4A’s Survey: 74 Percent Believe Ad Agencies Are Mediocre or Worse at Hiring Diverse Professionals

Another Study Finds Consumers Welcome Diversity in Ads; Believe Advertising Has Become More Diverse

NEW YORK – Sept. 27, 2016 – At the 4A’s Talent@2030 Conference today, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the 4A’s) revealed findings of two new surveys about diversity. One survey found that 4A’s members reported the industry hasn’t done enough to improve diversity within its ranks, while another showed that consumers believe strides have been made in the portrayal of diversity in ads during the past five years.

When asked how the ad industry is doing when it comes to hiring diverse professionals, nearly half of respondents said the industry is terrible (20 percent) or not great (29 percent), and a quarter of respondents said it is mediocre. Approximately half of respondents said they believe agency culture is still discriminatory, but that the discrimination is not as overt as it used to be. More than 60 percent of respondents agreed somewhat or totally that advertising agencies used to be more racist than they are now.

“The ad industry must do more to hire diverse professionals who will create work that reflects our diverse consumer base; there is a very real appetite for that work. We’ve made some progress, but we have a lot more to do to make agencies a place where anyone can thrive, and everyone is represented,” said Nancy Hill, President and Chief Executive Officer of the 4A’s. “Next time we field a study like this, we’d like to see closer to 100 percent of respondents noting they’ve seen improvements in diversity at agencies.”

Respondents don’t feel ethnically diverse professionals are given the same opportunities as white male employees: 20 percent responded that the advertising industry is terrible about this, while 28 percent said it is not great, and a quarter said it is mediocre. Differently abled employees didn’t fare much better. Seventeen percent said the ad industry is terrible about giving disabled employees the same opportunities as white male employees, while 29 percent responded that it’s not great, and 28 percent responded that it is mediocre.

The study is the latest diversity project by the 4A’s, which has a long-standing commitment toward increasing diversity in the workplace. Just this year, the 4A’s added new initiatives to tackle the issue, including conducting proprietary research, holding panel discussions across all 4A’s events, launching the See It & Be It content series on its website, and creating new, dedicated diversity-related events. One such event is the upcoming evening salon with Valerie Graves, who will discuss her new book, “Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be.”

A second study fielded by the 4A’s and research partner SSRS analyzed consumers’ opinions about diversity in ads and showed the vast majority of respondents agreed advertising has become more diverse in the past five years (81 percent). Seventy-four percent believe ads should reflect America’s diversity in a realistic way, and two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) believe advertising should ensure that Americans of all ethnicities are portrayed.

When asked about brands that feature diverse people as part of their marketing strategy, 71 percent of respondents approve, as long as the diversity does not appear to be a gimmick. Sixty-one percent of respondents ages 18-34 were more likely to agree that they would like to see more advertising that features diversity and to agree that this type of advertising makes them think more favorably about the brand – compared to 49 percent of respondents ages 35 to 54, and 49 percent of respondents older than 55. Further, 60 percent of respondents in the 18-34 age range agree or strongly agree that brands that feature diverse people in their ads is something they would like to see more of.

The 4A’s is dedicated to numerous diversity initiatives, including the 42-year-old MAIP Fellowship Program, which is focused on supplying the advertising industry with world-class multicultural talent; the 4A’s Foundation, which has been investing in education and providing financial support for future multicultural advertising and media executives; the 4A’s Competitive Edge Series, which brings together award-winning executives to share best practices that transform culture, deliver solid business results, and leverage strategic partnerships to further advance the dialogue of talent, diversity and inclusion; and its High School program, which prepares students for a career in advertising.

The 4A’s survey was conducted in June 2016 via email; 549 4A’s members responded.

SSRS conducted the consumer survey on behalf of the 4A’s, using the SSRS Probability Panel. Surveys were completed from June 23 to July 1, 2016, among a nationally represented sample of 1,027 respondents aged 18+. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 4.23 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

About Talent@2030
Talent@2030 is the only comprehensive talent conference designed specifically for leaders in advertising, media and communications. In its third year, the conference will offer senior executives responsible for all aspects of talent and HR an opportunity to engage with industry leaders and talent optimization experts in candid conversations about the future of advertising and strategies to compete for top talent. Additional information can be found at http://talent2030.aaaa.org/. Follow the conversation: #4AsTalent2030.

About the 4A’s
The 4A’s is the catalyst for bringing together the right people in the right place at the right time to address the advertising industry’s most critical business issues. It provides leadership, advocacy, guidance and community to our members and the industry at large, with proprietary access to the people, information and tools needed to make smarter management decisions. Its mission is to help agencies become more successful. Visit the 4A’s at www.aaaa.org.

About SSRS
SSRS is a full-service market and survey research firm managed by a core of dedicated professionals with advanced degrees in the social sciences. Service offerings include the Omnibus Survey, Probability Panel and other Online Solutions as well as custom research programs – all driven by a central commitment to methodological vigor. The SSRS team is renowned for its multimodal approach, as well as its sophisticated and proprietary sample designs. Typical projects for the company include complex strategic, tactical and public opinion initiatives in the US and in more than 40 countries worldwide. SSRS is research, refined. Visit www.ssrs.com for more information.

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Havas PR