How To Hire Minorities on Madison Avenue*
This isn’t as hard as it looks.
Let’s pretend this is an ad created by a prominent European/Caucasian creative team. A fairly attractive, white American female art buyer (who’s engaged to the Agency Marketing Chief) intercepts the book and says:
It’s anecdotal, but I swear I’ve heard it said!
That ad goes on to win every award show it’s entered in (totaling over 5K in entry fees!) Creative Director Mark Tutssel and Leo Burnett are ultimately honoured by Hall of Fame rumours. That’s brilliant! (Yes?)
OK, Use your imagination on this one.
You are a proud former traffic worker at BBDO and although you’ve never actually created an ad, you are confident you can spot a winner when you see one! To wit: a rare African/British creative does a magic show, slips you a mickey and actually gets invited into the agency for a face to face interview! (fucking snake charmers) And he shows you THIS:
What’s happened? That black, African guy just left an interview and look at the ad he had the nerve to bring! Looks like he shot this ad himself, right? He’s even neglected to clean up those nasty skid marks on the street. “Bloody, Lazy nigger” (freely adjust your proper expletives per region or country!) :)
Makes you uncomfortable, init? A little close to the bone? GOOD. Maybe next time you’ll cut that shit out. My experience in the Americas (in particular) has always been ‘outside looking in’ and I don’t like what I’ve seen. But, I’m not likely to march on Selma to force you to behave, you naughty little buggers. I’m more likely to tell you: “Hey, cut that shit out, mate. You’re boring me.”
The Big Sell
Recently I’ve interviewed with a very fair minded Caucasian American Creative Director I’ve know for years. He’s beaming over my recent work. He’s buzzing over my recent independent wins and how I’ve hustled all over the world to keep the lights on, my 5 wives/32 children well fed. I was chuffed to bits at the prospect of signing a long term contract with his shop in New York.
Suddenly, a clanger lands in my lap: “Hey, do you know Rupaul?” (the real name’s changed to protect the innocent) “Yeh, she/he’s got a crack shop and I think you should meet him/them!” Immediately, I’m trying to figure out where’s the black drag queen appeal to my beautifully rendered Dubai campaign for Coca Cola? What in the name of Sam Peckinpah does a 100% African chap with British/American heritage have in common with Rupaul?
True story, mate.
Closing The Deal
It use to be way back in the ‘naughts (2000, for you #millennial-types) that a Madison Avenue Creative Director (or agency officer) could simply write you a “PO” and off you go. You’d get your brief via email and maybe a couple of in-agency meetings, and a list of deliverables. At a later stage you’d meet an abruptly attractive ‘executive aid’ to the boss and (yes, its always a ‘she’ and a ‘Caucasian’ she to boot. Who’s dating the boss.) she’d help you sort your paperwork and the beat goes on. Mind you, nothing has really changed today. Except how ‘race minorities’ are hired. I’m not going into the obvious history and problems therein, but I will tell you how it all pans out — and in whose favour.
There is indeed a deliberate race-demarche amidst the fallout of Agency megamergers and shuttered offices. The aforementioned path for a freelancer has been stepped on by many, not-so-well-meaning opportunists. Indeed, if you are a ‘race-minority’ and you find you can’t move around like you use to despite your leading edge work, this is the reason why.
The advent of the ‘white-female-gatekeeper’ (lets call them #WFGKs) is not a new phenomenon. She is prominently portrayed (in all her glory) in that
AMC#MADMEN TV series as the ‘Office Administrator’ or something. I’m gonna go deep for one paragraph and then get back to the garrulous nonsensical stuff: The Madmen series interestingly portrays Madison Avenue during America’s race segregated 50s/60s era. I realise they’ve thrown in a minority time and again but I assure you thats merely fiction and Hollywood tosh. Madmen was successful BECAUSE of the segregation and in spite of the race-minority. Let’s be honest: the ad industry is a very intimate sort of business. In this respect it’s a lot like Hollywood or a Tech industry vertical. I hate to admit it, but agencies DO work better if all the players are of like mind, culture and yes, race. That’s what segregation is all about! (albeit, not the best scheme, obviously)
Back to it, then?
The 95th percentile of the whole of advertising are Caucasians of various nationalities and ethnicities. The concept, the craft and the biz model was
defined by Euro/Caucasian men. These women –#WFGKs–are part of a rather brazen mating ecosystem. Its how the majority culture gets on, isn’t it? This easily explains why a 70th percentile of #WFGKs are married and or dating Agency officers. I’ve sussed them all and can name names if you want them? But, just like fictional #JoanHolloway they’re really not that important to the hiring process of race-minorities and you (as an agency officer) should exclude them from the process. Don’t push those hapless lasses out front as your ‘culture fit’ attack dogs. That’s rubbish. Indeed, I’m over-simplifying a behaviour pattern that may have had dire consequences for many minorities well beyond the tiny world of Advertising–but, to me, ‘race-bias’ is not that complex. It’s really just a component of preference. Take this witty little posting to heart and you will avoid a lot of silly missteps.
I’m an international type, I’ve got nothing to lose in saying these things. Indeed, they must be said. But, if you continue to discriminate against your African American counterpart or your polyglot, Spanish-speaking cousins, however–you’re going to waste a lot of time, sitting in on depositions and writing settlement cheques for civil rights violations. That shit is boring, too.
Cut it out, mate.
“American racism is compounded by racist poverty. It’s a deeply fucked up Gordian Knot”
— Andy Berlin (Madison Avenue trailblazer)