Things have certainly changed since the Mad Men era of advertising. 50 years ago we would have never seen Honey Maid feature a gay couple in its advertisements, and Dove’s main selling point wouldn’t have been female empowerment.

But how have advertising agencies themselves changed since then?

While offices no longer feature boozed-up men reeking of cigarette smoke, it is still largely a boy’s club– a very white boys club.


Many companies still lack diversity in entry-level positions, and especially in their senior positions.

A report issued in August 2011 by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows how little minorities are actually represented in the industry. According to the report, of the 78,000 Americans working as advertising and promotion managers, 9.6 percent were Hispanic, 2.3 percent were Asian and fewer than 1 percent were African-American woman statistic.

There is also a notable lack of women present in the industry. Last year the industry standard of women in creative departments was around 11%, according to research released from the 3 percent conference.


If Equal Opportunity laws prevent discrimination, then how has this happened?

According to Michael Slade, an HR director at Eric Mower + Associates, the problem is the hiring practices, which have created a perpetual cycle of underrepresentation.

Agencies only hire from one another, and they only want people with experience. And because agencies only hire from one another, awareness about advertising positions are low. And because there is little minority representation in the industry, the level of interest among minority students is low.


Look, I don’t think agencies are intentionally discriminating against people, but the industry’s approach to hiring employees has left a substantial proportion of minorities out.
And even though the current trend is to create inclusive advertising campaigns that reflect all members of society, a lack of minorities in the creative process can sometimes be painfully transparent in an agency’s work.
For example, in 2011 Nivea was forced to pull an advertisement that was construed by many to be racist. The ad featured an image of a clean-shaven black man getting ready to toss away his unkempt afro followed by the words “Re-Civilize Yourself.” Some believed the ad suggested that black people weren’t civilized.
While the agency probably had good intentions, perhaps if there were a person of color on that creative team then maybe they would have been able to raise a red flag.