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Inclusion Advertising Diversity & Inclusion

How can we encourage more inclusivity in advertising? (Part 1)

By Rebecca Levy, Editorial Account Executive



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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December 4, 2017 | 6 min read

It can be said that inclusiveness in advertising has taken a step forward this year, particularly with campaigns such as McCann New York's 'Fearless Girl' that champions female empowerment and leadership, and more recently Smirnoff's partnership with the LGBT foundation for its campaign 'We're Open', which hopes to encourage a more socially inclusive experience for the LGBTQ+ community on nights out.

Do we need to start in the workplace to make the advertising world more inclusive?

Smirnoff's inclusive 'We're Open' campaign

Although efforts have been made, there’s no doubt that there’s still a long way to go for many communities to feel represented in this industry, such as people with disabilities.

In this Vox Pop, The Drum Network asks its agency members how they would tackle this problem to make the advertising world a more inclusive place.

James Pruden, studio director, Xigen Ltd

Inclusiveness in advertising will unfortunately, but naturally, be a step behind inclusiveness in the modern world. A token (or gesture) disabled person in a campaign is an insult. A well-planned and relevant campaign, which champions the subject for the right reasons is a delight. Therefore, we shouldn’t be looking to force inclusiveness into our campaigns, but rather into our everyday lives. This way our messages can still be relevant, impactful and engaging.

Jake Dubbins, managing director, Media Bounty

"I think diversity in power can only make for a better society" – Grayson Perry

It is up to leaders, especially white, middle-class leaders, to consciously change the paradigm. Rather than sleepwalking through the next decade, what are leaders actually doing to empower people other than white middle-class men? A good place to start would be to have flexible working practices to ensure people – whoever they are - can flourish at work, rather than conforming to inflexible arbitrary office hours. Be conscious to confront inbuilt bias.

Naomi Ticehurst, client services director, Think Jam

The question all marketers should be asking is how can we create the change we want to see? Being an entertainment-marketing agency, we work on many film projects, which talk to hugely active communities. It is our role to bring their voice to mainstream to help with wider understanding and equal opportunities. Working with influencers is a big part of this, but it is important to broaden your usual network by looking at a diverse range of influencers and partnering with mainstream publishers on the content. Inclusivity needs to be reflected in the planning for it to feel natural in the campaign. The most important thing is that it the group is represented fairly and realistically. I’d love for us to get to a point where people don’t see the difference and inclusivity is just the norm.

Rebecca Brown, head of content, Builtvisible

All brands have a duty to reflect their audience, and while being reflective of a diverse society is important from a progression standpoint, it also just makes good business sense. Repeatedly ignoring a proportion of your consumers in your brand messaging is going to get you nowhere. We try to tackle this by working with our clients to be as inclusive as we can be in our content, covering issues such as an incredible journey to better mental and physical well-being or raising awareness of what it’s like to travel with a long term mental illness. Audiences respond incredibly well to honest and inclusive pieces of work.

Jonathan Staines, planning director, BWP Group

To create a more diverse, balanced and interesting workforce, the solution is sometimes ‘positive discrimination’. It’s a fundamentally good idea but is problematic when the ‘right person for the job’ is excluded in favour of a candidate from a minority group. A diverse workforce is especially important in our industry: where our challenge is often to understand groups of people to which we may not belong. Many companies – Virgin Trains among them – have sought to employ ex-offenders. This is perhaps the ultimate form of positive discrimination – recruiting some of society’s most marginalised people to give them a second chance.

Kim Briggs and Sarah Geldart, senior creative communications team, RPM

We need to take a step back from the initial issue of misrepresentation of people with disabilities and other communities within ads, and look at the potential under-representation of these communities actually working in the industry. It's hard to truly represent them without having genuine insight. Maybe working in an adland that employs a fair and mixed culture where there's true diversity, spanning LGBT+, BAME as well as people with disabilities is a good place to start. Who better to brief and tackle these issues than those who are misrepresented?

Jonathan Hubbard, creative director & founder, The Clearing

The really interesting part of the question is in the word ‘inclusiveness’. It’s about being/feeling represented, but the extent to which that’s possible is defined by societal barriers that we’re yet to overcome. The question is: what’s our role in breaking these down? As a community of creatives, designers and media makers – who have more influence on shaping public perception than we realise – we need to take more responsibility. It’s lazy to represent people with a disability as heroic in some way. Only by challenging misconceptions will we bring about positive change. That starts with seeing people - not wheelchairs. Maybe we should start by hiring people with disabilities. There’s a shocking lack of diversity in most agencies, and we’re all a part of this. Until we address that issue it will continue to be pale, stale males trying to empathise with groups they don’t represent.

Read more in part 2 of this Vox Pop.

Inclusion Advertising Diversity & Inclusion

Content by The Drum Network member:


Xigen is the full service digital design agency you can trust to produce straight forward marketing strategy and execution, helping you grow your brand and develop...

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Media Bounty

We’re Media Bounty. And we’re working to become the UK’s leading ethical independent creative agency by 2026.

Our team delivers award-winning strategy,...

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Think Jam

Think Jam is an award-winning specialist entertainment marketing agency, proven to deliver communications strategy, consultancy and content creation to global clients...

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We connect a digital society.

Made possible through technology, made personal through data, made powerful through content. Bringing people, communities and...

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BWP Group

We are a strategically-led creative agency specialising in brand and customer experience.

We are passionate about brands and retail, which makes for the perfect...

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With the evolution of the experience economy, people choose purposeful brands that deliver richer experiences, engaging and connecting with their lifestyle and values.


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The Clearing

The Clearing helps clients create clear defendable territory around their brands. We've been voted the UK's number 1 brand consultancy for two consecutive years...

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