"If I had looked at the agency chief executives when I began in the industry and tried to emulate them, I would have had to become a white, middle-class male. Since that was clearly out of the question, I decided to just be myself." This is what Karen Blackett, MediaCom’s chairwoman, wrote in Campaign last year. It proved a good decision – she was awarded an OBE last year. But Blackett remains one of the only senior black women in adland, as the results of the second part of Campaign and the IPA’s survey on diversity (this time on the ethnic make-up of the industry) reveal.
First, a disclaimer. Ethnicity feels more nuanced than gender. Asking people to self-identify on such lines is contentious. Labels are loaded. For the sake of consistency, we are using the term BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) in this feature, although it’s not perfect.
The research shows that 13.1 per cent of the industry is from a BAME background – slightly lower than the 14 per cent share of the UK population. It is, however, far below that of London, where most of the big agencies are based.
Creative agencies perform better than their media counterparts on ethnic balance at the top. BAME employees make up 10.8 per cent of those at the most senior level in creative agencies, but only 2.9 per cent at media agencies. Campaign and the IPA are calling for agencies to increase this to 15 per cent by 2020.
Our research looked at gender and ethnicity. Of course, diversity is broader than those two metrics. It covers age, sexuality, disability. And at a time when the equality gap is widening, and London is an increasingly expensive place to work, socioeconomic backgrounds are an even bigger factor in careers. Those less secure financially will find it harder to break into the industry and may be less attracted to it, choosing instead one with higher starting salaries or a more secure career path.
The case for diversity has been well-made. Diverse groups are less likely to fall victim to groupthink. And if you accept that someone can speak more effectively to people like themselves, they can also help unlock new markets. Stonewall claims that the gay market is worth at least £70 billion in consumer spend in Britain. The Department for Work & Pensions estimates disabled people’s spending power at £80 billion a year. The business imperative is obvious.
So how is the industry going to create a more diverse workforce? This will be achieved partly through agencies and individuals assessing their processes and practices with fresh eyes and understanding where unconscious bias is creating barriers.
It will also be aided by broader social trends. A recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that those from all ethnic-minority groups in England are now, on average, more likely to go to university that their white British peers. Changes like this should feed through into agencies in the future.
And the industry as a whole has to work together to attract those who are slipping through the net, perhaps through apprenticeships or by educating potential recruits at an earlier age.
It also needs to figure out how to manage these differences once new people join the workforce. What is necessary shared knowledge and process in an agency, and what is up for debate? Any changes must be mirrored and supported by clients.
It will be a complex and uncomfortable process. But then adland has never been one to shy away from a fight.
Tom Knox, president, IPA:
Last week, we looked at gender in the IPA’s new survey. This week, we turn to ethnicity – arguably an even more sensitive area. For some, even the idea that agencies should ask their staff to self-identify along ethnic lines is problematic but I take the view that, unless we establish clear benchmarks, we cannot measure progress.
The advertising industry has made significant progress in making sure it more closely resembles the communities it serves. Exploring our survey data, those from a black, Asian and ethnic-minority (BAME) background account for 13.1 per cent of the overall workforce. That is pretty much bang on the national average and, as with gender, media agencies seem to be more representative on diversity than creative agencies overall.
The process of compiling the survey has demonstrated that the IPA has a role in supporting member agencies with tools to better capture their diversity data. We should look to best practice in other sectors to -understand how they capture the information and, after developing our own models, use the data to inform how we can track our progress and develop industry-leading strategies.
One example launching this year is being driven by major broadcasters including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. The new Diamond Project aims to track who is "on" and who "makes" television. It will look to do this across gender, gender identity, age, ethnicity, sexual ori-entation and disability. With such comprehensive diversity monitoring across a large number of channels carrying advertising, it may only be a matter of time before we are asked to contribute to this process. Having cross-industry guidelines, data-monitoring templates and frameworks can only benefit us in the long run.
Within our own industry, initiatives such as The Great British Diversity Experiment are timely in putting the challenge front and centre and, at the IPA, we are actively supporting it and will be looking at the results closely.
The IPA has already committed to help our industry recruit 25 per cent of new joiners from BAME backgrounds by 2020. That work is well under way, with more than a third of the 2015 London Creative Pioneers intake from BAME backgrounds. Agencies should also commit to offering internships to BAME and STEM graduates as part of this year’s IPA AdMission programme. I urge you to speak to the team at the IPA – they are already working hard helping agencies to develop successful recruitment and retention strategies.
Given the importance of London and the way demographics are moving, 13.1 per cent BAME re-presentation isn’t going to be good enough in the future. The fact that only 8 per cent of the most senior people in our biggest agencies come from a non-white background worries me and makes me think we need to do much more to promote the proven business case of diversity in leadership teams.
Looking deeper in the data, we can see that creative agencies in the survey benefit from much higher figures of BAME representation at leadership level than media agencies – 10.8 per cent versus 2.9 per cent. It will be interesting to explore how that situation has come about. This will require us to come together as an industry and rethink our strategies. Both sides have learnings that need to be shared if we are to realise our goals. We should therefore aim to grow the number of people from non-white backgrounds in leadership positions to at least 15 per cent across the biggest agencies.
The one thing we can all agree on is that the issue of diversity in our workforce is very complex and we will need to ensure this industry transformation benefits our businesses and clients while we are undertaking it.
Adland's ethnic make-up
The survey finds that, overall, 13 per cent of those in adland’s biggest agencies are from a BAME background. This is a similar share to that observed in the last IPA census. While the figure seems low, it is broadly reflective of the UK population. The most recent UK census found that 14 per cent of the population are from "non-white" ethnic groups. But it is not representative of London, where most of the agencies are based. BAME individuals make up a larger proportion of the junior levels – 14.9 per cent. This falls to 8 per cent at the most senior levels. Creative agencies have significantly higher BAME representation at the top than media agencies.
Magnus Djaba, chief executive, Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon UK Group:
Last year, we did a campaign for Operation Black Vote to encourage the BAME community to participate in the general election. Turning black celebrities white got a lot of headlines. But what we did was more than a campaign for OBV: it was a campaign for Britain. Diversity is fundamental to the success of this country.
It is also crucial to our industry’s future. Campaign recently asked what we would most like to improve about the business. My answer was diversity. When I wrote "How many middle-class white men does it take to change the world?" I wasn’t joking. It’s not that the establishment can’t create change. It’s just harder, I think, to take risks when you have a lot to lose. The world is changing at an exponential rate. And advertising must be at the forefront of that change.
But while I applaud Tom Knox’s commitment to this issue, I’m not a believer in quotas. Although I have known for some time now that I am black, I’m not a statistic, or a token black person. Quotas imply that black people – or women with children, or people with a disability – need a favour, or some sort of leg up the corporate ladder.
The truth is that advertising needs people with difference more than they need us. Look around you. If you’re surrounded by people from the same background as you, who look like you, speak like you, think like you, then I’d suggest your chances of achieving the kind of great that endures are pretty limited. Differing opinions, conflict, alternative perspectives are the alchemy of brilliant creative thought.
At Saatchi & Saatchi, there are eight people on our senior management team. Kate, Katrien and Larissa are women with children. Rob and Andy could never be described as middle-class. Craig’s an Essex boy. And Richard… well, you can make up your own minds about Richard.
None of this is an accident. Nor is it an accident that we all work for an agency started by two Iraqi immigrants, or that believes "nothing is impossible". We seek out difference. And if, as a business, you commit to a belief in the value of difference, you don’t need to worry about diversity. Because diversity will find you.
Why diversity matters
by Karen Blackett, chairwoman, MediaCom
The value of diversity in improving business performance in any industry is underlined by McKinsey’s recent Diversity Matters report (a study across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the UK and the US), which concludes: "When companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful. More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns."
According to the report, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance.
It’s great to see the evidence from McKinsey but, in this industry, the fact that a more diverse workforce will improve business performance is really just common sense. Our role is to help advertisers connect more effectively with their target audiences. Since their audiences are increasingly diverse, we will do this job better if our staff reflect all aspects of their diversity and difference.
What can be done?
Do I believe in quotas? No. However, I do believe in widening the door to ensure that employers are seeing diverse candidates. I’m keen to see if the Rooney Rule (from American football) can be applied to business. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview BAME candidates for senior coaching and operational jobs but does not impose any kind of quota on who actually gets hired.
The Interview Panel
Ensuring where possible that the interview panel contains members from a BAME background would also help shift the inequality that exists – decoding language and culture in the interview room will ensure that each candidate is allowed to shine.
To encourage diversity within my own company, MediaCom, I have set up a government-approved apprenticeship scheme. I’m delighted to see other agencies following suit. Our latest initiative to "widen the door" involves tapping the "grey apprentice" market.
More companies should put their people through training courses that expose their unconscious biases. This would be great for their personal development, as well as helping to open the doors to a talent that may be being held back by biases that interviewers don’t even know they have.
Diversity beyond gender and ethnicity
The Newcomer: Xandria Carelse-Dutlow, junior creative, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group
Growing up, being a fashion designer or an artist were the only creative roles I knew. I was incredibly lucky that The Ideas Foundation offered me a creativity scholarship, which existed as a two-week competition with a live client brief and a mentored agency placement (I was at Bartle Bogle Hegarty). The work I created won and got made. It was astounding to me that anyone had that much confidence in my ideas.
Having an immigrant background, brought up on a council estate by a single parent, meant that a creative career wasn’t first on the list. After flunking half my maths A level, I knew I had to stick at what I loved.
Post-university, it took a year of unpaid and low-paid placements fitted around full-time retail work to build up my advertising CV – I was lucky to be able to live at home to follow my passion.
The ultimate opportunity arrived when Publicis Healthcare launched the second year of the "Lab", its open call to find fresh talent. I was one of two female creatives who won six-month junior contracts. This competition and BMB’s Ad Scheme are the perfect examples of inclusivity; they offer everyone, including talented people who haven’t been able to go to university, or don’t have the right contacts to hook up a placement, the chance to demonstrate their potential. The future is diverse and adland needs to get on board with our trend of creating democratic opportunities to increase our industry’s balances of ethnicity, class and gender.
The LGBT Campaigner: Scott Knox, managing director, Marketing Agencies Association; founding president, PrideAM
Research from around the globe has found that the closer we are to our authentic selves, the more productive we are. Instinctively, we know that the more diverse our teams are, the better the ideas and creativity: the broader the experiences, the fresher the approaches. And yet a Stonewall survey found that 82 per cent of LGBT people went back into the closet after higher education when they began work.
It seems surprising that we are only just starting to grapple with gender and race issues in our industry. Shouldn’t we be looking at our workplaces in the broadest context of diversity? When will we tackle age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender orientation, parental status etc?
Since launching Pride in Advertising & Marketing last year, I have been surprised by the response. Many have applauded the initiative but, in some quarters, the response has been been lukewarm. Those in the latter group fall into two camps (white men – one straight, the other gay) but have expressed the same point: "Why do we need an LGBT group? Is there an issue?" Neither see an issue that needs addressing and, without robust data, they could to a degree be right. Which is why we at PrideAM are calling for the Advertising Association to run a full, industry-wide census capturing a true picture of the make-up of our sector.
We need to consider the type of business environments we build. Do they truly allow people to be their authentic selves? Interestingly, some of the gay white men I have talked to seem to feel that they haven’t experienced any homophobia in our industry so don’t get the need for PrideAM. But what about the transgender community? What about LGBT people of colour? It does seem that the LGBT agenda centres on white, gay, city-living men, which may lead to many missing the point.
Why we dropped CVs from our recruitment process
Lucy Jameson, chief executive, Grey London:
Our executive team is one of the most diverse in the industry. It is diverse in both gender and ethnicity. Diversity is something that we actively encourage through our recruitment, too, because we believe diverse companies perform better.
Today, students have huge debts, living in London is expensive and other jobs offer disproportionately large starting salaries. As a result, it is primarily middle-class kids who can afford to be supported who apply to advertising.
To access a more diverse pool, we created an entry-level scheme open to anyone – any age, any background, any education – rather than a traditional "graduate" scheme.
I have nothing against a good education. I can say this as someone who was privately educated and went to Oxford. Yes, Oxbridge is a good shorthand for someone being bright, but there are also super-bright people who didn’t go to university at all. And they bring valuable differences too.
Now, our potential recruits are asked to answer five questions rather than write a CV. We also hold a full recruitment day, where we test applicants on a range of skills including presentations and group work. This time, we hired a 31-year-old ex-management consultant and, last year, we hired a young Ugandan entrepreneur.
Working with different people also makes you question the processes you take for granted. For example, one of our staff has cerebral palsy, so endless conference calls are challenging but e-mail and face-to-face meetings are fine. Unfortunately, we just didn’t think about this when first allocating accounts.
We like to celebrate our differences. They make us and our work stronger. So let’s stop recruiting in our own image and mix things up a bit more.
The small print
IPA member agencies with a gross income in excess of £20 million or more than 200 employees were asked by e-mail to respond to a short online survey. Fieldwork ran from the end of July 2015 to the start of October. In total, 37 out of 44 qualifying agencies submitted figures. Some agencies did not supply ethnicity information. These were CHI & Partners, Dentsu Aegis Network, Imagination, IPG Mediabrands, Kinetic, Maxus, McCann Manchester, Ogilvy & Mather, OgilvyOne, Publicis, VCCP, Wunderman and ZenithOptimedia. All data was supplied by the IPA.