It’s been full on here at LBB this week and this just is one of two newsletters that you will receive from us before the weekend hits. Internet Week Europe is once again here in London and as such, the team have been out and about meeting people, attending events and filling their evenings with merriment and fun. But it’s not all been about Internet Week – on Tuesday I was fortunate enough to attend the attend The Ideas Foundation’s ‘Diversity in Advertising’ launch event at the IPA.
Robin Wright, CVO, President of Engine and Founder of The Ideas Foundation introduced a 10 minute edit of their new film which looks at London advertising, diversity and talks to some pretty interesting people. It was rather good and I highly recommend that you check out the complete production (http://bit.ly/T1GQXk
) to get a real view of the challenges that our industry faces.
I was surprised, I have to admit, by the numbers that the film highlights. In the UK 90.6% of the ad industry is white. When you consider that London is the home of UK advertising and that 30.3% of London’s population is from an ethnic background then this statistic seems ridiculous. In the UK, BME purchasing power is growing, with combined disposable income reaching £300 billion in 2010. Surely the ad industry is losing power and creativity?
The panel, chaired by Sir John Hegarty, included Jonathan Akwue, Partner and Global client MD at Engine, Angela Rutledge, Digital Project Director at Partners Andrews Aldridge, Nicola Mendelsohn, President, IPA, Travor Beattie, Founding Partner at BMB and Magnus Djaba, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, London.
After a short address from Hegarty the panel discussed why attracting ethnic minorities to our industry is so problematic, where we are going wrong, what we could do to improve the situation and where exactly we are challenged.
Trevor Beattie talked about ‘diversity of all, freedom, and access for all’. However he did go on to generalise that most people within the industry were not only white, but also middle class and that he’d never employ an Oxbridge grad. He wondered how a working class boy from Birmingham, like himself, would be allowed in. I did find it a little ironic that he felt the need to pin point another social group and mark them out, given the spirit of diversity and ‘freedom for all’… but hey ho.
Class was discussed a lot, as was nepotism and the elitist nature of unpaid internships. Djaba made an interesting point. To begin with, he said that he was ‘surprised we are here’… It does seem crazy to me that we are not more diverse or that there are still limitations. How can an industry that is meant to be about openness, expression and creativity be so narrow-minded in its employment? Or is it, as Djaba mentioned, that perhaps advertising is not seen as an attractive industry to grow a career. He has a point and the stats prove it. Medicine is still one of the top degree choices for many BME youngsters, especially black students. Do we care enough about bringing new talent in? What do we do to achieve this? As a member of Ogilvy London’s HR department who was in the audience (sorry, I didn’t catch your name) said, when she arrived at the agency, she noticed that over 70% of the interns, over a succession of years, had all been awarded their position because of nepotism. They were either the child of a client or had some connection, through family and friends to a member of staff. Does this not limit the amount of people that enter? Are we advertising as a ‘club’?
At times the conversation did turn to personal rants, which were interesting to listen to, but kind of distracted from the conversation. I must admit, I did ask a question. I’m the second person in the history of the Lotts that has a degree (older brother got there first). As such, it’s really hard to convey to my parents why I work in advertising. I wouldn’t have known about the industry if it hadn’t been for a village friend who invited me to run for his company in my school holidays. I’m very fortunate, it meant I found an industry that I loved, but what if you aren’t so lucky? And how do you explain to your Dad, who has physically worked 12 hour days, five days a week so that you can do your A-levels (yes, to some folk it is still seen as a privilege and not a right) that you want to work in advertising? According to Mr Beattie, it’s about showing kids roles that they can fulfill within the industry… HR, accounts, apps developer and so on… he has a point, but I’d love to see him head down to my dad’s building site and explain what an app is. I can hear the language he’d get back and my guess is it’d be blue.
So what’s the answer? As Mendelsohn said ‘talent is at the heart of my agenda at IPA. Why? Not because it feels good, but because it is a priority’ and in regards to the work that the organisation has already done, ‘we’re not satisified, we are restless about it’.
Beattie has promised to name and shame all the agencies that do not pay their interns in Campaign. Hegarty has challenged the panel to make ‘advertising the most diverse industry in the UK’ and Dare have invited people to join them on the 29th November, 6pm to brainstorm. Djaba quoted a Thomas Banyacya Sr poem: ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for!’ and maybe he’s right. There’s been lots of talk, but time will only tell what will be done.