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No Seriously–Where Are They?

 A recent gathering with an edgy name highlighted the lack of diversity in advertising. By Ashley Duchemin

Where Are All The Black People? A Creative Career Fair,” aimed at drawing in and inspiring professionals and students of multicultural backgrounds to creative jobs in the advertising industry, took place at the New World Stages off-Broadway earlier this month. It was hosted by the One Club, a nonprofit industry group, and CCNY was one of the sponsors.

The eyebrow-raising title of the event shined a spotlight on the lack of diversity in the advertising industry. “It is a question that the industry is posing that says the number of people in the industry is not a vibrant reflection of how many people of color are in the United States,” states City College professor Lynne Scott-Jackson, who teaches in the ad/PR program. “It is a question that starts the conversation.”

The discussion really begins with the numbers: The 2010 census shows more than 50 million Latinos in the United States, close to 40 million African-Americans and almost 15 million Asians. In addition, as many as nine million people identified themselves as belonging to more than one race.

But looking at industry numbers, few of them work in advertising.  According to the most recent report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising is incredibly un-diverse. Of 87,000 advertising and promotion managers across the country, 94.3 percent are white. The rest of the breakdown looks like this:

  • 5.6 percent Hispanic
  • 1.6 percent African-American
  • 1.5 percent Asian

These stats are depressing to many. “It saddens and angers me because I am reminded of how little progress has been made, ” says David Harris, an MCA lecturer who teaches advertising classes. “When you’re one of the few people of color, you’re the representative of that group. You’re the example,” he adds.

As the growing number of people of color in the population means more influence culturally, advertising does not seem to represent that increase or influence.  “We still have a long way to go, not just in the advertising arena,” states Scott-Jackson, who has worked in public relations for 30 years.

“The lack of diversity is sad,” adds Bennett Bennett, a student and president of the American Advertising Federation chapter at City College. “It’s not just diversity of culture, race, and ethnicity that’s a problem. There needs to be a diversity of skill sets, too. Not just people who know how to make ads, but who know how to make ideas come to life in different ways.”

“Where Are All The Black People?” provides that opportunity through workshops on how to build portfolios, accounts of real-life advertising experiences from industry heads, and meetings with recruiters from some of the top advertising agencies in the nation.  Scott-Jackson labels it a call to action. “This event says, ‘Where are all the talented, creative black people or people of color?” she explains. “There they are, we have them.’”