Diversity Debate Can Get Rough, but It's Necessary

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

There are few things in the industry on which we can reach consensus, but it's safe to say that we can all agree on this: Marketing is never easy; marketing to a diverse audience is harder still.

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P&G Wants to Connect With African-American Women. Najoh Reid Provides the Blueprint and the Rallying Cry.

Procter & Gamble has made two major moves in the arena recently. The first, which we wrote about last week, involved moving its Hispanic-marketing unit from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and giving it a home with the rest of the marketing team at company headquarters. The second, which we cover this week, is its "My Black is Beautiful" program under the lead of Najoh Reid.

It will be interesting to see how the discussions surrounding these moves play out. While P&G will undoubtedly win praise, the marketer is also opening itself up to criticism. Some in the Hispanic advertising and marketing community argue that Hispanic marketing is a distinct entity and should not be folded into general marketing. They'll be watching closely to see how the move to Cincinnati affects P&G's Hispanic messaging. For "My Black Is Beautiful," it's not beyond belief that someone will point out that the marketer is simply trying to cash in on the insecurities of a specific group.

Regardless, P&G is right to push ahead. And the debate swirling around such moves is welcome. Too often, the general-market side of the industry seems too paralyzed by fear to have real discussions about multiculturalism and diversity.

Even broaching the subject puts one at risk of offending any number of people for any number of reasons. Diversity is not multiculturalism is not race. As we learned while ironing out the details of our new diversity-related blog, The Big Tent (AdAge.com/bigtent), if one has a discussion relying on the old black-and-white dichotomy of the American cultural divide, the Hispanic market will point out that it's the biggest -- and biggest-spending -- minority group (and not a race, mind you). And the gay community, as well as disabled Americans, will remind you that defining diversity by race and ethnicity is too limiting.

They were all right. And we actually learned a thing or two we wouldn't have learned had we not broached the subject.

Which is exactly why the industry -- all of it, not just the minority shops and watchdogs -- should be discussing these things in the first place.
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