By Matthew Neylon, Associate Copywriter
My great-grandfather was a tannery union organizer back in the early twentieth century here in Indianapolis.
Unfortunately, if you told someone who wasn’t from Indianapolis that leathering and tanneries were still a thriving business in this city, they would probably believe you.
To those outside of Indianapolis and Indiana at large, they don’t fully understand that our city is reinventing itself.
Let’s take a look at Indianapolis’ changing landscape.
Craft breweries are booming in this town – our consumer has an evolving change in taste, and that’s what’s causing a 50% increase in these breweries in the last year.
Indianapolis has always been a top sports city, but we also boast about being a top city for emerging industries in the life sciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing, logistics, motor-sports and clean technology.
So Indy has some pretty forward-thinking and savvy industries coming onto the scene. But what about the more creative industries? How’s our beloved advertising industry faring?
Looking at the big picture, advertising agencies have floated in a pretty stable industry. Economically speaking, advertising remains stagnant relative to the rest of the economy’s growth. The landscape hasn’t changed much for ad agencies, especially concerning diversity.
Eight years ago last week, the New York City Commission on Human Rights held hearings on how the advertising industry hires, retains and promotes minority employees.
I’m not going to get into the politics of the hearings, the outcomes or the status of the retention of minority employees (because honestly, if you need to turn in report cards to the government on how you’re hiring a brown person, there’s something systemically wrong). Instead, I’m going to comment on why diversity is important and why it’s exciting to be working in advertising in Indianapolis at a time like this.
White males have traditionally dominated the advertising workplace. It’s the old boys’ club. We usually liken it to Mad Men.
Let’s look at the numbers:
In 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that of the 51,000 advertising and promotions managers in the US, 93.3% were white employees, 0.1% were black, 3.5% were Asian, 16.1% were Hispanic or Latino and 67.8% were women.
Of the 907,000 marketing and sales managers, 88.5% were white, 5% were black, 4.7% were Asian, 6.6% were Hispanic or Latino and 43.1% were women.
There’s not a lot of racial diversity going on here. But what is diversity beyond race and gender?
To me diversity is an inclusion and collaboration of different minds and walks of life.
Now what’s a minority? I believe this definition is malleable and subjective. When we see a lack of this so-called diversity, we can then easily identify a minority as the person that is missing from the picture. And when the so-called minority is in the picture, they’re the response for “which does not belong?”
In Indianapolis, if you look at me, I would be considered a minority. Don’t call me a professional on the matter; just consider me more cognizant than my Indy peers.
But why is diversity important?
Evolution is not possible without a little moving and shaking, a little change. We only see forward progress when someone asks “why?”
When someone asks the right questions, it leads to more creative ideas, perspectives, insights and experiences. In advertising, we are the creators of thought. We are the change agents. But we can only influence change when we’re familiar with it.
Plus, doing the same thing gets old. If I only had the option of eating vanilla ice cream, I’d get bored. I would want some variety to maintain my sanity. Albert Einstein famously said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Regardless of the numbers, we need more diversity in advertising. After all, if we’re trying to speak to and influence the public, we should represent and know to whom we’re talking. That’s just common sense.
Our demographic makeup in this city isn’t the same as when my great-grandfather was organizing unions in the early 1900s. Yet for some reason, the advertising industry still looks as if it hasn’t changed since then.
Despite the lack of what I’ve been commenting, I’m just excited to be working in the job I love. I wouldn’t want to be working in any other industry right now. And although it isn’t reinventing itself as much the rest of the city, I’m glad to be at the forefront of the change. The only direction to move from here is forward. I’m also glad I work at an agency that embraces diversity.
I can’t wait for the day when we view diversity in advertising as an antiquated topic, like how my grandmother tells me stories of my great-grandfather tanning leather with immigrant workers. Imagine the day when we can say, “Back in my day, diversity was this new-fangled notion sweeping the industry.”