Ad Industry Must Ramp Up Its Diversity Efforts

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Nearly three-quarters of respondents to Advertising Age's online poll said there are too few minorities in the New York advertising business. Only 29% said otherwise.

"I've worked at some of New York's largest agencies, and as an African-American, I am very aware that I am a rarity. It's apparent not just at the workplace, but industry events and happy hour," said Chris Williams, director, broadcast media, Ascend One Corp. in Columbia, Maryland.

"I have worked in advertising for 17 years and I have only worked with two black males, one an account person and one a writer," said planner Wells Davis at Taxi in Toronto.

Poor recruitment and hiring efforts within the agencies, as well as the industry's low pay scale, are among the reasons, say readers. "Agencies need to step up to the plate in recruitment and retention efforts specifically for minorities -- not just for internships, but for the real playing field: professional positions within advertising agencies," said Cheryl Munson, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi X.

Noted recruiter Paul Gumbinner: "The best and brightest M.B.A.s are being paid $35,000 to $40,000 to start. Why should they go into advertising when they can go almost anywhere else for twice that?"

However, several readers expressed outrage at the idea of government intrusion into hiring practices at private-sector companies as evidenced by New York City's Commission on Human Rights investigation. "I am appalled at the strong-arm tactics of the New York City government. .... This is nothing but a witch hunt by bureaucrats ..." said Abbie Kendall, president, Armstrong Kendall, Portland, Ore.

Said Bill Gromer, BlackSand Media, "Realize this is censorship in sheep's clothing. To comply with hiring based only on skin color will affirm ... that we cannot be truly colorblind."

Next week's question is: "Should Major League Baseball do any marketing around Barry Bonds' home-run-record chase?"

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