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Cultural diversity has become a major objective of American business, particularly in the advertising industry. With the rapid changes in U.S. demographics, building a workplace that reflects the nation's multicultural population is no longer a moral choice; it's a business imperative.

Advertising Age has helped us focus on this issue. Its "Advertising's dirty little secret" articles, published two years ago, described the difficulties African-Americans faced in finding careers in advertising, and forced many of us to take a hard look at minority representation in our industry. And just recently, Harold Levine's Forum piece (AA, May 9) was a request to inject new blood and energy into the business.

Levine called upon the American Advertising Federation to use its network of 220 local professional adclubs and federations to address this issue. He'll be happy to know that the AAF recognized its potential two years ago, beginning with the establishment of a high-level diversity advisory board that included Sam Chisolm, Caroline Jones and Don Richards. Later in 1992, the AAF board of directors adopted eight objectives that set forth a plan to provide the ad industry with realistic programs to advance diversity.

Although this is a problem that can't be solved overnight-or in two years-we can report some significant success.

This year the AAF established a diversity category in its annual Club Achievement Competition, and Nestle USA contributed a cash award for the most significant advancements toward cultural diversity in a local community. One of our award recipients is the Ad Club of Greater Boston, which in two years has awarded 73 minority college internships and established a four-year scholarship at the Boston University College of Communications.

The Birmingham Advertising Club is another champion. Last year it launched a marketing effort to recruit minority members and encourage their leadership within the club.

The Ad Club of Los Angeles, working with the Western States Advertising Association and Chiat/Day Advertising, is managing an extremely successful college internship program for juniors and seniors.

The Denver Advertising Federation also has established a successful diversity program. For seven years, Denver and the Distributive Education Clubs of America have conducted advertising competitions for Colorado high school students, most recently reaching out to high schools with high minority enrollments.

Overall, in just over a year, 27 AAF affiliate clubs have established diversity committees and six clubs have implemented public service advertising campaigns promoting diversity within their communities.

On a different but equally important level, many of AAF's 200 affiliate college chapters and their 5,500 student members have undertaken diversity enhancement. The University of Minnesota presents panels of local advertising professionals-who are minorities-to discuss career opportunities for the minority student organizations.

Last year the American Advertising Foundation (the non-profit educational subsidiary of the AAF) began sponsoring the Milt Gossett Creative Workshop where college students with demonstrated creative talent are provided personal exposure to the advertising industry. This spring, historically black Spelman College was one of three participating schools.

Also this year, the AAF college chapter at Howard University became the first predominantly black college to participate in the National Student Advertising Competition.

These accomplishments are clearly modest. But they are significant in that the momentum has begun at all levels of advertising. Our success will lie in our complete commitment to diversity as an industry.

This summer the AAF will publish an extensive resource guide, funded by Coors Brewing Co., to help adclubs implement diversity programs in their local communities. The successful efforts of Denver, Los Angeles and Boston are now the blueprints for other communities to adapt. The guide includes a substantial chapter of articles, public service campaigns and the largest number of contacts, organizations and resources available anywhere to begin or enhance any type of diversity initiative.

Next month the AAF council of governors will introduce a recruitment video to encourage high school students to consider advertising as a career option. A special emphasis is being placed on video presentations in high schools with high minority enrollments.

The key to changing the face of advertising is to reach students early-high school or earlier-when they are making their career decisions. We must convince them that there is a place for them in this industry. And then, when today's college students are in positions to make hiring decisions, diversity will be part of everyday business.

Mr. Snyder is president of the Washington-based American Advertising Federation.

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