The Advertising And PR Industry Is Still Stuck In The Mad Men Era
As Mad Men showed, the advertising industry of the '60s was a booze-filled orgy that was awesome for everyone who was white, male, and not named Pete Campbell. But in addition to being responsible for a spike in fedoras and breast implants, the show served as a painful reminder of the rampant sexism, racism, alcoholism, and other -isms that reigned even more freely in the not-so-distant past.
It certainly would have been great if those lessons had carried into the present day, but alas, in 2006, the New York City Commission on Human Rights subpoenaed 16 ad executives about implicit racism in their hiring and advertising practices. The commission revealed that many companies intentionally ignored the popularity of their products with minorities in order to push them to white folks. One executive for GlobalHue, an agency specializing in marketing to nonwhite ethnicities, stated: "They know our buying power. Clients don't want to pay for it." It takes a special kind of racism for a company to willingly leave money on the table just because a black person touched it.
"So what do you guys think about having more customers? No? Me neither."
But there are some diversity victories happening in the industry. In 2016, J. Walter Thompson, a major agency in New York, named Tamara Ingram to replace the outgoing CEO. However, the only reason Tamara had the opportunity was because the old CEO was being sued by another female executive for subjecting employees to "to an unending stream of racist and sexist comments as well as unwanted touching and other unlawful conduct." Another agency, IPG, was slapped with a racial discrimination suit in 2012, and then had to fire a creative director and CEO from one of its subsidiaries after the director sent out a deeply racist email inviting employees to participate in "Ghetto Day." Ironically, the quickest way forward for the ad industry is by incriminating itself into equality.
Unfortunately, the PR industry (i.e. the people you call when you send out a racist email in celebration of "Ghetto Day") isn't doing much better. You would think an industry that makes its money off people blundering into racist and sexist comments would know how to avoid those same pitfalls, but a survey of British PR firms found that only 8 percent of employees were nonwhite, while nonwhite people make up 14 percent of the country's population. Partially to blame is the fact that while other industries have tried to move toward the more novel method of hiring people based on their abilities, PR jobs are still largely won based on who you know in the field. And since people already working in PR are mostly white, they're mostly going to recommend their squash buddies for the job.
Country clubs aren't exactly known for hitting quotas. But we'll get to that.