IPA to research lack of minorities in industry

The IPA is to investigate how more people from ethnic minorities

can be encouraged to consider careers in advertising and whether ad

campaigns properly reflect a multiracial Britain.

Bruce Haines, the IPA president, said: "Unless our creative work

accurately reflects the population it will not position us as an

industry which is welcoming of ethnic minorities."

The probe is being carried out by a committee jointly chaired by Stephen

Woodford, the WCRS chief executive, and Ray Barrett, one of the UK's few

black creative directors and a founding partner of Barrett Cernis.

They will prepare a report for a meeting of the IPA Council in March

when an action plan will be drawn up.

Senior IPA figures have been worried for some time that the industry is

being ignored by the best ethnic graduate talent which is more likely to

consider careers in law or accountancy.

While creatives such as Barrett, Indra Sinha and Trevor Robinson have

risen through the creative department ranks, there are few senior

account staff who come from Asian or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.

Some blame the industry's failure to offer a professional qualification

- seen as important to many from ethnic minorities as a hedge against

possible job discrimination - as one of the reasons why they are

under-represented in annual agency graduate intakes.

There's also concern that the industry is suffering as a result of an

earlier undercurrent of racism, when some clients privately indicated

that they wanted "whites-only" account teams. But Haines claimed the

situation had changed to such an extent that many clients were ahead of

agencies in the integration of staff.

"Career advisors must be made to feel comfortable that they can direct

their best undergraduates towards us," Haines added.

The IPA wants the industry to follow the example of the BBC, where a

rise in the number of black journalists and presenters has led to more

applications for non-broadcast jobs from ethnic candidates.

Barrett praised advertisers, such as BT, for leading the way in the

portrayal of black people in ads, particularly in its current series of

commercials starring a West Indian family.

But he warned of the need for sensitivity, citing the Reed Employment

commercial in which a black man seems to be preparing to mug a white


However, he firmly rejected any suggestion that agencies should opt for

positive discrimination."We don't want tokenism or political

correctness," he insisted.

"Having more black people in agencies isn't going to change the kind of

advertising that's produced. These issues can't be forced and people

must be left to make their own decisions. The most important thing is

that we make advertising a popular career choice by creating a level

playing field."

- Leader, p20.