The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 1996, 2.9% of those with managerial positions in marketing, advertising and PR were black and 2.8% were Hispanic. Those figures are up slightly from 2.7% and 1.7%, respectively, in 1983.
Although these figures are short of the 13% minority representation goal proposed in 1969 by Jock Elliott Jr., who at the time was chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, there's a growing recognition about how diversity in the marketing workforce, especially across race, is of tantamount importance.
A PERSONNEL ISSUE
There is no doubt that marketing strategies and ad creative reflect the changing racial face of America. Ads frequently cast minorities, and Advertising Age has long reported on the growth in minority media ad dollars and on how marketers tailor sales efforts to racial and ethnic consumers.
Yet this awareness of diversity is also focused on the field's workforce. Diversity is not merely a strategic planning subject but also a personnel issue.
"If our agencies are going to be successful in selling to the American population, we better have people writing ads who are reflective of this population. It's just good business," says O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
In human-resources terms, diversity extends beyond race to cover gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status and other attributes that shape individual values. Furthermore, business initiatives on diversity extend to supplier contracting.
Minority groups are projected to grow, both in terms of absolute numbers and percentage of the total U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau (see chart on Page S-2).
Similarly, the spending power of minorities is also projected to rise. Hispanics alone comprise a market with an estimated $300 billion to $340 billion in spending, according to market researcher Market Development Corp.
With numbers such as these, the argument to promote employment diversity in advertising and marketing occupations goes beyond the subjectivity of moral grounds and enters the cold, hard truth of fiscal necessity.
"The most effective advertising recognizes and understands the needs of consumers. If the consumer base is diverse, the people who evaluate it should be diverse," says Ed Wax, chairman-CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York.
To those familiar with diversity issues, the benefits are both tangible and intangible. The intangible edge is best classified under productivity.
"If an individual feels his talents are valued, then a company will bring the best out of him," says
Keith Ellison, publisher and chief editor of Next Step, a publication devoted to diversity. "He'll contribute more to the company, and that increases overall productivity."
The tangible benefit: profit. At Kraft Foods, 15.5% of employees are minorities, says Danae Davis Gordon, director-diversity management. More important, 22% of the employees in marketing and marketing services departments are people of color, she adds.
Promoting diversity within the workforce rests upon hiring employees and retaining them-two simple premises but elusive goals.
Recruitment involves more than contacting professional networking associations such as the National Black MBA Association and using resume banks and college recruitment opportunities. It also involves reaching out to students as young as high schoolers to seed the pool of future aspirants.
Along those lines, industry associations such as the American Advertising Federation and the
Four A's have created internship programs to help minority students enter the business (see stories above and on Pages S-6 and S-16).
The goal is to maintain, if not increase, the percentage of minorities among college students studying advertising.
As for retention, there are well-known tools. Some companies have enacted mentorship programs or sensitivity training sessions, while others have created internal councils that support diversity plans. Also, annual performance reviews can include assessments of how the supervisor and the employee handle diversity.
Regardless of what programs a company enacts to retain its diverse workforce, they all need one fundamental element: commitment from all levels of management.
"Diversity shouldn't be viewed as this separate thing out there," says Ms. Gordon. "Our chairman [Robert Morrison] feels diversity is a business imperative, much like meeting the numbers."
Yet the across-the-board commitment a company needs to promote diversity may require some rethinking of its corporate culture. According to Roosevelt Thomas, CEO of diversity consultancy R. Thomas Training & Consulting, the deeper a company gets into promoting diversity, the more important it is to try self-scrutiny.
With a diverse workforce, "it won't be enough to be diverse or to get people involved," Mr. Thomas says. "It's saying that an organization [originally] designed for a homogenous workforce may need to be modified."
Indeed, Tom Burrell, chairman of Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, remembers a time in the mid 1960s when Leo Burnett Co., where he worked at the time, made a big push to hire minorities and recruited more than 20 African-Americans. But one year later, only about two or three were left, he says.
"There wasn't any preparation" by the agency for the new hires, Mr. Burrell says. "You have to have programs not just to recruit people but to retain them."
As a footnote, Burnett's efforts to foster diversity have earned the shop a Diversity Achievement Award (see story on Page S-14).
"Clearly, they're an example of a company that's turned it around and now is at the forefront in diversity among mainstream agencies," Mr. Burrell says.
While the advertising and marketing workforce as a whole is still overwhelmingly white, there are a good number of minority professionals who have achieved career success in this industry.
Among them are those who head successful minority agencies, such as Mr. Burrell; Lionel Sosa, of Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Noble & Associates, San Antonio, Texas; Don Coleman of Don Coleman & Associates, Bingham Farms, Mich. and Vince Cullers, of Vince Cullers Advertising, Chicago. Messrs. Burrell and Cullers are members of AAF's advisory committee on cultural diversity.
Yet the rollcall of minorities in advertising also includes many at mainstream marketers and shops. Among the most familiar names: Roy Roberts, head of General Motors Corp.'s GMC/Pontiac division; Ann Fudge, president of Kraft's Maxwell House coffee division; and Coca-Cola Co. Chairman-CEO Roberto Goizueta. (Contd.