Racism in the advertising industry

by guest contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

That’s a tough question to answer, based on the last few weeks in the advertising industry.

Anheuser-Busch pulled the plug on its Bud Light campaign starring Zagar and Steve. Native American groups complained Zagar — who bears an uncanny resemblance to a Yanomamo tribesman — displayed stereotypical and racist characteristics.

An Ohio auto dealership sparked outrage by trying to air a radio commercial with blatantly anti-Muslim messaging. The announcer copy proclaimed the car seller was “declaring jihad on the automotive market.”

The Chicago Creative Awards sunk to new lows with Master of Ceremonies Tony Little, accompanied by two scantily-clad, large-breasted bimbos. The lecherous Little literally groped female award recipients when they stepped onto the stage. Next year, maybe the Chicago Creative Club will book Neil French to host.

CBS reality TV series “Survivor” segregated contestants by ethnicity, ultimately polarizing advertisers as well. After two episodes, the producers switched to a multicultural merging with no explanation.

Plus, a contender in Advertising Week’s annual icon contest is none other than Aunt Jemima.

The continuing diversity soap opera inspired plenty of ugliness too.

Advertising Age conducted a poll that showed 93 percent of respondents did not think the agreements signed by New York shops would solve the exclusivity problems.

Advertising Age followed through with a cynical editorial that stirred controversy when the iconic publication declared The Human Rights Commission is “asking the industry to lower its standards” by hiring minorities. Subsequent “clarifications” by AdAge were delivered with a bumbling incompetence reminiscent of the infamous Al Campanis perspective on Blacks in sports.

Emails and letters to the editor unleashed the biased, bigoted responses that, for all intents and purposes, clearly established there are serious race-based dilemmas plaguing Madison Avenue.

New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook provided terse commentary regarding the no-shows at a diversity forum scheduled during Advertising Week. According to Seabrook, advertising executives “ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean.” The councilman warned he might be issuing subpoenas soon.

Activist and radio talk-show host Sanford Moore also publicly skewered the industry with references to economic colonialism and slavery. He’ll probably ask O. Burtch Drake to cough up 40 acres and a mule.

To top it all off, blogger Copyranter posted this attempt at humor [emphasis inserted by CVK]:

Advertising Week — Thursday Morning Diversity Seminar.

In response to widespread media criticism, The 4As this morning held an impromptu Diversity Seminar/Breakfast at a secret swanky Manhattan restaurant. However, an anon copyranter operative was able to snap some pics. On hand were Juan Valdez (pictured), Aunt Jemima, and the Travelocity Gnome, who were all seated at a VIP table and served by an all-white staff of top ad industry honchos. Said Phil Dusenberry, former BBDO Chairman, with a laugh, “Wow, that was enlightening. Now I know what it feels like to be a spic slave-mama midget.”

Nothing like completing the circle with a racial slur.

Can’t imagine any of this will help future recruitment efforts. In fact, potential minority candidates may view these sad activities as evidence to stay away.

It’s no wonder the 4A’s hired a PR firm to rejigger its image. At this point, an extreme makeover is in order. Somebody call Queer Eye pronto.

(Visitors are cordially invited to reread the MultiCultClassics inaugural rant.)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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