Ad Industry's Diversity Efforts Get Incomplete Mark
Adland has been struggling to make its workforce more diverse for years. And it’s still getting poor grades for its initiatives, according to a panel of C-level executives in the industry who gathered to discuss the issue at an event in New York Monday night.
The event, co-produced by the Advertising Women of New York Multicultural Alliance, Tangerine Watson and Bloomberg Businessweek, kicked off with a review of a recent Tangerine Watson study. It indicated that 89% of the industry, regardless of ethnicity, feels that diversity in the industry needs improvement.
“That’s an astonishing number,” commented Carol Evans, president and founder of Working Mother Media, who moderated the panel session.
Of the four C-level executives on the panel, only one, Debra Coughlin, Global CMO, Draftfcb, gave the industry’s diversity initiatives a barely acceptable grade, and that grade was a tepid “OK”
Others were a lot harsher.
Monique Nelson, CEO of the Multicultural ad shop Uniworld gave the industry a “D” for its initiatives to improve diversity, while John Osborn president and CEO, BBDO New York, gave the industry an “incomplete.” Lou Aversano, COO, Ogilvy East, gave it a more diplomatic “work in progress.”
“What’s the missing link?” Evans asked at one point. Part of the answer, most agreed, was a lack of top-level multicultural leadership.T hat makes a huge difference, said Ken Brown, SVP, Global Talent Management, McCann Worldgroup. Brown recalled that when he was vice president global talent management at WPP’s Young & Rubicam a few years back, Anne Fudge, who is African American, was the CEO of Y&R Brands, the top executive at the company.
Furing that time, younger multicultural executives and staffers were constantly questioning him about “how to navigate that path. Being able to see people in roles that you aspire to is powerful and just by her being there as a beacon had people coming to us,” he said. After Fudge left, the numbers of those seeking such career advice “dropped off a lot,” Brown added.
Some on the panel noted a sort of Catch-22 that exists within many of the industry’s recruitment efforts, adversely impacting diversity: Advancement to upper management requires experience within the industry.
That’s not always the case. One of the panelists, CEO Nelson of Uniworld, had no agency experience when she was brought on as CEO of that shop five-plus years ago.
“We need to get out of our comfort zone,” when it comes to recruitment, said Donna Pedro, chief diversity officer at Ogilvy & Mather. Less focus on the experience factor and more focus on “transferable skills” that people have outside of the industry would help diversify upper management ranks, she asserted. “Don’t just fish in this small pond.”