Mr. Mehri Goes to Madison Avenue. White Agencies Beware!
Just as the proverbial Mr. Smith went to Washington to clean things up, it seems top civil rights lawyer Mr. Cyrus Mehri is on his way to Madison Avenue to clean up the ad industry's diversity mess. A top civil rights lawyer, Mehri conducted a study of diversity in advertising agencies and found it woefully out of whack when compared to diversity in other business sectors.
While the study is still underway, it seems Mehri may already be setting his sights on an industry he says has only paid lip service to the issue with hearing, conferences and hiring efforts. He claims the problem isn't lack of interest in advertising among minorities as some have surmised, rather the seeming unwillingness of agency management which he sees as a closed country club filled with white men who just don't want to address the problem.
Mehri told Advertising Age, "It's not a matter of forming affinity groups among the excluded,. What needs fixing isn't the African-Americans; it's the white guy running the agency. We want to relentlessly focus on not the excluded groups but the excluding groups, the people who control the power and make the decisions. That's where people are running into barriers. The leadership has to come from the top."
It's unclear what, if any, next steps Mehri plans to take but as his past track record indicates, should he choose to attack Madison Avenue, agencies had better get out their pocketbooks and be prepared to pay large legal settlements. That, or go on a diversity focused hiring binge.
And, oh look, there just happens to be two diversity in advertising efforts going on during Advertising Week this year. How very convenient. GenerationNext aims to open up the advertising industry to young people looking to check it out as a career. ADEx 2008 is "designed to connect leading agencies with top diversity professionals in private and confidential recruiting sessions."
Of course, Mehri would have us believe these efforts are pointless and nothing but lip service. Since Adrants is a sponsor of both events, we feel a bit differently and would like to think these events represent a serious efforts to do at least a small part towards addressing the quandary.