The 11 types of ad industry hires who get ahead of minorities

by guest contributor HighJive, originally posted on MultiCultClassics

Whenever the topic of diversity in advertising comes up, an angry mob of adfolks quickly rallies. The unruly horde bitterly complains about the prospect of quota hiring. Vicious slurs are hurled at Rev. Jesse Jackson—even when he’s not remotely involved in the scenario. The throng whines that sacred selection standards will be lowered, and slots will be awarded to lesser-qualified candidates.

Exactly what industry do these idiots think they’re in?

Anyone who has spent the shortest stint in advertising can readily attest that jobs are handed out for all sorts of inane reasons. And things like expertise and ability rarely factor into the final decisions.

Here’s an abridged lineup of stereotypical characters that effortlessly land Madison Avenue positions ahead of minorities:

  1. Children of Agency Executives. The crazy part is, most of these slackers don’t want the gigs, as they often despise being associated with their parents. The pitiful kids bide their time—occasionally selling drugs to staffers—until Mom or Pops can find them a real job.
  2. Children of Clients. Most of these kids do want the gigs, but they’re woefully ill-suited for the field. In fact, they’re usually just one intellectual rung below the average Special Olympian. Pray for the people assigned to mentor these clueless critters.
  3. Children of Somebody’s Neighbor. That’s right, virtual nobodies win a place in line before minorities.
  4. Family Members (including Extended Family Members). Nepotism trumps racism.
  5. Mistresses. Certain admen with hiring authority are bona fide pimps. Nuff said.
  6. Boy Toys. It’s equal-opportunity time for the ladies.
  7. Buddies. Let’s get real. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Unfortunately, the recruited buddy is scarcely ever a stellar performer. Ditto the recruiting buddy. But since agencies dislike paying headhunter fees—and HR officers are too lazy to actively search—companies eagerly settle for any warm body to fill a cubicle.
  8. Ex-clients. You hated them as clients. You’ll absolutely hate them as teammates.
  9. Outsiders. Some senior-level jackass hatches the notion that a washed-up punk rocker or sketch comedy writer will inject innovation. Bonus points if these freaks have access to hot groupies.
  10. Nomadic Poison. These drifters-grifters are becoming increasingly common as new media emerges. They tend to be charlatans who hype and hustle cutting-edge ideas, but never manage to execute anything of value.
  11. Mercy Hires. The former partner struggling to adapt in the evolving marketplace and recovering from a dependency problem warrants a nod instead of minorities. Mercy Hires spend their days poring over tutorials for QuarkXPress.

It’s guaranteed that anti-diversity adfolks can identify numerous professional peers from the list above. Hell, a lot of the groaners may fall into the infamous categories. But honestly, can they spot a single “quota hire” in their hallways?

If you want to slam controversial roster choices on Madison Avenue, let’s begin by thoroughly examining the existing processes.

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica

Minority workers still fighting job recruiters’ misconceptions - The Clarion-Ledger
“‘The titans of business really don’t care about this issue,’ [executive recruiter Ken Arroyo Roldan] says. ‘They have this ‘I gave at the gate’ mentality. Many executives have been sensitized to death (about minorities) but at the end of the day, are they exposed to others? No. It’s a gated community of white males.’”

EEOC Wants to ‘E-Race’ Discrimination in the Workplace - NPR
Audio story. “Naomi Earp, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, discusses the current state of discrimination in the workplace and their new anti-discrimination initiative.”

Mixed Messages on Affirmative Action - Inside Higher Ed
Explaining the nuances between the Supreme Court ruling last week rejecting the assignment of kids to schools based on race and the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on affirmative action in colleges and universities. (via Workplace Blog)

Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies - The American Sociological Review (PDF)
Diversity training and diversity evaluation for management was the least effective. Networking and mentorship were moderately effective. Establishing responsibility for diversity was most effective. (via Workplace Prof Blog)

Workplace Segregation in the United States: Race, Ethnicity, and Skill - IDEAS: Economics and Finance Research
“We define segregation based on the extent to which workers are more or less likely to be in workplaces with members of the same group.” “Only a tiny portion (3%) of racial segregation in the workplace is driven by education differences between blacks and whites, but a substantial fraction of ethnic segregation in the workplace (32%) can be attributed to differences in language proficiency.”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica

Letter to new graduates. And how about a braided career? - Brazen Careerist
“The best way to make sure you will have time and money to create the life you want is to have what I am going to start calling a braided career. Intertwine the needs of the people you love, with the work you are doing, and the work you are planning to do, when it’s time for a switch.” It doesn’t have to be scary to change your job situation. It doesn’t have to be scary to change your job situation frequently.

For the Chronically Late, It’s Not a Power Trip - New York Times
People who are always late probably aren’t doing it on purpose. And unless your job is on a strict schedule, it probably doesn’t really matter. Unless you’re pissing off your co-workers by being late to all your meetings.

Essay 4008 - MultiCultClassics
In response to the announcement of the Inaugural AdColor Awards to Recognize Outstanding Achievements of Diverse Professionals in the Advertising, Marketing and Media Industries: “Well, it’s certainly historic for organizations that have consistently failed in their diversity initiatives to suddenly team up to tackle the issues. Call it a case of the colorblind leading the colorblind.”

Southern Men and Baseball: Professor Timmerman ’s Study of Batters Hit By Pitches - Bob Sutton
The article is about the Southern “culture of honor” as demonstrated through pitchers’ patterns of hitting batters. In short, a Southern pitcher is more likely to hit a batter if the guy before him hit a home run or a if the guy hit a home run his last time up because he’s defending his team’s honor. Unless the batter is black. The author of the study hypothesizes it’s because the pitcher was either hyper-sensitive about appearing racist or was afraid of the black guy. Translates well to workplace interactions and retaliation, I think.

What Works In Women’s Networks - Businessweek
Profiles of successful corporate women’s networks at GE, Best Buy, and Deloitte. (via the Boston Globe Job Blog)

GE In-Houser Files Discrimination Suit Against Company - Law Blog
Conversely, a (female) top legal executive at GE has filed a class action lawsuit against the company claiming gender discrimination on behalf of 1500 female executives and an unknown number of non-executive female attorneys. (via Workplace Prof Blog)

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email