Sainsbury’s marketer says ‘diversity doesn’t happen by accident’ as it signs up to Digify UK programme

Sainsbury's signs up to Digify

Sainsbury’s has become one of the first brand partners for Digify, a bespoke internship programme designed to encourage young people from BAME groups to enter the industry.

This year, the retailer will the lead the programme which will see a number of agencies on its roster also get involved, including Weiden + Kennedy, Gravity Road and Seven.

Digify UK launched in 2015 as a unique collaboration between youth marketing agency Livity, the Marketing Agencies Association and Google. It sought to address the lack of diverse talent in media, marketing and advertising agencies across the UK through a digital marketing internship scheme.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter were brought on board to provide training modules for the cohort of interns, and this year Snapchat will also get involved.

It is also the first time that a brand advertiser has joined the programme, giving the participants live briefs and projects to work on.

The so-called ‘Digifiers’ (ages 18-25) who are accepted into the programme begin with two months training based in Livity’s Brixton-based agency. After that they then undergo a six-month placement at either Sainsbury’s or one of its agencies.

“At Sainsbury’s we’re always thinking about how we can attract and retain a diverse range of talent as we believe this is how we can deliver the best possible work for our customers,” said Sarah Ellis, head of marketing strategy at the retailer.

“We recognise this doesn’t happen by accident, which is why we’ve got involved in Digify in partnership with Livity and our agency partners. Digify has helped us find young, digitally savvy talent from a BAME background who might not typically think of Sainsbury’s as a place to start their career. I was part of the assessment process and was exceptionally impressed and encouraged by how entrepreneurial, passionate and collaborative the applicants were.”

The internship aims to give interns a 360 view of all aspects of digital marketing and agency life, rather than be restricted by traditional academic teachings.

Speaking to The Drum, Livity managing director Alexandra Goat said that despite the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) setting a target of 15% of the industry’s leadership to be comprised of BAME people by 2022, there is still too little being done to encourage young people from these groups into the industry.

“We have to act now because there aren’t that number of diverse young people coming into our industry yet to fill those roles,” she said.

According to the IPA’s most recent research, at the most junior level (junior, executive, assistant) the representation of individuals from a BAME background is equal to the national level of 15%, but overall within the C-suite the number is 4.7%, and within other executive management roles it is 5.5%.

“Our industry is missing out on so much talent that doesn’t see us as the most exciting place to start their careers. We need to do a bit of work on our own employer branding to get them to consider it,” Goat continued.

“If other agencies were doing that great we wouldn’t be doing Digifiy. If we felt there weren’t inherent barriers not just getting into agencies but staying in agencies that’s part of the challenge. There are a huge amount of initiatives out there, which is brilliant – from creative equals through to the Great British Diversity Experiment – but I don’t think it’s happening quick enough.”

Of those that participated in the programme last year, 80% ended up staying in the agencies where they had their placements, or went on to get a role at another agency. For those that didn’t, one set up their own business and the other has gone back to university. “We consider that a real success,” added Goat.

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