Changing the ad industry's image

Changing the ad industry's image

It's vital that celebrating the past is matched by planning for the future.

While remaining disproportionately obsessed with anything new, the advertising industry is entering a period of reflection and nostalgia.

Plans are being laid for celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the IPA, Campaign is already contemplating its 50th and, next week, the History of Advertising Trust is launching a money-raising auction of prints from the Campaign photographic archives. You’ll find some of them in this week's feature.

And, dammit, aren’t there a lot of white blokes.

Wonderful white blokes, of course. I love Terence Donovan’s picture of the Bainsfair Sharkey Trott founders (Dave Trott’s grin, Paul Bainsfair’s glint), Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty on the cusp of greatness, Andrew Robertson looking pretty, Bill Muirhead and David Kershaw serving Whoppers.

Yes, there are women too: the shrewd Ann Burdus, Alex Taylor in the Saatchi golden years, Lyndy Payne as she revolutionised how clients choose agencies, Cilla Snowball clearly heading straight for the top, Rosie Arnold looking fierce. But not enough of them. And it turns out mostly the women in these old pictures don’t seem to be having as much fun as the men; being snapped looking silly probably didn’t help when you had to fight harder.

Anyway, in the context of the current focus on diversity (see this story and pretty much every issue of Campaign this year), all this nostalgia has raised a thorny issue. If we wallow in memories of adland’s (white) founding fathers (not many mothers, sadly), what sort of message are we sending to ambitious women or to people from different social or ethnic backgrounds who won’t see many role models here?

If diversity was less of an issue in 2016, I don’t think we’d be worrying so much about the lack of it in the last century. As it is, we’re still woefully behind and so people are nervous about throwing a spotlight on the very non-diverse people who built our business. But it would be dismally dishonest if we down-weighted the role that the pale male adman played in establishing London as a centre of advertising excellence.

Still, it’s vital that celebrating the past is matched by planning for the future. Marketers will play a crucial role in this. In the US, brands are beginning to demand diversity from their agencies; it’s time UK marketers followed suit. Diversity has to be business-critical – agencies have to know they are less competitive if they are less diverse. Leaving it to chance or natural progression is not moving us forward nearly fast enough. Diversity must now be a basic requirement when marketers choose their agencies.

So next week’s HAT archive event marks a fresh determination to fill Campaign’s picture library with a rich range of new talent who will shape and lead the business going forward; the people who our successors will be celebrating in another 100 years.     

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