I have worked in both the US and Canada one thing I have found curious is that the markets have approached Diversity and Inclusion in two different ways.

First the US, when I worked there twenty five years ago, they had quotas for “minorities” to appear in commercials. Clients required these quotas to be met to qualify for government contracts. That is, if the client was selling direct to the US Government, which almost all were, they had to meet these quotas or lose the right to sell.

I was never sure what the quotas actually were, but when I was just starting in the business, I had to fill out the forms…which caused some embarrassment the first time. Newly hired I was asked to make a list of all the “minorities” in the brand’s commercials over the past year. I carefully examined the commercials, finding actors with red hair, actors who appeared to be left-handed and so on. My boss laughed at me and said “Minorities means African Americans… or Latinos – that’s it.”

I wasn’t sure how to tell which ones were Latinos without looking at the actors names but I did my best.

So the Affirmative Action thinking in the US meant that quotas were set to be achieved at the risk of losing a large chunk of government business.

In advertising in Canada I found a different dynamic. Canadian marketers were interested in showing diversity, which was not just people of African appearance. There were virtually no Latinos, and they certainly didn’t have any political clout. This was due to the changes in Canadian immigration.  Non-European people were becoming a larger number of the end consumers of products and so were desirable as customers. We included them to show that they would like the products being advertised, not because there was a quota.

In languages, the opposite is true.  Canada required French for advertising and product packaging. Virtually everything we do in Canada has to have a French version, especially if it is for government. Canada is officially and legally a bi-lingual country. That adds a huge burden on the cost of developing advertising because 20% of the market gets about 50% of the national production budget.

No such requirement in the United States.  In the U.S., advertisers sought out Spanish language media as their market grew and created separate Spanish advertising to get Latinos as customers.

See the parallels?

The irony here is that the percentage of the total population that are French speakers has been declining in Canada while the percentage of the total population that are Spanish speakers is growing in the United States.

Part of the blame for that has to fall on the Quebec Separatists who essentially declared English speakers persona non-grata in their enclave. That meant hundreds of thousands of Anglophones and Allophones (people with first languages other than English or French) high-tailed it down the road from Montreal to Toronto. So too did many ambitious Francophones who saw greater opportunity in the growing economies of English Canada.

So which works better? Forcing inclusion or letting the market take its course?

I guess it depends on whether your market needs a real kick to start the trend or not. If the opportunity is really there, the market will address it. If the requirement is to fix a perceived political wrong, then government seems to step in.  Advertising usually takes a pulse on social attitudes and reflects it.

Now if we could only do something about older white males who have been bashed in advertising directed at televisions primary audience, women.

Males are the butt of nearly every commercial joke on the air – from dropping apples, to not spilling coffee, to failing to hook up the TV set.

The Dumb Dad syndrome should be addressed. Let’s require at least one Moron Mom commercial for every Dumb Dad.

Is someone counting the quota?

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