Diversity Hearing to Be Held Second Day of Advertising Week

Seabrook's Committee on Civil Rights Back in Action

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The New York City Committee on Civil Rights is holding a hearing Sept. 23, the second day of Advertising Week, on the topic of diversity and the advertising industry. Advertising Age obtained a memo, issued by the office of Gary Altman, the legislative counsel for the City Council, to participants. It was dated Sept. 10.

It was unclear which agencies were invited to attend, though industry executives said that many of those who signed the agreement with the Commission on Human Rights were invited. A couple of those executives groused that the invite was sent out at the last minute and, scheduled as it is for Advertising Week, was part of an attempt to embarrass the agencies.

The Committee on Civil Rights is headed by City Councilman Larry Seabrook and is not to be confused with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which reached an agreement with 16 ad agencies regarding their minority hiring practices. The Committee technically has oversight power over the Commission.

Further, according to all sides involved, this meeting has nothing to do with recent news that attorney Cyrus Mehri has commissioned a study examining diversity in the ad industry. The memo was issued before news of the study broke.

The last time Mr. Seabrook's committee involved itself directly with agency affairs was in March 2006, when it vowed to hold hearings on the subject of diversity. Back then, he said he'd likely subpoena industry executives to testify. He also raised the possibility of asking clients for their positions on diversity.

But the deal worked out by the Commission on Human Rights and 16 agencies seemed to have eclipsed the hearings at the time.

During Advertising Week of 2006, Mr. Seabrook held hearings as to why minority-owned media outlets don't get more advertising. No one showed up. The agencies, Mr. Seabrook said at the time, "ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean."

Mr. Seabrook did not return calls by press time.

UPDATE: For those interested, the hearing will take place Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 10 a.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
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