Surprise: Ad Industry Maybe Not So Great at the Whole Diversity Thing

By Erik Oster 

A recent survey released by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) found that 74 percent of the organization’s members feel that agencies are “mediocre or worse” when it comes hiring diversity practices, Adweek reports

Of that 74 percent, 20 percent went as far as to call agencies “terrible” at hiring diverse candidates. Additionally, half of respondents felt that the ad industry still had problems with discrimination in the work place, even if it is not as overt an issue as it once was.

So … progress??


According to the survey, the industry also has an issue with providing equal opportunities to disabled employees, with 17 percent of respondents claiming agencies were “terrible” when it came to the issue and, as with diversity practices, 74 percent of respondents picking “mediocre or worse.”

This most recent survey follows one whose results were released in August; its headlining stat revealed that more than half of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the work place. That survey also found that 33 percent of female respondents had been passed over for key assignments or promotions due to their gender on multiple occasions and 42 percent said they had been left out of decision-making processes due to gender-based discrimination.

“The ad industry must do more to hire diverse professionals who will create work that reflects our diverse consumer base; there is a very real appetite for that work. We’ve made some progress, but we have a lot more to do to make agencies a place where anyone can thrive, and everyone is represented,” 4A’s president and CEO Nancy Hill told Adweek. 

Hill also announced ahead of an Advertising Week session with Michael J. Fanuele, chief creative officer of General Mills, which is asking agencies in its creative review to meet specific diversity quotas, that the 4A’s will commission another study before the end of 2016. She is also calling on agencies to provide the organization with its diversity numbers—related to gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation—while ensuring the data will be kept confidential. 

“This industry does not have any benchmarks and until we can get to a place where we can measure what’s going on we can’t start thinking that we’ve accomplished anything,” she said.