4A's: Ad agencies short on diversity, sparking professional reflection

Dive Brief:

  • 4A’s released a report Tuesday at their [email protected] Conference showing that 74 percent of its members think diversity hiring practices are “mediocre or worse” within ad agencies, according to a release from the organization.
  • 20 percent of members found industry approaches flat-out “terrible.” About half of those surveyed reported that agencies have a discriminatory culture, though 60 percent said they aren’t as racist as in the past.
  • 4A’s has aimed to be more active in addressing diversity shortcomings this year by conducting proprietary research, hosting panels on the subject and creating the See It & Be It content series, available on its website.

Dive Insight:

The recent 4A’s report highlights just how lacking the advertising industry is in ensuring equal representation in the workplace — something that might be harmful at more than an internal level. For a profession dependent on content and products that connect to a diverse spectrum of consumers, limiting creatives and agents to largely one race or gender could mean limiting perspectives and, following that, potentially hurting business as brands become more interested in inclusive approaches. 

While the study makes it clear that agencies are aware of diversity as an issue, it fails to clearly address how many are actually dissatisfied with the situation or interested in change. 

4A’s has taken steps in the right direction to address the lack of diversity by opening up panels to promote discussion and by publishing surveys like the recent diversity report. Unfortunately, similar pushes toward equality often only arrive on the tail of controversy.

In May, J. Walter Thompson introduced a diversity committee at the initiative of then freshly appointed CEO Tamara Ingram, but the effort was a corrective measure to a string of racial and sexual discrimination suits that had ousted her predecessor Gustavo Martinez. Just a few months later, in August, Publicis Media suspended Kevin Roberts as chairman of its Saatchi & Saatchi arm following sexist remarks he gave in an interview with Business Insider.

Such scandals might be prevented in the future by a more proactive approach. Inclusive efforts made, not merely in the name of damage control, but to promote an equitable and safe work environment will better serve agencies and consumers. 

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Filed Under: Corporate News