Colors of the Business

09 Jul 2008

Nature beckons.

Another day, another NYC Commission on Human Rights hearing on diversity in Advertising — this one good for a couple dozen attendees. The fact that this issue is more than forty years old seems at this point to be a non-starter for everyone involved, not least of whom being the agencies themselves. That an issue of such obvious impropriety can linger for so many years points to both its lack of traction within the hearts and minds of the people running the agencies as it does to the lack of a market imperative for it to gain traction. In fact, the lack of a market imperative lays bare the fact that very few metrics have actually been invented that can accurately track and improve the usefulness of advertising to consumers. The entire field of planning has exploited this data dearth. The rise of so-called inverted agencies or others with experimental revenue models such as Anomaly points also to the opportunity for adventurous financial thinking to become a way forward for much-needed change in the industry as a whole.

One need look no further than the related entertainment industries of music and film to see examples of old-school industries struggling with the breadth of a changed marketplace. Diversity is, at its heart, an issue that stands to gain much from changed market dynamics. The discovery of the Long Tail of the marketplace which has been exploited by online mega-retailers has yet to have produced success stories in other industries such as advertising (if you don’t count Google, that is). The minority shops in particular which, because of their supposed greater knowledge of specific consumers, might have greater facility in marketing products that sit in the middle of the hit curve seem to have been hampered by business models that are overly based on (and dependent upon) business and marketers left over from the general market shops.

my favorite big thinker

Whether or not vapor-ventures such as Translation Advertising, Jay-Z’s Madison Ave. shingle, can be a financial success seems beside the point ultimately. Business models are cannibalized by better business models. There is, to be sure, a competitive advantage to be found in harnessing all of the latent talent not being given its due at the major shops. The company that can use the advantages proffered by a more diverse work force in a changed marketplace will ultimately be the one that carries home the bags of cash that make the rest of the industry turn green, brown, purple and, yes, black with envy.


  1. 11 Jul 2008 MHB

    good pic of Papa Smurf there. i’ve heard many a discussion of race in which the speaker says “I don’t care what color a person is – white/black/brown/blue” Of note is that I think only white folks are the ones who name a color that does not correspond with racial reality….

  2. 11 Jul 2008 raafi

    From Lorene Cary’s Black Ice:
    “‘it doesn’t matter to me if somebody’s white or black or green or purple. I mean people are just people.’ . . . I didn’t know why they chose green and purple to dramatize their indifference, but my ethnicity seemed diminished when the talk turned to Muppets.”

  3. 12 Jul 2008 JA

    I’m sorry. I know this is a serious discussion, and I’m in on it, but I have to take you to task Raafi. The puma girls!? My goodness.