On October 4th, 2009 I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the 3rd annual ADCOLOR Awards which took place in Phoenix, AZ at the Biltmore hotel amongst a record setting crowd of roughly 500 guests. In my opinion, the main highlight of the evening’s festivities was Cristina Saralegui, the Hispanic Media Mogul that is often referred to as “the Hispanic Oprah”, receiving the ADCOLOR All-Star Award. In her acceptance speech she stated that “Nosotros los Latinos venimos en blanco, negro, y hasta cafÃ© con leche”; rough translation, “We Latinos come in white, black, and even coffee w/ milk”. This statement caused me to spring up out of my seat and feverishly applaud her (even if I was the only one that the comment elicited that reaction from at the time). It was enormously refreshing to hear someone of her stature within the Hispanic community acknowledge that we Hispanics do indeed come in a variety of colors despite what the US Latino stereotypes may be.
Like every other authority figure in Hispanic advertising I watched the two part CNN series, “Latino in America”, last week. I was truly blown away by the wonderful job that this general market news channel did of reporting on Latinos in America by including Latinos of various colors/nationalities in their documentary. Which led me to believe that Hispanic agencies could do a better job of breaking away from stereotypes in their campaigns because unfortunately, these US Latino stereotypes are ones that we have created ourselves in an effort to get the client to be more “comfortable with” (aka approve) our Hispanic ad campaigns. And in their defense, the outputting of these stereotypes may very well be a byproduct of the lack of Hispanic diversity within many of the top US Hispanic firms, as well as the Hispanic advertising industry overall.
Diversity within the advertising industry has been an issue for over 50 years and although we have overcome a barrage of hurdles in that time, it is an issue that we as an industry are still challenged with today. However, we can’t truly expect to make any significant strides towards diversity in advertising as a whole if we do not practice what we preach. Many of the top US Hispanic agencies have yet to show any progress of their own when it comes to diverse hiring practices at any of their firms. It seems funny to me that we would set such a poor example for the rest of the industry, but expect them to pay attention to us when we complain about diversity/inclusion issues or about things not being “Latino enough” for us. Is there a reason for this lack of diversity at Hispanic advertising agencies? If there is a valid one, then I will gladly retract my previous statements and even offer up an apology (I’m such a gentleman). Let me take a couple of guesses at to what the reason may be. It must be the same issue that general market agencies have when it comes to diversity: a lack of a diverse talent pool, correct? Or is it my personal favorite, they just aren’t “polished” enough? Whatever the reason may be, I believe that we can’t continue to criticize or complain about diversity until we do a better job of diversity ourselves.