Scott G was in the room as an advertising agency executive told a recruiter, ‘No blacks or Hispanics.’

The face of bigotry can be ugly or pretty, young or old, or anywhere in between. I know. I’ve looked at it several times.

Not that too many people have discriminated against me. After all, what’s not to like? I mean, other than my having a weird name, being in advertising, being a musician, and having a habit of flinging sarcastic comments at the makers of poorly-conceived marketing campaigns.

But I’ve seen bigotry in action.

I saw it when I was teaching a class in the California State University system and some students refused to date others because they were of another race or religion.

I saw it at on the streets of a major city when I overheard a conversation in which a group of whites were calmly discussing what they called “the problem with n****rs.” When I related this to a friend of mine, the response was “Dude, what did you expect? You were in Nashville.” Which in itself is a prejudicial comment, come to think of it.

I’ve seen it in the advertising business. I was seated across from an owner of an agency (one that no longer exists) as a phone call was being concluded. The caller was an executive recruiter and the conversation dealt with the experience and qualifications for an account manager. “Oh, one more thing,” the ad exec said into the phone. “No blacks or Hispanics.”

The call was concluded, and our eyes met. There was a painful moment of silence as the realization of what had just been spoken suddenly snapped our heads around.

“The clients wouldn’t like it,” was the explanation given to me.

Although encountering this kind of behavior always leaves a hollowed-out feeling in my gut, I actually thought that the most interesting part of that last event was the fact that no follow-up explanation had been required by the recruiter.

Perhaps this helps demonstrate the current lack of diversity at some ad agencies. Hiring is linked to the recruiting and application process. I’ve held agency Creative Director positions with hiring/firing authority, and when we needed someone, we put out the word and people submitted work. There’s no way to tell race or ethnicity from a portfolio of ads, so you schedule interviews with the people whose work you most admire.

I’ve conducted dozens of interviews on behalf of ad agency creative departments and every candidate was white except one. She was Hispanic, and I hired her because she was the best person for the job.

If you went by raw numbers, my hiring choices were not overly diverse. Although you could also state that I hired 100% of the non-white candidates I interviewed.

The next step in the diversity protest would be to complain that firms are not “reaching out” to minority candidates. Which is hogwash. If you want to be hired in the advertising and marketing communications industry, then you read the publications and Web sites that pertain to those industries. We do not need a Black Ad Age magazine, a Hispanic, a Czechoslovakian Ad Industry Newswire, etc. etc.

Breaking into this industry requires the talent to create work that displays wit, taste, style and sales savvy. It also necessitates the tenacity to go after a job without waiting for someone to “reach out” to you.

I’m partly in the music industry, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen superb artists rejected by record labels and talent managers because of age and/or looks. Unfair? Of course. Illegal? Possibly. Worthy of a government investigation? Hardly.

One more thing. We all discriminate. There are personalities, body shapes, and political points of view we don’t like, can’t stand, and won’t tolerate. If you’re against discrimination, don’t practice it and try to refrain from working with people who do. Go ahead and try. It’s really hard.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, G-Man Marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, diversity, ad agency hiring[/tags]