Fresh start in diversity fight

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The set of principles for multicultural advertising that the American Advertising Federation, with support from other ad groups, has nurtured into being is a hopeful, significant step forward on a contentious and difficult issue for the advertising business. But critics who have held the ad industry's feet to the fire over its minority hiring performance and sometimes questionable media selection practices are not likely to relent.

Nor should they, frankly. No matter how strongly written -- and this new statement of principles talks earnestly about "commitment" on the part of the companies that subscribe to its tenets -- words are still only words until supported by tangible actions and results. If industry critics are skeptical, let the marketer and agency executives and association leaders, who have worked to rally their colleagues to do something, take it in stride -- and vow to prove the doubters wrong.

These are difficult issues -- or they would have been solved years ago when other industry leaders vowed something had to be done. Top managers have to insist that business as usual, in hiring people and ad agencies and in planning and buying media schedules, has to be shaken up. Yet the results must stand the tests of business competition.

The best plank in these principles may turn out to be the one that calls on the supporters of this document to anonymously supply data so the advertising industry and outsiders looking in can track industry progress. Real information of that kind has been hard to come by. Promises are promises. Numbers tell what effect the words are really having in changing the cultural complexion of the advertising world.

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