Madison Avenue To Job Seekers: Only Cigar Smokers Need Apply

The New York Times reports that “The New York City Commission on Human Rights has scheduled hearings on how the advertising industry hires, retains and promotes minority employees, to be held the same week in September that the industry plans to hold its annual Advertising Week event.”

I started my career as an intern and then junior account exec at a major PR and advertising company, an experience which left me with fond memories, a great education and a few friends in high places today. One of my closest colleagues was an administrative assistant who was promoted to junior account executive when I first arrived (a 20-year old college intern). She was a six-foot black woman and she completely broke the mold of this very white company, where many junior employees had wealthy parents to subsidize the extremely low entry salaries. (I didn’t grow up poor, but I did subsidize the low salary myself by living with dad in the beginning.) Being a very white guy, I originally had little clue about may of the challenges my black colleague faced. But I soon learned she was in many ways a fish out of water.

It’s a good thing that The New York City Commission on Human Rights is holding these hearings, though I doubt they’ll discover more than what we already know: the old Madison Avenue still has remnants of a cigar-smoking, white-boy club. But I wonder if intervention is even worth it. It’s not a sturdy institution anymore; it’s fighting for relevancy. Then again, viability is not the issue; discrimination is.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Leave a comment