why the ad industry continues to lack diversity

September 8, 2011 in Diversity and Inclusion, Executive Desk

With a consistent but sure change in diverse demographics nationwide, made more evident by the recent Census, more corporations and their agencies of records are taking serious note of these demographic shifts and jumping on the multicultural or diverse marketing bandwagon — some more strategically than others. As far as the diversity focus is concerned, in general women and LGBT are well represented in the advertising industry (at least in certain pockets nationwide).

But diversity in advertising is still lacking active participation from minority and underrepresented groups. Yes, there are Hispanic agencies, African American agencies and even Asian American agencies that are primarily composed of people representing their ethnic demographics focus, but outside of these ethnic or multicultural agencies there’s relatively little representation from ethnic communities in the mainstream advertising industry.

The lack of diversity becomes more apparent when it comes to ethnic representation from communities like Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and other emerging groups like Eastern/Western European Americans, Middle Eastern Americans and Pacific Islanders. Within these diverse groups, African American inclusion has traditionally been the measure of diversity success but as other groups grow in size and influence, a more multicultural inclusion is being accounted for on both the corporation and agency sides.

Various factors account for an under-representation of diverse groups in our advertising industry, including lack of proper support, training and mentorship from established advertising professionals towards these groups, education focus is on other fields, culture misfit or disconnect and language barriers. Another explanation its that agencies and their respective clients simply perceive America as a homogeneous market, not fully embracing the acculturation and assimilation that has already taken place within these ethnic groups. Interestingly, some of these diverse and bilingual groups have higher household incomes, purchasing power, education levels and are more technologically savvy compared to the general market.

However, the landscape is changing and more general market agencies are recognizing the value of building ethnic and diverse market focused units within their larger entities. This change in vision and direction for these agencies has come largely from a gradual but now more obvious change in diverse demographics across the country. In a nation where more than half of the population can be classified as minority and diverse, the marketing focus is still largely towards the general segment that has been the mainstay of most corporations and their agency partners.

Améredia for one has become a role model for diversity in the advertising industry. Not only do we market to more than 30 ethnic groups nationwide, our team comprises of professionals from more than 16 ethnicities who collectively speak more than 25 different dialects and languages. Diversity is inherent in our business and at the core of what we do every day. Its not a statement but a living standard for us. We live, breathe, operate and experience diversity in our everyday work environment. Having a diverse workforce is passé for us; rather we talk in terms of interacting internally and externally with people from diverse multicultural backgrounds on a daily basis and proactively reflecting that diversity in our clients’ advertising, marketing and communications.

Diversity is second nature to us. It’s our passion and the very nature of our business, and we are so into it that we don’t even realize that we are living it so refreshingly every day.