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Dimensions of Racism in Advertising

From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

Edited By Edward Lama Wonkeryor

Advertising has had a racial dimension from slavery to the present. Contributors to this book explore the role of institutionalized racism and bigotry in multicultural marketing since its inception in the 1920s. Promoting ethnic diversity in the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue but essential for representation of ethnic images in marketing.
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising will be useful for both research and teaching purposes. It can be used as a textbook in upper-level courses in African American studies, ethnic studies, advertising, mass media, public policy, sociology, and history. For policy makers, it will provide an alternative explanation for the stereotypical portrayal of Africans and African Americans in the United States and elsewhere. It will be similarly useful for nongovernmental organizations in fighting institutional racism and the marginalization of ethnic and racial groups in advertising and marketing.
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Chapter 2 History of the Regulation of Ethnic Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment


Dana Saeweitz and Edward Lama Wonkeryor

Why is it necessary today for government agencies to regulate ethnic diversity in advertising? Why are African Americans and other ethnic minorities still significantly underrepresented in executive roles in the advertising industry? Of course, the insidious and pervasive history of explicit racism in advertising dating to the days of slavery is well documented. However, in more recent times, multicultural marketing has moved to the forefront of advertising efforts, so it may seem surprising that minorities are still struggling to be hired and retained in the industry. The following conceptual analysis takes a historical look at racism in advertising, and attempts to examine the deep roots of this contemporary issue of discrimination. We argue that the painful history of racism in advertising from the days of slavery through the late twentieth century has left an enduring legacy that is still difficult to overcome. Contemporary multicultural marketing efforts are a positive step, but the injustices that took place over centuries of institutional racism in advertising are clearly not yet merely a historical footnote. This chapter further examines the unique role and responsibility of the advertising industry as both a mirror of society and an extraordinary influence on popular culture and social norms.

We offer a historical analysis based on existing literature and critically examine actual ads throughout history as a manifestation of racial discrimination in daily life and agency employment practices. The chapter is woven together to tell both stories at once:...

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