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Hot Ad Mess: Is Lack of Color in the Advertising Biz to Blame for MJB/Burger King Snafu??

After official Mary J. Blige response, I'm still shaking my head

Interesting enough, The Impact Study, a recent survey conducted by cross-cultural talent consultancy Tangerine-Watson, reported that 74% of minority employees in the industry agreed with the premise that their “experience as an employee from a multicultural background is different from my colleagues’.”

According to Advertising Age, the responses from participants— 831 ad-industry professionals of various races and across general-market and ethnic agencies— included insights such as: “Simply being aware of the presence (or lack thereof) of racial overtones in our advertising concepts and being turned to as the one to call it out is an unwritten responsibility—and I fear an unwritten liability,” wrote one respondent.

“There’s also the worry of being stigmatized as a complainer, ” writer Ken Wheaton reports. ” ‘Wrote another: ‘I have been treated differently for expressing negative feelings vs. my white colleagues.’ ”

One BlackEnterprise.com reader elaborated on those sentiments: “I work in the ad industry and this is a direct result of the lack of people of color working at agencies. It takes a lot of layers for a [stet] ad to go from concept to a point where its [stet] filmed. To go through that many layers and not have one person raise their hand and ask, “Why are we having the only Black person in our campaign singing about chicken?” tells you a lot. I won’t even go into the fact that every other spot with foot touches on multiple food products (salad AND chicken).”

Does the slap on the hand go to an advertising industry still struggling with diversity and how to position themselves in an ever-growing, multicultural world, or to Blige and her team for agreeing to the chicken wraps concept — from its pitch to execution to the final edit?

I’d have to say that being the Queen, one must have a royal stamp of approval for anything related to her reign. But, even working in journalism, where I’ve been an editor, writer and producer, I can say that there can be many hands in the pot, and the final execution may not necessarily be anything like the initial concept or idea. A myriad of factors can contribute to the decision on what is — or isn’t — finally released to the public

I can’t say one way or the other….at least not until I see the so-called “final” cut. Damage already done, I still hope it doesn’t include any resemblance of what was released. Let’s go back to the drawing board with this one, Mary.

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  • Tinu Abayomi-Paul

    There are several things at play here. If you look at it purely from the perspective of what happens in the entertainment world, period, I tend to believe Mary J for 2 reasons. First, pure self interest – she has fans to lose if projects she works on go wrong. Second, it’s really quite common in the entertainment industry for you to walk in and think you’re doing one project, and have the film cut, the song remixed, voiceover added, or the images adjusted to come out with something different than the project you thought you were on.

    Secondly, yes, there aren’t black people in advertising – but it’s deeper than that. How many black people do you know under 30 that even understand why that’s inappropriate?

    When I saw the shot, I was more offended by the lack of reality in the sketch. I don’t remember seeing that mix of people in a Burger King. On the other hand, I know some of the good things Burger King does for our community and in general, and recognize that the chicken wraps are a response to our demand for healthier food.

    It should have been taken down, and I think Burger King’s apology was bogus – they did an experiment on purpose to see how we would all react, and that’s what they should have said. But it also seems like we brought C4 to a fist fight on this one. Not necessarily an overreaction – just that paying THAT much attention to this made it seem like we need Burger Kind on our side and we don’t. We don’t HAVE to buy their food. And that’s the kind of response that’s taken seriously.

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