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
- Leader, p20.