The World's Most Creative Women: Trak Ellis-Hill, Mofilm

In a continuing drive for greater diversity and inclusion in marketing and advertising, a new feature by The Drum highlights conversations with top creative women in the industry.

Trak Ellis-Hill, creative director at Mofilm

All were nominated for The Drum’s global Woman of the Year award at The Drum Creative Awards, sponsored by Facebook, One Minute Briefs and in partnership with Creative Equals. The award is designed to push equality boundaries within the creative industry to spark discussion and action.

From icons and pioneers to prominent creative directors and designers, we asked each of them how diversity creates better work, the positive changes the industry can make, what keeps these creatives going in an ever-changing world and how greater diversity can grow the business.

Kicking off the new year, this series will reveal more of The Drum's global Woman of the Year award nominees.

Today, we speak to Trak Ellis-Hill, creative director at Mofilm.

From your experience and point of view, how does a more diverse creative team create better work? What have been some examples of that in action?

A more eclectic team of creatives makes for more diverse ideas, no question. We challenge each other’s way of thinking, of seeing the world, and so we keep pushing until we reach the very best idea. A mix of different identities, backgrounds, and experiences means we can truly hold a mirror up to society and reflect the audience we want to speak to and we can be more authentic, resonant and real in the stories we tell.

How are the conversations around creativity, and specific work/projects, different with a more gender balanced team?

If we’re talking about the way we all work together, certainly I find everyone has a more equal voice in a brainstorm when there’s gender balance in the room.

What changes around inclusion should the entire industry embrace today?

The thing is, it’s like when your other half points out that you never do the washing up; you don’t want to right then and there go and do the next load, because it looks as though you’re only doing it because they said something.

It’s the same with diversity in advertising.

Brand managers are saying: “We don’t want to be obvious, we don’t want to seem like we’re jumping on the bandwagon." Nonsense! Jump on board! Make a change today. Who gives a fuck about appearances so long as you’re doing the right thing and representing your audience and wider society, ultimately telling a more authentic story. Do the washing up, you lazy sod!

Diversity shouldn’t be controversial – it should be ingrained. Step outside of your bubble, step onto the high street, into a cinema, or a supermarket — look at the faces around you. Do you see this mix of faces in your company? In your creative?

As creative agencies we need to stop talking about diversity and start setting targets. Don’t make it a box-ticking exercise, forget the word ‘quota’, make it more integral and reflexive than that. Seek out those who are different because different perspectives, different cultures, different voices, breed difference in creative thinking – and that’s absolutely something we all want.

Ditch any idea that an internship is a favour we do our boss’s mate’s kid and start making it count — use it as a vehicle for diversity. Build relationships with schools and get kids from different backgrounds excited about our industry.

Brief recruiters differently and prioritise diversity as cultural criteria, quit thinking creativity is a young person’s game, or the domain of graduates. Make working environments and hours more friendly and flexible for maternity returners, embrace different ways of working, and give women the support and confidence to get back into the game on their terms in what will likely be a more productive capacity.

With all of the issues women face in the creative sector, what keeps you in the industry?

I don’t say this to be smug or dismissive or to diminish in any way the battle for gender equality in our industry, but, compared to many of my female friends and colleagues, I’ve not had a bad ride.

I wanted a job in advertising, I interviewed, I got one. I’ve jumped from agency to agency, worked with interesting people on exciting projects, worked my way up the ladder relatively problem-free.

I’ve tried freelancing a few times, and I was one half of a creative duo for a long period – with a man (gasp!). I’ve never been afraid to ask for a pay rise or promotion when I thought I deserved it, and I’ve rarely been told no. I’ve certainly got my battle scars, my stories to tell, but for the most part I’ve felt in control of my career.

Now more than ever I want to support those who have encountered obstacles, to help make my experience of the industry the norm for women and creatives from marginalised groups. This is something that has become a driving force for me and is why I have enjoyed working at Mofilm where diversity is at the heart of our creative development and filmmaking for brands, it’s stitched into our model.

Will greater diversity in the industry ultimately save/grow it?

I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know.

Research shows that having a diverse workforce isn't just the right thing to do, it’s good for business, that productivity and profitability increase, that ideas are better and more innovative.

If we want the best ideas, ideas that resonate, that get results, that show our worth, then we need to find, nurture, and retain the very richest creative talent, and we won’t find that in a sea of sameness.

As creative people we should be open-minded and flexible, seeking out and being inclusive of fresh new perspectives should be second nature. Fostering talent from all corners of the society and culture we represent – men and women, old and young, those with disabilities, from minority ethnic groups, the LGBTQ+ community, and less privileged backgrounds, from north, south, other lands – can only be a good thing, can only serve to make us more insightful, more authentic, stronger, braver, and more interesting.

The Drum Creative Awards puts creativity back in the spotlight and flies the flag for creativity during the digital revolution. These global awards are open to advertising agencies, design consultancies, digital agencies, production companies, marketing agencies, PR and more.

To register your interest for 2018, go to the event website.

This years awards were sponsored by: Facebook Creative Shop and One Minute Brief and partnered with: Creative Equals.

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