Recently, a Latino media executive was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. He noticed an enormous new billboard for a Fortune 500 company that advertised children’s clothing. The artwork featured two adorable white babies dressed in white outfits lolling on a white blanket, with white letters above them shaped like white clouds. It was a beautiful billboard. But it struck him as odd, given the demographics of the town over which it towered.
The executive immediately put in a call to Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, a renowned expert on Los Angeles’ population as the Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA’s School of Medicine. Dr. Hayes-Bautista confirmed what the executive suspected: the percentage of babies born in L.A. in 2012—the billboard’s target “customer”—was 17% white, 62% Latino, and 21% Asian or African-African.
Yes: 83% of L.A.’s babies were not white. So why was this big, pretty ad on Sunset Boulevard so…white!!? Did only white people drive down this strip of roadway, perhaps? The executive set out to do a personal test the next day, amusing himself by returning to the billboard location by taking side streets that had only Spanish surnames – La Jolla, San Vicente, Santa Monica – which is to say, most any street in L.A. He sat with pen and paper in hand for 20 minutes, and marked the demographics of each car that passed beneath the billboard.
Out of the 1,000 cars that he polled, 750 of the drivers were not white. This inspired the executive to dig down a bit deeper into the billboard’s Fortune 500 firm with such a diversity-oblivious ad. A Google search for the corporate name and “images” also brought up a field of white babies, each beautiful, each wearing the company’s adorable clothes, and almost each one of the models being white. He did find a few Asian and African American babies mixed in, but, 13 actually, not a single cute little Latino baby in the bunch.
Como es posible? he wondered. (Or, translated for the language impaired: “How is this possible?”) It is easy to find cute Latino babies in Los Angeles. And the language couldn’t be a barrier to putting them in this ad. So why did a big company decide to target only 17% of the population with its key images and marketing spend? How could they expect to remain an important brand to America’s children, either now or when those kids became parents??
Hadn’t this company noticed the very recent success of the Walt Disney Company, the biggest brand in entertainment, when it recently aired its first-ever movie with a Latina princess, Sofia the First, and watched it become the highest rated cable television program for children age 2-5 in the history of cable television?!
After his experiment and analysis, this executive went on to dream about putting up a new, competing billboard on Sunset Strip. One that was populated with babies of all races and ethnicities, along with the slogan, “Love ALL Your Customers At First Sight.”
Read more in the book Diversity & Inclusion: Big Six Formula for Success! Available at Amazon.com.