Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime
The Importance of Diversifying Your Talent Roster
Advertising Agency
London, UK
INFLUENCERS: BBH's Sofia Bodger, Tom Burns and Nnena Nwakodo on how their ‘unsigned’ exhibition is breaking the industry out of its unconscious complacency

As an industry, we're losing relevance. In 1990, 31% of UK adults thought that the adverts were as good as the programme, in 2018 it dropped to a meagre 14% (TGI, 2018). One reason for this is that we too often resort to established talent over emerging talent. We are working in a competitive and challenging industry. More so than ever before. Tighter deadlines and smaller budgets mean it’s easy to become complacent. To take the safe route. Brands are nervous and need to sell, which leads to producers and creatives alike defaulting to that ‘safe pair of hands’ director rather than taking a risk.

We are too complacent in our thinking and complacency is the enemy of excellence. As a result, we’re missing the chance to find new voices and perspectives for our clients which could lead to revolutionary results.

People today are craving work that looks, feels and thinks differently. Across the entertainment, publishing and music industries, we're seeing new kinds of voices tell new kinds of stories. And our job in advertising is to strive to stay on top of this evolution.

What's considered contemporary and aspirational in culture right now is a much richer tapestry than ever before, so we need to ensure we’re expanding and diversifying our pool of talent if we're going to keep up.

This goes beyond just gender and race, which tend to dominate the diversity conversation. Whilst those are extremely important, diversity to us also reaches to all intersections; sexuality, age, physical and mental ability, size, socioeconomic background.

When looking for new creative makers, we shouldn't overlook any kind of diversity, demographic or cognitive. Talent can be found everywhere.

Insert unsigned: Putting emerging talent on your radar. Our unsigned exhibition aimed to break out of our unconscious complacency and find a diverse range of work from fresh, young talent.

In the months leading up to the big launch, our team made up of two producers, a strategist and an art director came together to hunt for emerging talent. The outcome? An event that brought together a carefully curated selection of 30 exciting unsigned photographers, directors and illustrators and gave them the opportunity to connect with BBH’s makers to forge new bonds and collaborations with both industry professionals and each other.

As people from under-represented groups ourselves, we wanted to make sure we were agitating for difference at every step of the way. We found that thinking about diversity came naturally and during our selection process, we constantly pushed and questioned ourselves with the ambition of getting to a wide range of modern perspectives.

In its success, the unsigned exhibition saw over 400 guests come through the doors at BBH Kingly Street, London, with agents and production companies alike coming to sneak a peek at our bespoke roster. But the results did not end here. Four of the artists became signed from agencies in attendance, with others still in discussions. But this was never the original goal. With what hoped to be a showcase of exciting, diverse talent became the beginning of a new network. 

In casting the net wider to find emerging talent, we showcased more interesting and innovative work. Work you wouldn’t usually see in a traditional advertising agency.

However, despite the success of Unsigned, a one off exhibition isn’t going to make the impact and movements needed to tackle this problem. Therefore, our most important takeaway is that bringing in diverse talent should become a part of business as usual, and with plans for unsigned 2019 already underway, the diversity agenda is clear. This gives us the opportunity to make unsigned even bigger and better this year. 

In order to raise our industry's cultural relevance, it is absolutely crucial we all do more to champion emerging talent and push to find it in as many different places as possible.

Work from BBH London
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