The danger of being bored by diversity

The notion that diversity and talent are mutually exclusive pursuits are damaging not just to the advertising industry, but the business of brand-building itself.

"Boredom is the conviction you can’t change;  the shriek of unused capacities," writes the American author Saul Bellow.

The shriek of M&C Saatchi’s group chief creative officer Justin Tindall reverberated across the echo chambers of social media this week, after he declared that he was "bored of diversity being prioritised over talent" in the pages of Campaign’s Private View.

This statement, which he has subsequently apologised for, supports the notion that diversity and talent are somehow mutually exclusive pursuits. 

This is not the first time Tindall has commented on diversity. In Campaign's A-List last year when asked when he thought the debate on diversity would be "over", he answered: "I have no idea. So I asked my Native American, transgender, "strawberry blonde", gay, hard-of-hearing friend. He/she said: "Please don't let the diversity debate be over. It's just so interesting to read about it every week in our industry publications." At least I think that's what he/she said."

A position which poses the question is adland’s commitment to diversity anything more than an empty promise?

The business case for diversity

The business case for diversity is well-established. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean. Meanwhile, individual brand examples abound; Maltesers' disability campaign was its 'most successful in a decade' while 'This Girl Can' cut through the gloss to revolutionise sports marketing to women.

It is not hyperbole to argue that the very future of advertising relies on its ability to pay more than just lip service to diversity. Yet Tindall’s comment suggests that the role of diversity and creating an inclusive culture as a driver for both creativity and business results is still questioned in some corners of the industry.

Diversity is talent: The industry responds

Cindy Gallop,

founder and chief executive, MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld

"When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression"

I am bored to death of the incredibly low bar that's been set for creativity in our industry because of the dominance of 'why can't it be like it was before' white men, who are not only failing to see beyond 'what will win awards from a jury of my white male peers', but sexually and racially harassing women and people of colour and, not coincidentally, driving or complicit in appalling agency cultures of demotivation, demoralisation and confidence destruction (you wouldn't believe the stories I'm getting in response to my call out, or maybe you would). As the saying goes, 'When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.' It's time an industry whose primary target is women, came together to dramatically raise the bar for creativity by prioritising female and diverse talent and creative leadership that in turn creates more empathetic, inspiring and motivating environments for new heights of diversity-driven creativity that we haven't even begun to see flourish because white male ECDs are excluding, ignoring and shutting them down.

Ete Davies,

managing director, AnalogFolk

"There is still a reluctance to accept that a diverse and inclusive industry equals better creativity"

Like many others, I find Justin’s choice of words, "bored of diversity being prioritised over talent", particularly unsettling. Of course, talent is a priority. As a business leader I’m seeking talented and diverse people. Because diversity makes good business sense - we’ve seen this demonstrated first-hand at AnalogFolk.

It’s no coincidence that all our recent pitch wins and some of our best work has been achieved by teams with a diverse make-up. We wouldn’t have won those pitches, or made that work, without every person bringing something different. That’s why diversity is important; it brings different insights, opinions, experiences and skills, which creates unique and innovative ideas.  

Unfortunately, the fact we’re having this debate, shows that there’s still a reluctance to accept that a diverse and inclusive industry equals better creativity, until that’s achieved, then diversity will continue to be high on the agenda. I suspect Tindall's not alone in his view of hoping "this diversity fad will pass"; where that opinion becomes really disappointing is when someone of his profile and influence, who has the power to effect change, makes comments like these. At best it's irresponsible, at worst it sets back all the progress that is being made. But hey, if he wanted attention - he’s got it.

Rania Robinson,

Managing director, Quiet Storm

"There is a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of what benefits diversity brings to the industry"

What an unenlightened thing to say. By claiming to be bored of diversity being prioritised over talent, Justin Tindall is suggesting that diversity and talent are mutually exclusive. The point here is that there is so much brilliant, untapped talent out there because of this very lack of diversity. Tindall clearly has a very narrow view of the world, and by making that comment it just shows a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of what benefits diversity brings to the industry, from creative output to business representation. 

But it is also an unsurprising comment, as Tindall – a white, middle-aged bloke – is very representative of the industry as a whole. And he represents the problem at the heart of our sector – if this is the kind of perspective and attitude held by our business leaders then how is anything going to change? 

Reading his piece in the office, my colleagues and I were really shocked that Tindall would be so flippant about such an important and meaningful subject. But that's the point, and he clearly doesn't get it.

Jane Ostler,

managing director, media & digital, Kantar Millward Brown

"To survive, we need to learn to be open and to listen"

The industry changes we have seen over the last 20 years are substantial, irreversible and far from boring. To survive, we need to learn to be open and to listen, rather than trying to control.

We need to adopt a mature attitude, not behave like a disgruntled teenager. But the struggle seems real, and I think agencies have a role to play in ensuring that their talent is supported to ride the wave of change, rather than feeling disenfranchised. The noise shouldn’t distract you; in fact, the noise should inform your work.

It’s incumbent on all of us to be curious about the world and how it’s changing. We must understand people, their habits, their views and their media consumption. 

Ali Hanan,  

chief executive and founder, Creative Equals

"Losing clients because of a lack of diversity in your creative department is definitely boring"

Bored by diversity? Let us count the ways this comment is wrong, starting with where it matters: the bottom line. If Tindall had read the McKinsey study, he'd know that boards with women and people from BAME backgrounds increase profits for a business by up to 35%. Clients like HP, Verizon and General Mills now demand their agencies reflect their audiences. In the case of HP, 50% of their technology is bought by women, so HP expects their agencies to represent their consumers. For them, it makes sense to have women shaping the work.

Losing clients because of a lack of diversity in your creative department is definitely boring. Or in fact, not even getting to pitch in the first place. Creative Equals is recognised by the intermediaries in the sector, so not having a commitment to equality might just mean you don't make the pitch shortlist. Sitting on the sidelines while more diverse, agile, forward-thinking agencies steal your clients and your business will mean you'll end up twiddling your thumbs. And, that, Tindall, really is boring.

Chaka Sobhani,

chief creative officer, Leo Burnett

"Comments like this aren’t controversial. They’re irresponsible, stupid and outdated"

I’ve just deleted my initial page long response to my fellow Private Viewer’s comments.

Because I don’t want to sink to a level and waste precious time, breath and energy.

Plus it feels like giving oxygen to Nigel Farage.

Apologies about miscommunication don’t fly.

The facts don’t lie either, just like practically all male creative departments don’t.

Comments like this aren’t controversial.

They’re irresponsible, stupid and outdated.

Oh, and really fucking boring, btw.

Karen Blackett,

chairwoman, MediaCom

"The research that shows that companies with more diverse senior managements are more successful is clear and unarguable"

I’m going to give Justin Tindall the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to assume he wasn’t simply trying to be Campaign’s new Katie Hopkins and that he actually meant what he wrote in Private View.

He says he’s bored of brand purpose  - so presumably he doesn’t want companies to actually try and make the world a better place, or even to meet genuine needs in the lives of their customers.

He says he’s bored of programmatic media -  so presumably he doesn’t want his clients to be able to reach their customers as effectively and efficiently as possible.

He says he’s bored of networks and holding companies – so presumably he doesn’t want advertisers to be able to have the many aspects of their marketing and communication as focused and integrated as possible.

He says he’s bored of artificial intelligence – so presumably he doesn’t want clients to reap the benefits of technological change.

He also says he’s bored of user-generated content – so presumably he has disdain for the very consumers he’s supposed to be reaching.

And, oh yes, he says he’s "bored of diversity being prioritised over talent" – so presumably he thinks those two things are opposites, or at least mutually exclusive?

Wow. True diversity is about putting together a team of superheroes with different skills (rather than an identikit array of people with the same attitudes, talents, background and opinions). Who wouldn’t want a team of superheroes in their business? An Avengers Assemble of creativity.

I know, because I work in an Avengers Assemble everyday. MediaCom's latest haul at the Campaign Media Awards is testimony to what embracing and celebrating difference can bring. The research that shows that companies with more diverse senior managements are more successful is clear and unarguable.

If Justin Tindall is really saying that someone who isn’t a white, antiquated, middle-aged man can’t have talent, he’s not only got some pretty questionable views, he’s also - quite simply and demonstrably - wrong.

Yes diversity is hard, yes it takes longer to get to consensus, yes it can involve some conflict, but my God, the end result is worth it - creativity, productivity, happier people and profit.

Take note, old school thinkers, take note.....

James Whatley,

experience planning partner, OgilvyOne

"We're never going to be bored with trying"

To go anywhere near being "bored" of diversity in a week that is not only within UK Black History Month but also witness to the #MeToo hashtag trending globally - with minority voices speaking out against awful abuses by people in power (let’s be honest – most of those people have been white men), is a stunning display of tone deafness.

I don’t know.

Maybe I’m lucky.

Maybe I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by amazing women in senior roles at Ogilvy (hi Jo, Clare, Vicky, Nina, Emma - not asking for a pay review – honest).

Maybe I’m lucky that my agency actively seeks out young, diverse, and untrained talent and gives them huge briefs to play with - see the recent work The Pipe did on Voxi.

We're not perfect - we know that - but we also know we're never going to be bored with trying.

Tell you what, you get to be "bored" of diversity when we live in a perfect meritocracy that hasn’t had hundreds of years of systemic racist/sexist abuses of power.

The thing that upset me most about my original tweet (see below) was that not one BAME/female M&C staffer responded. 

That’s what really happens when you have people like this in positions of power... you silence the voices we're all trying to turn the volume up on.

And that’s bad for you, bad for them, and what’s more - it’s demonstrably bad for business.

Anna Carpen,

Executive creative director, 18 Feet & Rising

"It's sad if you work in this industry and don't feel excited by the potential of what you could create"

It’s hard to understand why someone in the creative field would be bored of the word diversity, when the whole meaning behind it is ‘different’. As creative people, we thrive on discovering, unearthing, and rolling around in everything that is different. Part of this means having a positive, energetic outlook and never being bored of anything. It's sad if you work in this industry and don’t feel excited by the potential of what you could create. Justin - the T-shirt’s in the post.

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