NEWS FLASH::Study Finds Super Bowl Ad Creators Overwhelmingly White
But Cyrus Mehri, NAACP's Press Attention for Findings Prompts Criticism by 4A's for Lack of Agency Dialogue
By Kunur Patel Published: May 05, 2010
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Madison Avenue Project held a press conference today to release a study pointing out that the agency creative directors behind this year's Super Bowl commercials were overwhelmingly white. But at least one industry representative said the press-first strategy is doing little to help diversity efforts.
Cyrus Mehri (left) and Laura Blackburne (right) at the Madison Avenue Project press conference today.The study comes from Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. It finds that for the 58 spots in which the study was able to identify the creative team, 92% of the creative directors were white males, 7% were white females and one lone creative director was Latino. The Latino was not an agency employee, but the winner of Doritos' consumer contest.
The press conference is the latest move from civil rights lawyer Cyrus Mehri and Laura Blackburne, general counsel for the NAACP. Mr. Mehri's law firm and the NAACP are investigating a class-action suit against the ad industry for discrimination. Since forming the Madison Avenue Project, the team has filed charges against ad companieswith the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
While the study highlights the ad industry's longstanding problem with diversity, it is also keeping that discrimination investigation in the headlines. This attention, paired with a lack of dialogue with agency leadership, could hinder real change, said American Association of Advertising Agencies CEO Nancy Hill.
Mr. Mehri said none of the agencies responsible for Super Bowl spots were explicitly invited, though he pointed to Ms. Hill's attendance. Ms. Hill said she was not invited, but found out about the public event through other channels.
NAACP general counsel Laura BlackburneWhen asked if the lawsuit's news coverage has indeed closed off conversation with agencies, Ms. Blackburne called that response "bull." "Harder to have a conversation?" she said. "Please."
The study called out offensive ads for perpetuating stereotypes. Among those was Flo TV's "Injury Report" from Spokane, Wash.-based Magner Sanborn and Los Angeles-based Agency 3.0 for its negative portrayals of controlling women, and Anomaly, New York's "Megan Fox" spot for Motorola that portrays the actress as a sex symbol in a bathtub.
Mr. Lapchick's graduate students say one agency that did it right was St. Louis shop Cannonball for Bud Light spots that cast minorities in lead roles. Volkswagen's "Punch Dub" from Deutsch, Los Angeles, was cited as another good example. It ended with cameos from black celebrities Tracy Morgan and Stevie Wonder. Creatives from both these agencies were also white men.
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