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Mainstream minorities

In reference to Rance Crain's March 11 column, "Let blacks pitch mainstream biz," it was quite enlightening to me, being African-American, that Ad Age would recognize the contribution blacks can make, based on their cultural background, to mainstream advertising.

My career was primarily founded on working at large general-market ad agencies in New York as a creative, and because of this experience I always felt that it was too limiting to just work on the African-American market segment. Besides, as recognized, all the great memorable advertising seems to cross over, utilizing things from the black community anyway.

Since starting my own small agency in '89, my focus has been primarily the general market, but because I am black, in the last year and a half black business has been coming my way without my solicitation. I'm sure as hell not going to turn down business, but I think Mr. Crain's point to be in the mainstream is terrific because there I know I can make my strongest contribution, not only to my race but to the world. And we know the world is made up of a lot of different backgrounds and colors.

I wish you would do an ongoing feature like "Who are these guys?" on ethnic agencies that don't necessarily target their ethnic group. I think that would open up the minds of advertisers, especially if they saw their work, to consider these agencies as alternative.

Plus, I think that would make advertising become a lot more diverse and interesting.

Steve Climons

President, SCCS Advertising

San Francisco

Superficial solution

On several accounts, I find Rance Crain's column (AA, March 11) disturbing. His generalized assessment of a proposed racial problem ("Why don't major advertisers give minority ad agencies a shot at handling their mainstream campaigns?") is as superficial as his happy solution ("technology has leveled the playing field for ... agencies. .......Let's see if there's room for black agencies ... too.")

The implication that "white executives" are cooperatively eliminating "black agencies" from large account pitches is as ludicrous as the implication that agencies should be selected to pitch large accounts based on blackness. (Does Mr. Crain really believe that KFC moved its account to its main shop to get it away from African-Americans?)

The contention of Mr. Gray of the UNCF that "black folks have been watching white folks for decades," and therefore "they understand the lifestyles, attitudes, and behaviors of whites better than whites ... themselves" is a ridiculous and racist generality. Who are these omniscient blacks? Are they collecting data? Or is this just a genetic gift, manifested by an obsession for white American demographic trivia?

In practically the same breath, Mr. Crain assesses that:

1. "Consumer products are becoming a series of niche markets."

2. "Black agencies are positioning themselves as agencies with ethnic expertise."

3. "The reality is that too often black agencies have been painted into an ethnic corner."

Why, after reading this entire column, did I feel like I just walked in on the middle of a conversation?

There may be racial problems in advertising (as there are in America). However, treating these ailments with generalities and superficial observations is part of the ignorance that breeds the problem. Volatile issues must be addressed in specific terms, using specific incidences, (i.e., which agency, which account, what circumstances). Ultimately they should be tested and acted on in a court of law.

In the future, please be more specific. And please, make the bad guy the offending agency, not white agencies. The wedge has already been driven too deep.

Sean O'Hara

O'Hara Marketing

[email protected]


Address letters to Advertising Age, Viewpoint Editor, 740 Rush St., Chicago 60611. Fax: (312) 649-5331. Letters can also be e-mailed to [email protected]

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