I was scooping water from the kiddie pool we have for the little ones. I needed a workout, so, soon I worked up a nice sweat. After feeling like my arms and back were getting swole like Shannon Sharpe, I found a lawn chair and started sipping coffee while engaging in one of my favorite pastimes, looking at websites of advertising and PR agencies, playing my version of “Where’s Waldo.” I call it, “Can You Spot the Black Dude?”
I grew tired of it because most agencies with headshots of their crews were still 95% white, so it got tedious. Some of these folks reminded me of the newborn in the Raymond Bradbury short story, “That Only a Mother.”Looking at them got brutal.
There was also an absence of people over 45-50 from the so-called, dynamic, creative shops. What’s interesting is that if you find websites pre-Y2K you found the over 45-50 set — looking like exiles. Maybe, in some respects they are.
I was going to write a blog making wisecracks about the advertising industry’s failure to take seriously gender, sexual, racial and age discrimination. Damn, I started to have a sweeping wave of emotion. Sadness, maybe. Such jokes aren’t funny and are unnecessary.
I ran into an article in AdWeek that put things in focus and I knew why the caged bird sings. And this stuff is crazy. I asked myself if Jim Crow has repackaged and cloned his despicable Johnny Reb self and joined all the major advertising holding companies as upper management.
They are even putting out to pasture, people that could be mentors — the over 45-50 crowd — people who have a vague idea of who Tippy Hedren is. Read it in Agency Spy. They fired Grandpappy Amos and Granny Clampett when the clock turned on them. Hell, they still had dark hair and only contemplated botox. In the article, a group of agency insiders all confirm that ageism exists. That’s why Granny split, and Amos is off building a Y2K style website. He needs a job in the profession he loves. Granny plans to join him.
When you consider the rather alarming avalanche of lawsuits for racial discrimination (which gets little coverage — indictable in and of itself), sexual discrimination against women, and an endless list, it cries not for reform, but for resolution.
These issues are not constructs of imagination, but sickening reality. It has been too prevalent in every industry, particularly advertising. Later in the year, although we’re small with small agency struggles, our plan is to bring on board two people otherwise excluded from our club. It’s a small step. No big agency drama or attractiveness, but it’s a step nonetheless.
What about you, “Mr. or Ms. Small Shop?” Can you help change the paradigm? Money is an issue. I can absorb a hit on what I make and make it possible for us. (I’ve been doing it anyway). All of us can play a part and show the big boys how it’s done because they aren’t going too. If we own or partner in an agency — money is always a moveable commodity. However, the exiles are precious for their knowledge and should be treasured.
So, the question is, “What’s in your heart?”
Bernard Alexander McNealy