Some Shops Miss Diversity Targets

As a group, the 15 New York agencies whose minority hiring practices have been monitored by the New York City Commission on Human Rights since 2007 have exceeded expectations each year. Individually, however, some shops fell short of certain hiring goals, including three in the final year of the program last year.

Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, Interpublic Group’s Avrett Free Ginsberg and the direct marketing arm of WPP Group’s G2 last year failed to hire enough minorities either in management or professional roles such as copywriter, according to figures that the commission provided to Adweek.

The commission defined “minorities” broadly as blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans, and each agency set its own goals in the management and professional ranks and listed them as a percentage of total hires in each category. G2’s direct arm, for example, projected that 25 percent of its professional hires in 2009 would constitute minorities, but in the end, only 15 percent did.

Likewise, none of Saatchi’s management hires were minorities, even though the agency projected 16 percent. Avrett also fell short in the management category (none hired v. 10 percent projected).

None of the four shops, however, failed to meet both its management and professional goals. In fact, despite having fallen short in one category, each shop actually exceeded its goal in the other. For example, a third of Avrett’s hires in the professional ranks were minorities, comfortably exceeding the agency’s goal of 25 percent.

Of course, in a year marked by client spending cutbacks, hiring freezes and layoffs were common, and all but the most successful shops made relatively few hires. That said, in theory, hitting such percentages was easier, given the relatively small base of hires.

Still, some of the agencies that fell short of their goals cited the recession as a factor, noting that all hiring was down as a result. Avrett, for one, did not hire any managers at all last year, explained CEO Frank Ginsberg.

And while Saatchi made some management hires, including a new chief marketing officer, “the economic turmoil of the past 18 months put significant restraints on all core activity, including recruitment,” an agency representative said. “While we are encouraged by the progress we achieved with mid-level and junior professional appointments across all disciplines (27 percent of these hires were minorities, compared to the shop’s goal of 23 percent), the overall 2009 results are not what we would have accomplished in a healthy advertising economy.”

The rep added that Saatchi is “firmly committed to a diverse workforce and we will continue to enrich the many efforts currently under way to complete this goal.”

Among those efforts is a partnership with the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival that’s designed to identify and attract talent in production. Saatchi also works with a minority recruiter to help source talent in the mid-level to senior ranks.

As of late Friday, G2 had offered no explanation for their hiring shortfalls. A G2 representative had no comment.

The other agencies that the commission monitored were Havas units Arnold and Euro RSCG; Omnicom Group’s BBDO, DDB, Merkley + Partners and PHD; Interpublic units Draftfcb and Gotham; Publicis Groupe’s The Kaplan Thaler Group; and WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam and the interactive arm of G2.

Despite their individual shortcomings, the group of 15 agencies collectively exceeded expectations last year. More than a quarter of their total hires — 27 percent — were minorities, well above the 19 percent goal they set for themselves. (The commission approved the shops’ individual and collective goals, but the shops themselves set them.)

The agencies agreed to the commission’s oversight in late 2006, after the panel launched an investigation into minority hiring, retention and promotion practices in the advertising industry. Each shop signed a three-year “memorandum of understanding” that enabled the commission to track such practices. In return, the panel terminated a probe that began in 2004.