t. Maybe it’s racist but it’s hard to say when he’s a black man. Who knows?

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Oh. I left over a year ago. Didn’t know that

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There are a lot of systems at play that contribute here: — Legacy leadership preaches change, which includes diversity as well as advertising philosophies, but there remains those leaders who feel they’re becoming obsolete. So in that sense there is fear in the change, which could result in more self-preservation and not actually pioneering the change. Again, the fear here is obsolescence due to change. — POC have systematically been deprived of the same quality (think lack of funding, resources, programs) of education that is typical in neighborhoods and regions that are predominantly white. Without going into too much detail, look at the history of housing discrimination that effectively segregated POC. This created a snowball effect for decades through to today. This inherently makes affording college education more difficult, and subsequently getting their foot in the door to a career like advertising. — Many candidates in advertising come from referrals of existing employees. When you look at entry level positions, it’s essentially friends from college being referred. It’s also usually like-minded people from similar backgrounds which only exacerbates the lack of diversity (I know there are exceptions, but I hope you’re tracking on my point). This is one reason why hiring managers who want to see more diverse candidates in the pool throw up their arms and say “well there aren’t any POC applying!” The pool will stay dry if the focus is searching for what currently exists and not first filling the pool. — Agencies will then appoint a head of diversity and inclusion. Responsibilities vary between hosting panel sessions with diverse people within the agency, to campus recruiting for POC. The problem is that there isn’t resistance in a given agency to become more diverse (although more open discussion about societal discrimination within the workplace would be a productive way to get more active buy in from employees than passive attendance to a diversity event). The problem is decades of compounded discrimination that needs to be acknowledged and corrected — and that’s not for any one agency or even our industry to solve through recruiting efforts. Because the problem starts far before the point of recruiting. Again, openly discussing is key. That’s the best we can do within our agencies, and in our own lives. So that the rhetoric changes from blame (advertising leadership) to action (quality education).

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I don’t think it’s fear or racism all the time. If a manager is presented with two options with roughly equal experience, they have to go by gut feeling. Often times, the white candidate will feel like a “better fit” because agency culture tends to be built by white people and the person hiring will feel biased towards someone who reminds them of themselves. The cycle then repeats when the young hire grows up and becomes a manager and wants to mentor someone.

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Sooo...you’re answer is yes?

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This is a really good post! Very good question.

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not as insidious or fear-laden as you think it’s a comfort level thing, and not even a conscious decision. people unconsciously lean into what they’re comfortable with, and most people are most comfortable with the status quo or what is most similar to them. that’s why it takes a big name or major social movement to instigate massive change, because it makes it comfortable for others to do so, too.

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There is a smaller pool of POC talent, esp at higher levels. Fewer POC applicants = less likely to be the most qualified.

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We post the job on the website. Anyone can apply. Zero active recruiting

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I am not sure what the traditions of white leadership are, but studies have shown that managers tend to mentor and promote people who remind them of themselves which suggests that fear might be a red herring when thinking about management. Unless there is a concern that diversity concerns would just their own chances for promotions.

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So, here’s a scenario: The product is consumed primarily by white people. The client is white people who are most comfortable with people who “get them” WTF are you supposed to do?

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What are you advertising, camping gear?

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likefunny
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