- Editorial Introduction
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In May 2018 at a Forbes-sponsored talk in New York, actor and disability advocate Micah Fowler called upon advertising, business, and media executives to take inclusivity seriously, especially for disabled people: “Don’t leave us out. Don’t underestimate us. We have a powerful voice, so bring us in from the sidelines.” All pieces in this issue of ASQ touch upon diversity and inclusion in advertising and consumer society in one way or another. As the advertising industry, and society more generally, grapple with recent debates about how to respect cultural differences and create cultures of inclusivity, a question has persisted about who is included in advertising representations, the business of advertising, and the enjoyment of the benefits that come from advertising work. What has come of how we treat cultural difference after various identity movements emerged during the 20th century? What has improved? What needs to be done to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of major societal institutions like advertising and media?
Professor Mark Bartholomew presents an in-depth look at shock advertising, which relies on provocative, perhaps even offensive, images and text to grab viewers’ attention. He historicizes the use and regulation of shock advertising and encourages thought about how shock advertising plays out in our algorithmic age in which media content, including advertising, is served up in a micro-targeted way. What happens when ads are created to purposely divide and demonize particular groups of people based on their political beliefs or identity, as seen in the 2016 US presidential election? How can government, industry, and members of society address “algorithmic outrage” so more bridges can be made across a variety of cultural, political, and social divides?
PhD student Tao Deng and Professor Jean Grow directly address concerns about gender inequities found in creative departments worldwide. By assessing five years of global data breaking down the gender composition of creative departments, Deng and Grow reveal systemic gender segregation despite attempts in recent years to increase gender equity in creative departments and the advertising industry more generally. Grow and Deng call for even closer looks at gender disparities within the industry and how to mitigate them now and in the future.
In Part II of the “Roundtable on Advertising and Identity,” participants continue to examine how various identities are considered and included in advertising representations and the advertising business. The discussion centered largely on identity in the advertising workplace, the need for multicultural agencies, how to recruit diverse advertising talent, and ways to address intersectional identities within and outside the LGBTQ community. Participants agreed that some improvements have been made in diversifying advertising representations and creating more inclusive workplaces, but much work is needed urgently.
Diversity and multiculturalism take center stage in an interview with Leo Olper, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of LatinWorks. Olper describes how he entered the business, how mentorship was vital to his success, the history of multicultural agencies, and the importance of having diverse perspectives in the industry and advertising curricula. Olper addresses discrimination within the industry as well as how to recruit and retain diverse talent. Olper believes that diversity can come about by building welcoming workplaces and showing prospective talent that a multiplicity of backgrounds and experiences are found and respected within the industry.
This issue’s “Author Meets Critics” segment reviews The Real Mad Men of Advertising documentary series aired by the Smithsonian Channel in 2017. Producer Molly Hermann talks with Smithsonian curator Kathleen Franz and Professor Cynthia Meyers, advertising experts featured in the series, about how the episodes were made, what is revealed about advertising and society, and how the various examples featured in each episode show advertising’s historically delicate dance with inclusivity.
Professor Fang Xu’s teaching piece focuses on an assignment for students to observe consumer behaviors in everyday life. By taking key sociological, economic, and psychological theories related to consumption, cultural capital, and the hierarchy of needs, Xu’s students must examine...