Minorities: Employment in the Advertising Industry

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The first ethnic inroads into the advertising industry were made by Jews and Italians who worked on the creative side of the agency structure, though their influence was not fully felt until the 1950s.

Lawrence Valenstein founded Grey Art Studio in 1918, changing the name to Grey Advertising in 1925. He built his business primarily on Jewish retail clients. Grey eventually developed into a general marketing agency after winning the Good Housekeeping and Mennen accounts.

As the marketing industry matured from the 1940s to the 1960s, it was the Jewish and Italian creative people and copywriters who were able to break down the initial barriers of racism, opening the way for other groups. Doyle Dane Bernbach was born out of Grey in 1949.

African-American inroads

African-American men who first achieved success at major agencies included Roy Eaton, the first black hired (in 1955) by Young & Rubicam. Other aspiring African-Americans opted to strike out on their own.

Thomas J. Burrell began his advertising career in the mailroom of Wade Advertising in Chicago in 1960. He worked as a copywriter for Leo Burnett Co., also Chicago, for three years before moving to Foote, Cone & Belding in London and then to a copy supervisor post at Needham, Harper & Steers. In 1971, at the age of 32, he opened his own shop to concentrate on marketing to black consumers.

Other black marketing leaders who focused their business on marketing to black consumers include Byron Lewis, who founded UniWorld Group in New York; Don Coleman, founder of Don Coleman Advertising in Southfield, Mich.; and Frank Mingo and Caroline Jones, who started their agency Mingo Jones Guilmenot in 1977 in New York.

Major marketers and agencies have been slow to develop a pool of high-ranking minority executives, leading to recruitment and retention problems among the lower ranks as young employees sometimes become discouraged at the relative scarcity of role models. In 1987, A. Barry Rand was named president of the domestic marketing group for Xerox Corp. At the time, Korn Ferry International reported that in a survey of the 1,000 largest companies, it had found four black senior executives immediately below the chief executive level—one executive more than was reported in 1979.

Mr. Rand remained the highest-ranking African-American corporate executive in the U.S. until 1997, when Kenneth I. Chenault was named president-chief operating officer, the No.2 post, at American Express Co. That year the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that African-Americans comprised 6.9% of all executives and managers.

The 21st century

At the outset of the 21st century, in an era when multicultural marketing is an increasingly significant component of many marketers' ad budgets, many corporations continued to face accusations of racism or sexism. Notable among those corporations cited in lawsuits was Texaco. In 1994, the marketer faced a class-action suit in which the plaintiffs were awarded $176.1 million and an 11% salary increase.

Altruism aside, public revelations of intolerance had the capacity to become public relations nightmares for marketers. As the U.S. population became increasingly diverse, the industry recognized that its recruitment and retention policies had the potential to affect the bottom line: profits.

With advertisers becoming more aware of the growing ethnic consumer market, the major agencies and their holding companies developed an interest in establishing ethnic agencies of their own or forging links with existing ethnic agencies.

As of 2001, those that had acquired stakes in ethnic shops included Young & Rubicam, with its Hispanic agencies Bravo Group and Mendoza Dillon & Asociados, Asian specialist shop Kang & Lee, African-American specialist UniWorld Group and Mosaica; Publicis Group, with its Pangea group of multicultural agencies and a 49% stake in Burrell Communications Group; Grey Global Group, with its WING Latino Group; Havas Advertising, with its MVBMS Hispanic; Interpublic Group of Cos., with its Casanova Pendrill Publicidad and a 49% stake in each of African-American agency GlobalHue and Asian agency Imada Wong, as well as a 40% share in Hispanic agency Siboney USA; and Omnicom, with its African-American shop Footsteps and Hispanic agency Dieste, Harmel & Partners (in which it holds a minority share).

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