It's right there in the pages of the School Reports. The most important step change for diversity, inclusion and equality this year is here thanks to global editor-in-chief Claire Beale.
This is the first time Creative Equals’ Equality Standard has appeared in Campaign's School Reports – and next year triple the number will feature. Some of the biggest names in advertising are going through our Equality Standard right now.
The fact is that only one company – Havas London (a B Corp company) – has fully passed, with a bronze, under progressive chief executive Xavier Rees. Wunderman Thompson and Engine have conditional passes (Wunderman passed pre-merger), while Red Brick Road, MullenLowe London and Ogilvy are "on their way".
A watershed moment
This is why we need a kitemark, how it should be on every brand RFI and why it can drive a forward-thinking, future-facing industry. Aside from gaining an accreditation, we also know it's a culture changer.
"Having the independent advice and counsel of Creative Equals has been tremendous. Not only did they chart a roadmap towards making our agency more inclusive, but they gave us the quick wins to drive some quick changes, which gave us greater confidence too," Red Brick Road chief executive David Miller says.
He continues: "Like everything, it starts with insights – and from the Equality Standard audit, we got robust ones which we have built action plans around. I’m convinced that our culture and our creativity are already benefitting from these, just six months later."
Kinetic – one of the first media companies to gain the accreditation – has seen a clear drop in churn (and reduced recruitment costs), happier staff, a more inclusive culture, less staff taking sick days and increased happiness levels.
Brands are clamouring for change
"At The Marketing Society, we are passionate believers and advocates of the Creative, Media and Tech Equality Standards for agencies pioneered by Creative Equals," Gemma Greaves, chief executive of The Marketing Society, says.
"It takes a brave and committed leader to go through the Equality Standard; only a quarter of companies pass first time. If all businesses took this Equality Standard, our industry's diversity story would move at a much faster and impactful pace. Personally, I believe it is our responsibility to take part and it’s high time to be an instrumental part of the change we need to see."
And there is a huge ROI for brands for these key reasons.
Brands will see less churn on their accounts. As Kerry Glazer, executive chair of AAR, says: "Clients often cite the loss of valued agency team members from their business as a key cause of dissatisfaction and can precipitate a review of the relationship. Training, inspiring and retaining integral staff and understanding why staff might choose to leave the agency has got to be a key task for management teams."
We know from our data so far that investing in inclusive cultures makes staff 45% happier, 48% more likely to be retained and 20% more likely to promote the agency.
Diversity mitigates brand reputation risk to creative work. In an age of social media, when creative work misses the mark or uses tropes and stereotypes, a brand’s reputation can be trashed in a Twitter storm. We’ve seen brands such as Pepsi, Boden, H&M, Dove and Heineken face huge backlash from tone-deaf campaigns.
Know you’re speaking to your audiences with an inclusive creative lens – and avoid a court case. Recently, Domino's was taken to court by a blind customer who couldn’t access its app. He won. This court case shapes the way marketers need to think in the future. Without people from all walks of life in you agencies (or on your own teams), a case like this shows what can happen.
Gain better, richer, creative work. This year, Creative Equals won a Government Equalities Office fund to bring 48 "returners" back to the sector with our #CreativeComeback programme, with Diageo sponsoring the scheme and providing a brief for participants to crack. Guinness consumer planning director Alison Falconer notes: "It was a flood of creativity and our brands were lucky to have it unleashed on our issues. We saw ideas on both Baileys and Guinness that lifted and delighted us. We got unexpected ideas, powerfully and simply expressed, with personality and flair."
In these times, it's simply "the right thing to do". The divisions of Brexit have cut deep. We are living in divided times, with a yawning gap of social injustice across all aspects of society. As influencers of society, we are culture shapers. If we truly believe diverse teams = diverse work = diverse audiences, it’s time to think first about "authentic authorship", starting with our teams.
To truly shift our gender diversity figures, every agency needs to do the homework where it matters most: on the shop floor. In the sector, the key intermediaries – AAR, Oystercatchers and Creativebrief – recognise the Equality Standard. Now it's recognised in the pages of Campaign.
The question is: who will be first to get gold?
Ali Hanan is founder and chief executive of Creative Equals