Advertising Week 2006

Omnicom Settles With NYC Human Rights Commission

Deal May Halt Hearings on Diversity Hiring Set for Advertising Week

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Four Omnicom Group-owned agencies have reached a settlement with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, bringing the largest ad-agency holding company in line with rivals that earlier this month struck deals to publicly set goals for hiring minority staff and then report on their progress.

Agency chiefs subpoenaed
The agreement will likely head off the threat of potentially embarrassing hearings set for next week, when the industry celebrates its third annual Advertising Week. The commission subpoenaed a number of New York agency chiefs as part of an investigation into the industry's historical struggles in building diverse workforces. Among them were executives from Omnicom-owned agencies BBDO, DDB, Merkley & Partners and PHD.

The commission has said previously that hearings would go on only for agencies that haven't signed agreements with the commission. Commission spokeswoman Betsy Herzog declined to comment.

Omnicom, the No. 1 ad-agency holding company, had been alone in balking at the commission's demands. Earlier this month 11 agencies from Interpublic Group of Cos., WPP Group and Publicis Groupe signed memoranda of understanding with the commission in which they agreed to create goals for diversity hiring that will be reported publicly to the commission.

Deal with city councilman
Instead of striking a deal with the commission, Omnicom brokered one with New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook. It pledged more than $1 million for a program that includes the creation of advertising, marketing and media curriculum at the historically black Medgar Evers College. That program is still in the works, despite today's news.

"Our agreements with both the City Council and City Commission assure a long-term commitment that we believe will be tangible and effective in generating long-term solutions," said Omnicom President-CEO John Wren in a release.

Mr. Seabrook is inviting industry executives to hearings on Sept. 26 on the diversity issue and ad-spending in minority-owned media.

Al Sharpton statement
Today's press release from Omnicom featured a glowing quote from Al Sharpton, president-founder of the National Action Network: "This is an historic day in advancing our efforts to increase diversity in the advertising industry. I applaud John Wren and his companies for their continued efforts and for now setting the highest standard in the industry. Omnicom's commitment of people and financial support show why it is the market leader in the advertising world, they think and act big."

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