The UK’s three main advertising trade bodies have united to run a census across brands, agencies and media owners for the first time and “hold up a mirror to the whole industry”.
Employees of participating companies will be urged to disclose personal information on an anonymised basis on one day, 10 March, as part of the joint effort by the Advertising Association, ISBA and the IPA.
The Inclusion Group, which is made up of representatives from the three trade bodies and is chaired by Kathryn Jacob, chief executive of Pearl & Dean, has commissioned the census and is running “All In”, a campaign to promote the initiative.
Kantar will conduct the online survey, which aims to understand how all protected characteristics are represented in the UK advertising workforce and should take no more than 30 minutes for participants to complete.
Details, including gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation and pay, will be anonymous, aggregated and used at a “macro level” to inform an industry action plan that will follow in April.
Further information is being announced at Reset, a virtual conference organised by the AA, ISBA and IPA, taking place today (28 January).
Jacob said the Inclusion Group began planning the census in April 2020, before the Black Lives Matter movement went global following the killing of George Floyd, and it wants to repeat the survey every two years to track progress.
“We don’t have a full picture about what happens [in terms of inclusion] across the whole of the industry,” Jacob said, explaining the rationale for the census.
“The IPA has been doing a survey for a while but most media owners don’t [compile data] that is publicly shared. There’s nothing that’s a mirror to the whole industry, including brands, that says: Are we reflecting the communities that we serve?”
Jacob added: “We know there is a systemic problem to tackle in our industry, that of fully inclusive representation in our workforce. To make the most meaningful change, we must set a benchmark to measure and track progress against.
“This census is a vital starting point for everyone to help build an industry that truly represents the world we live in today. I encourage people to spread the word – March 10 is the day for all in our industry to come together and say ‘I’m In’.”
The census aims to look at all aspects of inclusion but there is likely to be a lot of interest in the representation of black, Asian and other ethnic minorities.
The most recent IPA Census, which was conducted in 2019, showed the proportion of people from BAME backgrounds working in UK agencies fell slightly to 13.7% and the proportion in the C-Suite dropped to 4.7%.
The census also revealed a significant gender pay gap of 24.4% in favour of males in agencies.
'We are crying out for data'
Some advertising and media companies have said privately in the past that they have found it difficult to persuade staff to disclose personal information, even on an anonymised basis, and Jacob stressed the importance of data.
“To work out where you need to get to, you’ve got to work out where you are now,” she said. “We’ve got to widen this [push for greater inclusion] and enable people to feel part of the conversation. Even if you’re just filling in the census [as an individual employee], you’re part of that change.”
Naren Patel, the founder of Media For All, a networking and mentoring organisation for black, Asian and ethnic minority talent in media, said: “We are crying out for data. In the absence of data, it’s almost impossible to see how we’re doing, so I welcome this census.”
He added: “It’s quite useful that the ad industry is doing this in the year of the national census [it is carried out every ten years by the Office for National Statistics], so it will give us a comparison with the UK population.”
Jerry Daykin, senior media director, EMEA, at GSK, urged brands to take part as well as agencies and media owners.
“This census is a hugely important moment for all of us in UK advertising to get involved in,” he said. “It will provide the much-needed confidential and aggregated data to make real progress against.
“We cannot expect our agencies and partners to take this action if we don’t do the same ourselves, so at GSK, we’re all in – we will be asking our marketing team to take part on March 10.”
4Creative proposed the name for the “All In” initiative and branding agency Two Stories designed the campaign, which will encourage employees and companies to show their support for the census by posting messages declaring “I’m In” and “We’re In”.
The Inclusion Group’s members include: ISBA head of media Bobi Carley; the IPA’s associate director, diversity, Leila Siddiqi; Saatchi & Saatchi London managing director Sarah Jenkins; Channel 4 chief marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab; 4Creative business director Jane English; Creative Equals founder and CEO Ali Hanan; Sharon Lloyd Barnes, commercial director of the Advertising Association; and Daykin of GSK.