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Advertising Inclusion Diversity & Inclusion

How can we encourage more inclusivity in advertising? (Part 2)

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 5, 2017 | 7 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.

Smirnoff's inclusive 'We're Open' campaign

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 Part 2 of 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.

Imogen Almond, new business and marketing executive, RPM

We need to stop talking and start doing. Enough excuses. We need to tackle the fear of being awkward and simply start reflecting life in all its wonderful diversity. The spending power of disabled people is estimated by the government to be over £200bn a year. Enough ignoring, enough brushing under the carpet. The Paralympics and Invictus Games have done a lot, but four years after London 2012, 43% of the British public said they don’t know anyone who is disabled and 67% feel awkward around disability. We as an industry have the power to change attitudes, to question them and provide different perspectives. We just need to get on with it. Let’s start telling more stories and use a more diverse workforce to do it.

Kate Flather, creative director, Earnest

Inclusiveness needs to come from within the industry. We tend to reflect ourselves in our marketing, and when we try to connect with people whose perspectives are different we often fall short. That’s part of being human: it takes a gigantic empathetic leap to really understand what's inside someone else's mind. (Look at how women were portrayed in advertising in the 70s and 80s when the industry was 99.9% male.) Agencies and marketing departments need to commit to recruiting more imaginatively and with broader minds. The result will be unselfconsciously inclusive campaigns and deeper connections between audiences and brands.

Sammy Mansourpour, managing director, AgencyUK

An agency team must lead by example and always be brave. We must keep putting fresh and diverse creative ideas forward, however, it's the chief marketing officers, managing directors and brand managers who make the final call on what runs. What is encouraging is that we now have a groundswell to work with, so it's getting easier for agencies to get great, meaningful and socially diverse work considered. Agency planners must spend more time better understanding and tapping into the diversity of brand audiences. The usual agency process 'by definition' simplifies audiences into base profiles 'like' people together to form a majority, which in turn becomes the target. Stereotypes and personas are by definition a celebrated outcome. The truth is a planning process rarely embraces diversity, but big data, personalisation, social fragmentation is breaking down these barriers and making individuality a far more essential component.

Ben Woolf, head of creative brand experience, RPM

I think there is still an awkwardness with this subject, as there is always the fear of advertising exploiting, offending or being un-PC. Traditionally, we only see ‘disability’ being celebrated in the context of sporting achievement like the Invictus Games and Paralympics (both of which are amazing organisations). The reason that the Maltesers advert was so successful was because it is fearlessly celebrating life’s funny moments. Even the term disability can be decisive as demonstrated by this excellent campaign for Mencap that is trying to destigmatise people with learning disabilities. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we could all learn something from this and we shouldn’t pigeon-hole disability or be awkward around it, there are many reasons to be inspired

Andrew Brown, executive creative director, Brass

It’s great that there’s growing representation in the market, and that’s essential to developing inclusion across society and that diverse groups feel that they are welcome to participate in the industry. And that’s the greater opportunity - for brands and agencies to operate with integrity. This will only happen if inclusivity is part of a brand’s DNA. Then they will have license to reflect all sectors of society in a way that is true to them, otherwise it could be seen as cynical and opportunistic.

Bogdan Marinescu, digital PR specialist, Greenlight Digital

Inclusivity seems to be the new, hot buzzword now, just as environmental responsibility was a few years ago. Unfortunately, at times it still feels that companies are exploiting others’ identities or special characters to promote their business. The truth is that our boardrooms and marketing teams aren't yet inclusive of the general population around us. Before inclusivity can fully be reflected in advertising, it needs to be at the heart of a company’s business strategy. Only by having an entire organisation stand behind diversity and inclusivity can you truly reflect that through advertising. Only then can you have a much more thought-through, natural inclusivity message that is embedded in the very fabric that makes up an organisation.

Ewen Haldane, business director, The School of Life

It’s clearly better in one sense to have more people from previously excluded groups represented in ads. But if brands really want to influence the wider culture, it’s better still to feature disabled or LGBT people in ways that don’t make an explicit point about their difference. When the focus of the ads is too obviously about the disability of the featured actor for example, it can reinforce a sense of separateness. Disabled or LGBT people aren’t ‘superhuman’ or special. They are - just like all of us - completely ordinary, with the same worries, anxieties, likes and dislikes as anyone else. It’s better to be invited to a party than excluded of course, but being invited in a way that flags how different we are can feel patronising or alienating in just another sense. The really inclusive brands don’t tell us that diversity is ok, they just show us, without making a big deal out of it.

Read more in Part 1 of this Vox Pop.

Advertising Inclusion Diversity & Inclusion

Content by The Drum Network member:


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

RPM collaborates with some of the world’s best known and forward-thinking brands to connect in culture, innovate new experiences and win in retail because in a world where actions speak louder, every experience matters.


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Earnest is the award-winning B2B marketing agency that’s chasing out the humdrum in London and New York.

Why is B2B treated like the poor cousin to B2C? Business people are still people, after all – they just happen to be at work.

Since we opened for business in 2009, we’ve built brands, shaped strategies, produced content programmes, created experiences and developed campaigns that not only deliver results, but engage and delight their audiences too.

Our story

B2B marketing is tough. There are hard-to-reach audiences. Difficult-to-please internal stakeholders. And very often complex, intangible products.

That’s why B2B deserves just as much attention, passion and intellectual energy as B2C. And it’s why Earnest is on a mission to raise standards in B2B, creatively and strategically. Chasing out the humdrum, and ushering in the unexpected.

We positively relish the unique challenges that B2B marketing presents. Since we started the agency in 2009, we’ve earned a reputation for devising solutions that go beyond the obvious, often delivering far more than the client’s original objectives.

The agency offers an unusually broad mix of disciplines – including branding, campaigns, strategic planning, content, and experiential – and we’ve won awards for them all. That’s testament to the fact that we approach every challenge, of every size and every shape, in the same way – with high standards and open minds.

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We’re an independent brand communications agency voted Ad Agency of The Year 2019 and Brand Strategy Agency of the Year 2020 by Drum Recommends. Our services span brand strategy, identity, positioning and activation; creative development, media planning, social and PR including influencer outreach, community management, content strategy & planning and web design and development.

We’re interested in helping our clients drive demand and sales.

Our results speak for themselves -

Iconic confectionery brand

Moved their NPS score by 10 points over 9 months and moved their UK positioning from 4th to 2nd in category.

Swiss skin care and supplement brand

Achieved a 70% increase in Holland & Barrett retail sales by quarter 2 of our campaign and 30% increase in online sales quarter on quarter.

Dog food brand

83% increase in sales across 2020 with 155% increase in online sales.

Global juice and fruit brand

Increased their sales by 20% in Tesco and ASDA during the campaign period and increased their baseline score by 14%.

Heritage Kitchenware brand

Within 4 weeks of the campaign being live, we more than doubled sales on Ocado. Overall, the campaign activity drove a whopping 50% increase in sales. Increased online sales in 2020 by 82%

Bio-tech brand

We drove more than 60 orders in the first 3-months (exceeding production capabilities).

Global Clinical Research Organisation.

We have increased on-site conversions by 37% and reduced recruitment media spend on similar trials by 23%.

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We’re Brass.

We’re a special kind of marketing agency that exists to design and deliver amazing consumer experiences for our clients. We’re a collective of creative and strategic thinkers from every conceivable marketing background - digital, shopper, media, PR, insight, advertising, mobile, branding, search and content – focusing on acquisition, content and UX to create unique ideas and powerful solutions that exceed expectations for both clients and audiences. We’ve also won a few awards along the way.

We love to explore new ideas but we’re also nimble and get stuff done. We’re straight talking, open-minded and fun to work with. We work hard but are always learning and we never stand still.

We’re Brass. A special kind of agency.

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Greenlight (now part of Brave Bison)

Greenlight has lived and breathed digital since 2001, when we started as three people in an old North London print shop. Today, we’re a full-service digital and commerce agency made up of 170 people, with a reputation for producing integrated, transformational strategies across the entire digital space.

We’re still run by the very same people who set us up, and we’re proud to be independent. It means we can move more quickly, boldly and effectively.

Our approach is data-led and 100% audience focused, which allows us to solve problems in the most impactful and measurably effective way for our clients. Of course, all this would mean nothing without our incredible staff. Our teams are made up of some of the most skilled, passionate, and inquisitive minds in the industry. People who really care about making a difference, and who our clients genuinely enjoy working with.

It’s this focus and passion that’s seen us deliver innovative work for brands such as ghd, Dixons Carphone, Superdry, Furniture Village, and eBay in over 30 countries.

We’re the people that grow our clients’ business, by putting their customers first.

And with over 140 nominations and awards under our belts, we think we must be doing something right.

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The School of Life

The School of Life is a unique team of world leading psychologists, philosophers, artists, designers, poets, sociologists and anthropologists. We are a global organisation with a mission to help people lead more fulfilled lives.

We consult and partner with businesses, applying the best ideas from philosophy, psychology and culture.We are as comfortable discussing Socrates and Plato, as talking about Strategy and PR. Free of the jargon and prejudices of typical mba’s, we bring a highly distinctive perspective on the problems of business.

No other agency offers the breadth and depth of thinking you will find here.

We work in three main ways:

Insight & Analysis 

We analyse how your business performs in relation to the deepest aspirations and unmet needs of your customers.

Customer Experience Innovation

We develop ideas for new products, interventions & services to transform the way customers experience your offer.

External & Internal Communications

We create thought provoking content, beautiful objects and unique experiences that blur the line between art and advertising.







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