Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pharma Vendor and Ad Agency Diversity: All Talk, No Action?

Craig DeLarge, Associate Director, eMarketing & Relationship Marketing at Novo Nordisk Inc., was a featured speaker at the 4th Annual Pharma Networking Dinner Reception that I hosted at the Princeton, NJ Marriott on June 4, 2008.

DeLarge spoke on the Life Science Profiles of Color Project and blog (see here), the goals of which are to encourage and offer guidance to young people seeking to achieve success in the life sciences industry and to highlight the contribution of people of color in the life sciences.

DeLarge's profile is the first one published on the LSPOC blog. He ended his LSPOC profile with these words:

"The benefits of the industry’s diversity initiatives, racially and otherwise," says DeLarge, "have been greater reflection of our customers in our organizations with the corresponding benefits of greater innovation and openness, customer empathy and broader more relevant perspectives. While there is always more to be done, in 20 years, I have seen pharma manufacturers come along way. That said, the service and vendor sides of the industry is seemingly lagging behind its clients."

The issue of diversity—or lack thereof—in the NYC advertising agency world was highlighted recently in the AdAge blog post “Agencies Have Funny Way of Showing 'Commitment' to Diversity” by Ken Wheaton who criticized the lack of ad agency presence at a recent New York City Commission on Human Rights public meeting.
“… it's not fun to sit there and put faces and names to the stories you hear in the industry,” wrote Wheaton. “It's not fun to see grown men and women wrestling with a mix of pride and frustration, to sense that they're just this close to throwing their hands up in defeat and that you, an agency executive, are partly responsible. It's uncomfortable to hear a 20-something black man who has an agency job call this ‘the most discouraging business to be in.’ It isn't easy to try to distill the cases of racial discrimination from those of talent discrimination, to parse the inside stories and personal grudges that haunt a corner of the industry that most executives probably don't even know exist.”

“There are many reasons why the agency world looks more like a gated community than a global one,” wrote Wheaton. “There is a lack of awareness in certain minority enclaves; portfolio schools are expensive. The starting pay stinks for qualified candidates who can get better jobs with marketers. Not all of these are excuses.

“But they start to sound that way when the executives in question don't have the decency to give the problem its due, don't have the balls to show up in person and look these people in the eye.

“Not showing up also allows charges to go unanswered. Rafee Kamaal, a TV producer, likened the industry to insects when calling for more attention to the matter. ‘Roaches scatter when you shine the light on them.’ Others said that a system of discrimination is ‘embedded in the industry.’ Euro RSCG was named-checked no fewer than three times in last night's meeting -- and it wasn't for enlightened hiring practices.”
Comments to Wheaton’s tirade include the following:
“The problem isn't NYC tho. As I and others can attest, it's not just a New York thing. If the will and the stomach for seeing the mess out in the open were there, you could hold hearings in every city from Orange County, NJ to Orange County, CA and you'd find exactly the same level of collusion and bias in effect.” -- –Eric J. Henderson, New York, NY

“I've seen what happens when you speak out in this industry. I've seen it up close and personal. It's not pretty what can be done to you. Personally, I've had enough. It's a broken system and there are too many people who enjoy maintaining the status quo.” –hadji williams, chicago, IL
UPDATE: Of the 16 ad agencies forced to sign diversity-hiring agreements with the New York Commission on Human Rights in 2006, only two sent representatives to the latest progress meeting this week. Ad Age Features and Blogs Editor Ken Wheaton was a member of the tiny audience at that gathering. He wonders aloud how companies that are such experts in creating and nurturing corporate images can so neglect their own when it comes to racial diversity. See video here.

The issue of racism and diversity in the pharmaceutical industry will be the topic of an article in the upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News to be published on July 16, 2008. Subscribe now and get this issue sent to you FREE via e-mail.

2 comments:

  1. Correction: You have attributed Hadji Williams comment to Eric J. Henderson in your blog summary here.

    Please see the thread taken from adage.com...

    It looks like the deficit of "real talk" ken described is only being filled down here in the comments. That's unfortunately fitting as metaphor. But I still dig that there's a lot of learning down here - e.g. the history lesson on Sanford Moore. e. –Eric J. Henderson , New York, NY

    The problem isn't NYC tho. As I and others can attest, it's not just a New York thing. If the will and the stomach for seeing the mess out in the open were there, you could hold hearings in every city from Orange County, NJ to Orange County, CA and you'd find exactly the same level of collusion and bias in effect.

    With each passing year, I've grown more and more convinced that things simply are what they are.

    I've seen what happens when you speak out in this industry. I've seen it up close and personal. It's not pretty what can be done to you. Personally, I've had enough. It's a broken system and there are too many people who enjoy maintaining the status quo.

    But i'm glad folks like Ken and Sanford are sticking with it. –hadji williams, chicago, IL

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  2. After 20-odd years in advertising and nary an ethnic face in the agencies/clients I have worked for, it's cool to see that issue is being brought to the fore. Years ago, I went to a meeting with a client based in Washington DC. In a city with one of the largest black populations in the US, not one black person graced the offices of the client in question. The whiteness of this industry sticks out like a sore thumb. I attended a creative awards gala a few months ago with about a thousand other industry professionals and the only black people in the hall were the waiters and coat check women. It felt like being on a plantation. I regret having chosen an profession which show such a lack of diversity. It's no wonder that I can't help from squirming when I see attempts at humor from people who haven't got a clue, such as the Rx Club, whose website (particularly the left hand column) pretty much says it all in terms of this industry's understanding of cultures that stray from the Anglo and the Saxon. You can check it out at www.therxclub.com - SQUIRM ALERT - the printed brochure is much worse!

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