I just love a good old fashioned-brawl.
New York City Human Rights Commission Vs. Madison Avenue........The issue - diversity hiring.
I must admit, I was really looking forward to seeing the Madison Ave. suits climb into the ring with their ultra cool designer eyeglasses and "I'm too sexy for my cellphone" credit card size gadgets going off every 3 seconds.
But it didn't happen. As New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook so elegantly put it, the advertising agencies....
"ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean"
How do you really feel, Larry?
There have been so many interesting editorials and sound-offs about the issue I couldn't possibly quote them all.
What's really going on here? Is Madison Avenue still just a bunch of good old boys? Sure you have characters like Neil French mouthing off and getting themselves in hot water. But I don't think it's nearly as simple as that.
Would I personally love to see more women and minorities in higher positions in agencies? You bet I would. But honestly? I don't think you're going to see a lot of change. Part of the problem is these agencies are public. They have to cater to Wall Street.
Maybe it's truth, maybe it's just perception, but if you were on the board of a major company, would you have the guts to hire a female CEO? Let's take a real world example....
Xerox was struggling badly in 2000. They needed to make drastic changes. They announced Anne Mulcahy was taking over as CEO. In Anne's own words...
the day I was announced as CEO, I think the stock dropped another 20%
Was that because the market didn't have faith in Xerox? Or was it because the market didn't have faith in Xerox's choice for CEO? If she had been a man, would the stock have dropped 20%? We'll never know. For the record, Mulcahy turned the company around.
Xerox is growing again, the stock price has quadrupled on her watch, and this month, Forbes named Mulcahy the fifth-most-powerful woman in the world.
But this had to have a chilling effect on other public companies. Who wants to risk a 20% drop in their stock price by appointing a woman to lead the company? Wall Street aside, what else could be going on? Why the lack of women and minorities in high positions in advertising agencies?
If your target audience is women, wouldn't it make sense to have women at the top of your marketing decisions? Wouldn't that increase your chances for success? I think it can, but not in all cases. Take the case of Revlon.
Even with female heads, their new line of Vital Radiance products failed miserably - and as a result...
the roles of Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, held by Stephanie Klein Peponis, and Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, held by Rochelle Udell, will be eliminated.
So what's going on? It does not guarantee success, but I still stand by my view that having more women and minorities in higher positions in advertising agencies will be beneficial. The more diverse the backgrounds, the less likely you are to have "group think". And that's always a good thing.
But I don't think you're going to see much progress in that arena. Many of the best and brightest minority talent find the only way to succeed is to leave. Look at the huge number of smaller marketing shops budding up everywhere. This is where much of the true innovation is happening.
I say, let the Madison Avenue types stick with their outdated, antiquated ideas, hiring practices and advertising theories. Smaller more innovative, more diverse agencies are kicking their asses.
I worked in Corporate America for 18 years. I got absolutely nowhere. Nowhere. Not only was it killing my pocket book, it was killing my soul. It was almost impossible to get anyone to listen to you.
I will always and forever be grateful to Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg for saving me from that fate and bringing me in to Future Now. I work in an atmosphere where my co-workers have confidence in me. There is no "that's the way it's always been done."
Have an idea? Unless it truly sucks, the answer is almost always - "Go - do it - what do you need?" We have a diverse staff with several minorities represented. And how is Future Now doing? We're growing so fast it's almost scary.
I'm not here to toot Future Now's horn. My point in all of this is twofold...
One - if you're talented, you're in advertising, and you're a minority - go the big agency route if you want - but also look at the smaller shops that are doing amazing things and blowing away the competition with their insight and successful track records.
Two - I want to hear from you - what do you think about the whole minority in advertising debate? Good or bad - bring it on. Do you think the whole thing is just a misguided "affirmative action" for advertising that will force agencies to lower their standards in order to hire minorities? Is the attitude of Neil French one that is actually held by many advertising executives - that women are too busy with mommy responsibilities to work as hard as their midnight oil burning male counterparts - is this a view that is more widely held than we think? Is the glass ceiling still firmly in place for women and minorities? Is that why so much advertising aimed at women doesn't work? because too many white men are making the decisions and doing the creative - creating ads that they like?
Or is this just more political posturing by those damn minorities and feminists with nothing better to do than whine and complain.