I doubt it. Agencies have historically been strong on rhetoric and weak on action-except in forming committees or developing programs to "address the problem."
If agencies are serious, the solution is at hand. A recently completed survey conducted by the Cummings Center for Advertising Studies revealed that an average of 9% of those enrolled in some of the country's finest advertising programs are minorities-here at Illinois, more than 30 of our expected 1994 graduates are minorities.
Here and elsewhere these young men and women were motivated enough to pursue rigorous education directed toward employment in the business. Here and elsewhere they're looking for the opportunity to use their educations.
If the agencies are serious, why aren't their phones ringing off the hook?
Kim B. Rotzoll
Dean, College of Communications
University of Illinois
I read the article on minorities with interest. As a hearing-impaired individual, I found it intriguing that it focused only on racial minorities. In a course on minorities and the media I took as a journalism undergraduate, I argued that the so-called "disabled" Americans are also not represented by the majority, and are therefore a minority.
In truth, I would rather not be labeled at all. And until two months ago all I wanted to to was just be hired. Even though I have a B.A. in journalism and nearly four years of professional/intern experience, it took me 10 months after graduation to find a good job in my field. My problem was not lack of education or skills on my part, but ignorance on the part of the people doing the hiring.
Dacia A. Blodgett-Williams
Oakley Publishing Co.
I have nothing but respect for Fred Danzig. His 32 years at Advertising Age have distinguished him as one of America's pre-eminent business journalists. Moreover, I am delighted by his praise of my book, "Where the Suckers Moon: An Advertising Story," as "engaging," "fascinating" and "lavishly detailed" (Forum, AA, Dec. 12).
I have only one problem with Fred's review: It is neurotically defensive.
Fred's critique is part of a long tradition, that of the ad industry's reactionary response to scrutiny. Any work that tries to shed light on the culture, history or operations of the business is automatically dismissed as negative and motivated by personal or ideological animus.
Let me dispense with one canard immediately: I do not hold advertising in "low regard." Never did. My father's been in marketing research all his life. My mother ran a survey-research company. One brother and sister-in-law are accomplished public relations professionals. I love them dearly and am proud of what they do.
Not only that, but I have spent my entire career working for advertiser-support media, bastions of free expression all, including The New York Times. I couldn't have done so-and wouldn't have devoted three years of my life to a book on the industry-if I thought advertising people were, as Fred writes, "a bunch of hustlers and connivers."
But I did do something that, to my knowledge, neither Fred nor any of the journalists who toiled under his tutelage has ever done: follow every single step of an American company's search for a new image. From agency review to client deliberation, from commercial production to post-production, from honeymoon to divorce, I saw the processes, people, passion and politics of the agency business. As a result, I was able in my book to move beyond the platitudes Fred tosses around with such merry abandon to glean some truths, comfortable and not, about the industry.
Here are just a few of the issues raised in "Where the Suckers Moon" to which ad executives-and the journalists who cover them-must attend.
Does advertising work best if it's focused on consumers, or does it succeed when aimed internally, at the client company and the warring factions that make up every organization-the headquarters executives, sales force, distributors, suppliers and other constituencies, of which consumers are just one of many?
Has the ad industry been "captured" by a small but influential group who believe their true role is to be postmodern artists, using the palette provided by advertising to reflect critically on the consumer culture of which they are a part? If so, are clients paying for something that, however subtly, undermines the faith of their consumers?
Is advertising's rising Hollywood culture costing business too much, for too little identifiable gain? Or do brand proliferation and the diminishing difference among products in any given category require advertising to be more entertainment-oriented?
Is marketing research, especially faddish new forms of qualitative research, being abused in the name of "creativity"?
Are marketers using their agencies to paper over political divisions in their companies that are best tackled straightforwardly by management?
Don't get me wrong. I love controversy and Fred's review is bound to stir it up. I hope it gets people talking-and reading.