AAF Sets Diversity Guidelines

The American Advertising Federation has developed voluntary principles asking advertisers and agencies to increase diversity in the workforce and promote fairness when buying and selling ethnic media, according to an AAF internal memo.

The principles, which will be adopted at a White House ceremony next month, also call on industry executives to provide the AAF in Washington, D.C., with data to measure results. They are a response to the Federal Communications Commission’s report questioning advertisers’ minority media buying practices, as well as to FCC Chairman William Kennard calling on the industry to create guidelines.

“After years of working on this issue, a consensus has been built,” said AAF president Wally Snyder, referring to adopting the principles.

Efforts to gauge multicultural marketing practices have met with little success in the past. The AAF hopes to change that by securing the support of industry heavy hitters.

Several companies have signed a document pledging to uphold the principles. Advertisers included in the mix are Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, DaimlerChrysler and Verizon. Agencies include D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Grey Worldwide, Jordan McGrath Case & Partners, Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett. Starcom is among the participating media buying companies.

Ed Wax, chairman emeritus of Saatchi & Saatchi, said the initiative is smart for the industry. “If you don’t do this, you will be left behind in the marketplace,” he said.

Securing CEO support is considered key. “This has to stem from a true commitment and recognition of diversity,” said P&G representative Gretchen Briscoe.

Don Richards, a diversity consultant for Leo Burnett, predicts more industry accountability will follow: “We’ll see a much greater response to surveys.”

The AAF and P&G co-sponsored a survey last year and sent it to CEOs at 100 companies, but the effort was dropped because it received little response.