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NAACP, MAP Target P&G, Other Marketers in Agency Diversity Fight

The NAACP has sent a letter to Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley and 24 other marketers previously on Advertising Age's Leading National Advertisers list asking that they "require their advertising agencies to use diverse teams in creative and account-management positions."

Aside from P&G, letters went out to AT&T, Verizon Communications, General Motors Corp., Time Warner, Ford Motor Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Walt Disney Co., Unilever, Sprint Nextel Corp., General Electric Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Chrysler, Sony Corp., L'Oreal, Sears Holdings Corp., Kraft Foods, Bank of America, Nissan Motor Co., Macy's, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Honda Motor Co., Viacom and Berkshire.

The letter, from NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo, was sent in conjunction with the Madison Avenue Project, an effort by the group and civil-rights attorney Cyrus Mehri to bring diversity to advertising agencies through either persuasion or a lawsuit. Designed to open up another front in the battle and put pressure on clients, it requests that each company "identify a senior executive to serve as a point of contact on the issue of racial bias in the advertising industry and to meet promptly with the NAACP."

After a couple of pages of data combed from MAP's previously released report, the P&G letter dispenses with the niceties.

"The behavior [of the agencies] documented in the report is illegal, and we are sure that Procter & Gamble does not wish to be associated in any way with illegal behavior. The behavior documented in the report is not only illegal but also clearly out of step with the moral climate of the times, and again we are sure that Procter & Gamble would not want in any way to be so out of step with the times."

The letter speaks momentarily of previous diversity efforts attempted in the agency world before declaring them ineffective. "To address the issues raised in the report, it is important Procter & Gamble understands that such responses are inadequate and, in some cases, counterproductive. That is why we wish to assist you in designing your approach to this issue. ... We would like for you to instruct your advertising agencies to use diverse teams in creative and account-management positions."

 

Ken Wheaton, Advertising Age. March 25, 2009

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