a whole has an appalling diversity record and is currently under investigation by the New York City Commision on Human Rights for its poor hiring practices. There are more than half a million employees in advertising and related services. According to the 2000 Census, however, only 6% of those are African American and 9% are Hispanic.
And at a time when black advertising agencies should be heavily courted for their expertise in reaching the diverse needs of the black consumer, many have become dying relics, showing significant declines in billings and revenues. Even the largest and strongest black ad agencies are now competing against larger, predominantly white agencies for ad dollars earmarked for the pursuit of black consumers and other ethnic markets (See “B.E. 100s: Advertising Agencies,” June 2006).
Why is the advertising industry failing at its diversity efforts? Industry experts say there are several reasons: A lack of understanding of the financial benefits of diversity, ignoring the significance of the black market, and the most glaring — lack of accountability.
“There is no one to hold them accountable, not even the corporations with good diversity records,” explains Christopher Metzler, director of diversity management & EEO studies at Cornell University, who also established the country’s first diversity certification program. “Unless an industry is publicly chagrinned through a major successful litigation, or an advocacy group were to embarrass them on the public stage, the self-motivation simply does not exist.”
Hotel and hospitality businesses were in a similar situation several years ago, until the NAACP issued the entire industry a failing grade for hiring practices and its treatment of African American clientele. “The pressure from the NAACP forced the hotels to take a look at themselves and they had to scramble to figure out how to become good corporate citizens,” says Andy Ingraham, president and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers. “Hotels realized that diversity is no longer a buzz word; it’s an action word and it’s measurable.”
Hotels began to develop programs and initiatives that improved hiring practices, guest services, increased black corporate representation, and outreach to encourage and support prospective hotel owners. “When the effort first started, there was one branded hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, [that was black-owned]. Today, there are close to 230.” Ingraham notes that the industry still has a lot to do, but that awareness is creating opportunity for a new group of black entrepreneurs.
He also mentions that in many cases these purchasing opportunities are a direct result of the increase in minorities in hotel senior management positions and on the corporate boards. “When you have a voice on a hotel board of directors, it’s very difficult to tell management that you can’t get it done.”
Though current charges against the advertising industry may be its impetus to change, Metzler believes that the industry needs to be educated on how these changes benefit everyone. “The advertising industry clearly does not believe that there is value in diversity,” he says. “They have been unable to understand the value