All posts by HighJive

Culturally Clueless FAQs—Number 4

by Guest Contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

    Change has come to America. But it took a detour around Madison Avenue. While citizens have adopted phrases like “post-racial,” the advertising industry operates in a pre-Civil Rights time warp. Whenever the topics of diversity and inclusion appear, ad executives consistently display stunning ignorance. MultiCultClassics has sought to address the issues in the past. However, the matters have evolved along with society, despite Madison Avenue’s retarded development. As a public service, this blog will answer a series of Frequently Asked Questions to enlighten the asses… er, masses.

Question: Isn’t Cyrus Mehri just another opportunistic bottom feeder in the Jesse Jackson / Al Sharpton tradition?

Answer: It’s always interesting—yet never surprising—to see individuals who protest injustices branded as bottom feeders. Then again, facing off with Madison Avenue on these issues does require lowering yourself to nasty depths.

Regardless, it’s important to recognize key differences between Mehri and Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton.

Despite occasional forays into advertising industry affairs, Jackson and Sharpton are ultra-outsiders. (Although rumors claim Black-owned agency executives told Jackson to back off when he offered to wage battles in the past.) While the two clearly understand things like exclusion and discrimination, they’re corporately clueless, at least when it comes to the ad agency business. In contrast, Mehri has done his homework. The Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants, Inc. report is nearly flawless in its examination of the inner dealings on Madison Avenue. The AAF and 4A’s couldn’t have produced a more factual, accurate document.

Additionally, the tactics employed by Jackson and Sharpton have possibly lost effectiveness over the years. One could argue that Jackson especially often resorted to intimidation that played on White guilt. Mehri, on the other hand, seeks to intimidate by proving Whites are guilty.

Advantage Mehri.

As for being opportunistic, well, let’s really consider the term. Remember, this battle has been plodding along since the 1930s. Madison Avenue has had plenty of opportunities to address matters for about 80 years. It’s not as if Mehri seized upon the moment, catching people unaware. The truth is, industry leaders have been opportunistic by perpetuating the problems via apathy and worse. Maybe we should all see this as an opportunity to create positive change.

If Mehri manages to take this drama to a courtroom, we can’t wait to learn whom Madison Avenue will call upon to defend. Even Denny Crane would take a pass on it.

Culturally Clueless FAQs—Number 3

by Guest Contributor Highjive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

    Change has come to America. But it took a detour around Madison Avenue. While citizens have adopted phrases like “post-racial,” the advertising industry operates in a pre-Civil Rights time warp. Whenever the topics of diversity and inclusion appear, ad executives consistently display stunning ignorance. MultiCultClassics has sought to address the issues in the past. However, the matters have evolved along with society, despite Madison Avenue’s retarded development. As a public service, [The MultiCultClassics] blog will answer a series of Frequently Asked Questions to enlighten the asses… er, masses.

Question: Doesn’t President Barack Obama prove we don’t have to pursue this diversity stuff anymore?

Answer: Why do certain individuals view President Barack Obama as some form of reparations—as if his election pays off the bar tab of bias Madison Avenue has amassed over the years?

President Obama symbolizes a major milestone in racial progress. Madison Avenue represents a serious setback in cultural evolution.

President Obama assembles a staff reflecting the vibrant variety of brilliance in America. Madison Avenue collects excuses like, “We can’t find qualified minority candidates.”

President Obama signs his first bill in support of equal pay. Madison Avenue signs diversity pacts and is exposed for paying Blacks 20 percent less than Whites.

President Obama proves change is possible. Madison Avenue shows resistance to change is possible.

By all means, let’s hold up President Obama as the one to revere. But let’s also recognize Madison Avenue as the one to reform.

Culturally Clueless FAQs—Number 2

by Guest Contributor Highjive, originally published at MultiCultClassics


    Change has come to America. But it took a detour around Madison Avenue. While citizens have adopted phrases like “post-racial,” the advertising industry operates in a pre-Civil Rights time warp. Whenever the topics of diversity and inclusion appear, ad executives consistently display stunning ignorance. MultiCultClassics has sought to address the issues in the past. However, the matters have evolved along with society, despite Madison Avenue’s retarded development. As a public service, [The MultiCultClassics] blog will answer a series of Frequently Asked Questions to enlighten the asses… er, masses.

Question: Given the tanking economy and widespread advertising agency layoffs, isn’t this the absolute worst possible time imaginable to wage a diversity war?

Answer: Oh, there are worse timings one could imagine. Like during a supernova, or at the moment of Armageddon. Try to keep matters in perspective. As noted on numerous posts, the battle first erupted in the 1930s. Madison Avenue has seen lots of catastrophic occurrences over that period. We shouldn’t let the probability of a total economic collapse prevent progress.

Besides, it’s actually easier to ignore the issues in good times. When jobs are plentiful and the corporate coffers overflow, advertising executives feel less obligated to make diversity a priority. But when your shop is teetering on financial ruin, well, the prospect of Cyrus Mehri seizing gobs of cash certainly grabs your attention.

Other considerations loom large too. The ad business is experiencing seismic shifts right now. The old ways are being abandoned. The old hierarchies are being redrafted. The old business models are being shattered. The grizzled cynics proclaim, “The ad biz as we know it is OVER.” The seasoned veterans are in the process of Reinventing Advertising. Everyone foresees a brand new day. Even the culturally clueless aren’t completely clueless.

So while Madison Avenue is undergoing an extreme makeover, why not fight to ensure diversity becomes a part of the foundation? This could be the absolute best possible time imaginable.

Culturally Clueless FAQs—Number 1

by Guest Contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

Change has come to America. But it took a detour around Madison Avenue. While citizens have adopted phrases like “post-racial,” the advertising industry operates in a pre-Civil Rights time warp. Whenever the topics of diversity and inclusion appear, ad executives consistently display stunning ignorance. MultiCultClassics has sought to address the issues in the past. However, the matters have evolved along with society, despite Madison Avenue’s retarded development. As a public service, this blog will answer a series of Frequently Asked Questions to enlighten the asses… er, masses.

Question: Why do all the diversity discussions focus on Blacks—what about Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, People With Disabilities, Gays, Lesbians, Women, Veterans, Older Employees, Pit Bull Lovers, Mutants and The Rest Of Us?

Answer: Get in line. Unfortunately, the deeper you dig into Madison Avenue’s corporate closet, the more skeletons you’ll find. Recent years have seen work and deeds demeaning everyone listed above, including a Jewish creative director allegedly sexually harassed by a neo-Japanese warlord. Continue reading

L’Oréal, Beyoncé And Cultural Cluéléssnéss

by Guest Contributor Highjive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

Hadn’t planned to examine the L’Oréal/Beyoncé drama, as others have already addressed it with better perspective, better emotion and better boycotting. Besides, it’s always best to avoid touching a Black woman’s hair—even as a blog topic—unless you really know what you’re doing. Hey, this subject is so combustible, it managed to draw comments at the typically ignored Agency Spy. Anyway, here are a few thoughts from a primarily advertising-related viewpoint.

Contrary to popular protests, it’s unlikely that L’Oréal deliberately lightened Beyoncé’s skin or messed with her nose and other items. The company officially insisted, “It is categorically untrue that L’Oréal Paris altered Ms. Knowles’ features or skin tone in the campaign for Féria hair color.” The company is probably right. However, they’re still probably wrong. Bear with us for a bit.

Technically, it’s a safe bet L’Oréal did not covertly tamper with the superstar. Anyone who has ever produced fashion advertising or fashion photography will attest that lighting plays a key role. When filming hair, incredibly strong lamps are used to make each strand visible and shiny. For example, commercials for Pantene and Clairol often show the backs of women’s heads for two reasons: 1) to display every glistening follicle and; 2) to avoid having the person’s face completely “blown out” (or whitewashed) by the spotlights. Given that L’Oréal is selling a haircolor and highlights product, they undoubtedly employed a ton of lights. Think supernova.

This is not a case of L’Oréal manipulating Beyoncé via Photoshop (at least not beyond the normal ultra-retouching done for fashion shots). Quite the opposite. L’Oréal should have used Photoshop—to restore the natural skin tone removed by the lighting. Continue reading

Ching, Chong, and Little Change

by Guest Contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

To commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it seems appropriate to note the debate ignited by Chicago Sun-Times advertising columnist Lewis Lazare. The writer recently criticized a new commercial for Quiznos starring an Asian American woman working at a Laundromat. Created by Cliff Freeman Advertising, it can be viewed at the Quiznos website. In the spot, the old woman eats a $5 bill; plus, she appears to be in the throes of dementia as she gazes adoringly at her Quiznos sandwich.

“Cliff Freeman takes sandwich war too far by demeaning Asian Americans,” read Lazare’s headline. “To say the commercial insults Asian Americans is a massive understatement.”

A few days later, Lazare published the following reactions to his perspective:

You are right about the Quiznos spot. The Six Flags ad is even more stupid and offensive to Asian Americans. —Mike Kocher

I thought the commercial was an attempt to be funny. You review the same type of ads with young white guys doing stupid antics and don’t mention anyone being insulted. Can’t Asian Americans act stupid to get laughs? —Michael Schimp Continue reading

Is Adweek Culturally Weak?

by Guest Contributor HighJive, originally published at MultiCultClassics

Way back in Essay Fourteen (March 2005), MultiCultClassics noted DiversityInc.com called out Advertising Age and Adweek for the publications’ lack of minority representation in editorial content. Why, MultiCultClassics even generously offered suggestions in Essay Seventeen.

Since then, Advertising Age has shown dramatic progress. The enterprise has provided consistent, detailed reporting on diversity-related issues, covered multicultural marketing and launched The Big Tent blog.

Adweek, on the other hand, hasn’t done shit. In fact, parent company VNU even dumped Marketing y Medios, a leading source for news on Latino marketing.

When others spotlighted the dealings between Madison Avenue and New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, Adweek was conspicuously absent. The New York Times’ Stuart Elliot and Advertising Age recently ran stories on the agencies’ alleged progress, and once again, Adweek was nowhere to be seen. This week, Elliott and Ad Age mentioned the “major new initiative that will specifically address the dearth of African-American executives” presented at the 4As Leadership Conference. Adweek didn’t bother typing a sentence about it.

Is Adweek lazy, culturally clueless, racist, too White or just plain irrelevant? Probably all of the above.

But since the magazine is no longer a weekly, and there appears to be no effort to generate more inclusive content, perhaps it should be officially renamed Adwhite.