NYC Aims To Add Color To Ad Agencies

An eye-opening story in today’s New York Times takes a look at minority hiring practices–and salaries–in New York City’s ad scene.

Finding that just 2 percent of the upper echelon of the advertising industry is black, New York City officials said yesterday that they had reached agreements with several of the nation’s biggest ad firms forcing them to bring more black managers into this crucial sector of the city’s economy.

“forcing them”–interesting choice of language. Realistically, can agencies be forced to hire more blacks? And if not, what penalties would be involved?
Further on, we get this:

The commission’s analysis, which looked at salary levels as well as job titles, indicated that although the major ad firms have black workers, they are largely absent from the most senior or creative levels. Of 476 employees at DDB’s New York office, commission officials said, 51 are black. But of 159 employees making $100,000 or more, only 2 are black. Neither is among the 29 employees earning $200,000 to $300,000 or the 22 employees earning more than $300,000.
A similar pattern exists across the industry, commission officials said. At BBDO, of 1,077 New York office employees, 104 are black. In the group making $100,000 or more, 6 employees are black; among the 140 who earn $100,000 to $200,000, there are only 5. Not one of the 89 employees who earn $200,000 to $300,000 is black, and among the 59 earning above $300,000, there is but one black employee.
At Merkley & Partners, 10 of 207 employees are black. None earn more than $100,000.

Does this mean real change is on the way?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. with all due respect, danny, anyone who views this as “an eye-opening story” really hasn’t been looking hard enough.
    regarding the ability to force agencies to hire minorities, the story did show that the commission could fine companies failing to comply. and there’s always the possibility of lawsuits. although you’d think the bad press alone might inspire some action.
    does this mean real change is on the way? well, similar investigations, charges and agreements were made over 30 years ago. so there’s definitely a precedent and pattern of non-compliance, lethargy and inaction.
    and remember, this effort is only focused on the lack of blacks in the business. heaven forbid it might extend to other groups, including women.
    but who knows, maybe someday agencies professing to be “general market” might actually reflect — and ultimately understand — the general market.

  2. Well, it’s eye-opening in the sense that the Times article mentions salary figures–which, unless you’re in the top levels of publicly held companies, aren’t talked about openly. A lack of minorities at the top of the NYC ad scene, you’re right, that’s not news.
    And trust me, I’ve been writing about issues like this for years.

  3. ok, danny.
    but i’m not at the top levels of publicly held companies, and i’ve known for quite some time that the salaries were way out of whack.
    any mid- or senior-level leader who hires people regularly should be able to tell you the numbers are messed up. though most will only admit it behind closed doors.

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