Banjo, Sydney ad agency, apologises for alleged 'racial' incident

"What is it with advertising agencies this week?" asks Twitter down under as the news spread that Banjo Advertising had said to a candidate at an interview that "the client might be alarmed that there's three brown people o the account". The candidate, account director Surungi Emily Hohol, vented on Facbeook about the incident and soon a screendump of her post spread like wildfire on Twitter.

"Candidate rejected by agency due to colour of skin" declared the HR Grapevine. Soon SBS news reported: "Apology after woman told in interview her 'brown skin' would make clients uncomfortable" and News.com.au headlined the incident Advertising executive tells job seeker the agency already has enough ‘brown skin people’.

Pippa Chambers at Adnews.com has an apology from the agency, who wants to get in front of this, in "Sydney creative shop Banjo apologises for alleged 'racial' incident", quoting Banjo managing director Andrew Varasdi who stated that the feedback he received on the interview was a very positive one,

“Our position on this remains unchanged. When I learned of the situation I immediately contacted both the candidate and our staff member to offer my empathy and support. I have arranged to meet with the candidate first thing in the morning 5 August) to reassure her of our policies on recruitment.”


He added that in Banjo’s seven-year history, the agency’s recruitment policy has always encompassed not only hiring the best possible talent, but also ensuring that the staff spans all ages, genders and ethnicities.


“We couldn’t possibly deliver on our promise that our clients come first, if our own staff did not reflect the Australian community. We are always prepared to offer our clients the best advice to connect with their customers"

Banjo has also said that staff includes 50% women in senior management and 50% women overall, and half of the staff are from ethnic backgrounds including India, Asia, UK and South America. In other words it's a very diverse agency. In a statement they said "

“Needless to say, the Banjo staff member is deeply upset by the incident, which occurred yesterday. There has been a lot of media attention on the issue of equality – including race, gender and sexual orientation, and age – in recent times and we acknowledge that emotions can run high.”

Now I hope this summation of events suffices without getting me in trouble.

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Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm after growing up in Kiruna, Raleigh and Jiddah.