A FIRST STEP BY FOUR A'S

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It's been several months now since Jay Chiat, speaking at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' annual meeting, challenged his peers to take action to bring more minorities into the agency business. The latest report from Four A's shows progress, but short of the dramatic steps Mr. Chiat envisioned when he called on agencies to pledge cash to a new multimillion-dollar, multi-year project to find, recruit and train men and women from minority groups for agency careers.

The Four A's now says it intends for the first time to ask member agencies to report on the number of minorities they employ. Last month it filled a staff VP position devoted to diversity programs, and said it will expand the minority internship program.

Individual agencies, such as Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, Chiat/Day and BBDO Worldwide, and holding company Interpublic have their own diversity programs. Other agencies support minority outreach programs run by regional ad clubs. But is this the sort of urgent, industrywide commitment we think Mr. Chiat had in mind?

It is inevitable that agency managements will have to confront this issue in the years ahead. And if they won't on their own, it just may be that their clients force them to. It's no secret, especially among marketers concerned about their future customer profiles, that minorities-blacks, Hispanics, Asians-are going to be increasingly important sales prospects in the years ahead. There will be 71 million more people in the U.S. in 2020 than in 1992, according to Census Bureau forecasts. Of that increase, 55 million are expected to be black, Hispanic or Asian in ethnic or racial origin.

What that translates to is one in three people living in the U.S. 25 years from now will come from these three groups. The marketing communications addressed to this huge population segment, and the agencies hired to create ads and execute the programs, will have to reflect this reality.

The new Four A's actions are a step forward, but no more. The real test is the follow-through.

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