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“Campaigns pay the bills.” Black and Brown Models Want Ads

The runway is browning a bit, but that bill-paying ad campaign is still pretty pale. According to Chanel Iman, one of the models featured in the NY Times story on diversity in fashion, there’s still room for growth. “I want to be on the billboards…Gucci, Fendi,” she said with a slight giggle at the end. The dollar is still green and Iman, like many other models, don’t want to the industry to eliminate color from the first 10 pages of major fashion periodicals.

I doubt, however, that the numbers will increase as long as the number of ethnically diverse creative souls at ad agencies continue to decrease. Most agencies don’t release the ethnic composition of their staff.  However, examining the networking rooms or across-the-table meetings, the numbers aren’t sufficiently encouraging. I grew up singing every commercial on television to the chagrin of my family. Now, I realize how few of those ads featured culturally diverse images. As my daughter grew older, her entertainment of choice was fashion. It was tough to encourage because I knew that she would find a minimal number of images mirroring her brown skin. The minute they released the coveted  Vogue Italia with the black women on the cover, I ran and bought all four covers for her. They flew off the shelves like crazy, but unfortunately didn’t leave an impression.  Naomi Campbell stated her concerns clearly in the Telegraph UK: “That [Vogue Italia issue] made some noise, but, unfortunately, we are the same as before. People, in the panic of the recession, don’t dare to put a girl of color in their campaign, full stop. Nor of any other race. It’s a shame. It’s very sad.” Yes, sad it is. But it won’t change from the outside.

Wrote David M. Brown  in a blog post for PhillyAdClub:

For years, advertising agencies have struggled with the lack of diversity in all levels of the industry. The problems are well documented with some of the largest agencies in the world having to answer to legislative commissions and accept corrective action that would force them to change their hiring and retention practices to reflect a greater diversity over time.

Brown goes on to say that despite some genuine effort on behalf of Philadelphia’s ad community, the dearth of cultural integration is obvious.

There just aren’t lots of faces of color at the table when the decisions are made about who to feature where in campaign. People placement is key. But we must make certain that we place folks on the page, behind the page, and around the table to initiate lasting change. I’ll continue to thumb through the magazines hoping for parity soon. Until then, I’m looking for you Chanel.

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This entry was posted on 09/16/2009 by in All About the Business.
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