Diversity Protestors Target Ogilvy

NEW YORK Demonstrators protesting the advertising industry’s hiring practices today targeted Ogilvy & Mather’s New York headquarters, according to sources.

Approximately two dozens protestors arrived outside the agency at noon, along with event organizer and City Councilman Larry Seabrook. According to eyewitness accounts of the event, the majority of those present were children, ages 3-16, while there were about eight adults on hand as the group chanted “End apartheid at Ogilvy & Mather.”

The American Association of Advertising Agencies has been in negotiations with the New York City Human Rights Commission over minority hiring practices at agencies in the city.

In a statement released by Seabrook’s office announcing the “press conference” held at Ogilvy’s offices today, the councilman said, “After three months of negotiations, the Madison Avenue ad agencies have refused to commit to end what the NYC Human Rights Commission has defined as ‘De Facto Segregation’ employment policies and the ‘redlining’ of black media from federal advertising dollars.”

The group singled out Ogilvy as the prime media contractor on the Office of National Drug Control Policy account, taking issue that the agency does not use enough black-owned media for those anti-drug messages. However, it is Mindshare, Ogilvy’s WPP Group sister shop, that handles planning and buying for the ONDCP business.

Seabrook added in the statement: “It is time to put an end to ‘Jim Crow’ on Madison Avenue.”

A statement from the 4A’s emphasized the group’s “long-standing commitment to improving diversity” in the industry, and said it is working on a number of new and already established initiatives in this respect. The 4A’s is currently working with community leaders and government officials to help achieve fair representation.

The 4A’s statement also said, “Diversity is an issue that concerns the entire advertising industry, and the [4A’s] believes that calling out a single agency is inappropriate.”

In April, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a questionnaire to agencies to evaluate their minority hiring practices and met with agency representatives who stressed their willingness to move forward and pledged their full cooperation, sources said [Adweek Online, May 27, 2004].

The commission is probing shops from all five major holding companies, along with independents. There is no time line for the investigation, according to the commission.