The story has been written repeatedly. In the general-market realm, minority hiring figures have changed so little in three decades that New York City has been investigating hiring practices and there has been repeated talk of a lawsuit. And according to a study commissioned by Cyrus Mehri's Madison Avenue Project, African-Americans in the industry are paid less.
And while multicultural or ethnic shops are home to diverse work forces, the agencies once spent a fair amount of their time convincing marketers that the constituencies they represented were worth targeting. Now, they find themselves arguing that as the U.S. approaches a "majority-minority," the old concept of a white general-market is becoming outdates.
So how do multicultural employees, whether they work at general-market agencies or ethnic agencies, feel about the industry they work in? How are they finding out about the industry? Of the internship and outreach programs initiated by trade groups and holding companies, which are working? Which agencies have the best reputation for hiring and mentoring?
Over the years, Carol Watson, founder and CEO of cross-cultural talent consultancy Tangerine-Watson, has fielded calls from the agencies she works with and the media looking for answers to just these questions. Now she hopes to find out the answers to those questions and more with the Tangerine-Watson Impact Study, being done with the help of market research firm Zebra Strategies.
"What's been missing is an industry-wide benchmark that can help fuel some of the diversity initiatives that are already taking place, while offering concrete data and recommendations on where agencies can allocate resources in the future."
Among other things, she said, "We want to measure the difference by ethnicity in the access to internal advocates, informal mentoring and the importance of relationships. We want to learn which agencies offer the best corporate culture for multicultural talent."
The survey will also include questions aimed at finding out why multicultural professionals leave agencies or the industry as a whole.
The survey is open to all current and former ad professionals, regardless of ethnicity. To take the survey now, visit www.tangerine-watson.com/impact. All responses are anonymous.
It "aims to provide the advertising industry with an annual benchmark by obtaining perspective and opinions directly from diverse professionals about their unique experiences in the advertising business."
Findings, as well as a ranking of Best Agencies for multicultural professionals, will be released in 2012.
Of course, the survey will be more valuable if more people participate. Tangerine-Watson is getting support from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation and ADCOLOR to help drive participation in the survey
"As the face of America changes, it's clear that engaging and valuing diverse talent is imperative to the future success of advertising," said Connie Frazier, Chief Operating Officer at the AAF. "We hope our agency partners will encourage their employees to participate in the survey, and we look forward to leveraging new insights gleaned from the study."