It’s always nice to feel you’re on the side of the angels.
It felt pretty good to hear that we were at the beginnings of a “diversity tsunami” at yesterday’s launch of the CIPR‘s report into diversity in the PR industry. If this piece on the public’s response to the UK advertising landscape is to be believed it may even be true – after all, something’s got to change:
almost two-thirds of people in the UK feel the ad industry does not represent them, and almost two-fifths say advertising characters and messages fail to reflect British society as a whole…. one in six say they are prepared to avoid buying products from companies that fail to take diversity seriously.
It seems, that the public are ahead of the PR and marketing industries on this one.
The CIPR report is sobering reading, highlighting a slow rate of progress in closing the gender pay-gap, welcoming employees with disabilities and – my personal bugbear – focussing so much on the “young and dynamic” that it forgets the insight that experienced (and dynamic) older professionals offer.
Looking for a magic bullet
Many of the speakers yesterday repeated the mantra that “there is no magic bullet” for resolving the unconscious biases which dog recruitment – not just in PR but pretty much everywhere. But there were some great case studies showing how diversity helps business. I liked the story of the owner of a small PR agency who grew her business by recruiting an ethnically diverse team – confessing with admirable honesty that it was mainly because of the financial support Creative Access offered her to do so. She soon found that her small business was out-competing larger agencies, winning international contracts because they had staff members who could – literally – speak their clients’ language.
My example – told here before – of the agency which couldn’t find a way to talk to an audience of over-50s fits that narrative exactly. Putting it bluntly, if you don’t understand the UK’s ageing population and you don’t know how to talk to older people, you can’t sell them stuff (and like it or not, we’re the bit of the population that’s still got a disposable income…) Having a workforce that looks like the people it’s trying to communicate with – in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the representation of people with disabilities – isn’t just a nice thing to do, it makes sound commercial sense.
When the audience takes the lead
There was agreement yesterday that the greatest chance for achieving change will come from pressure on companies from their supply chains; which is why that one in six who might change their purchasing behaviour if companies don’t take diversity seriously are so important.
Only two flies in the ointment of the Marketing Week report. The first is this:
a third of marketers polled in separate research by Marketing Week … believe that a lack of multiculturalism in advertising has no impact on what people buy
As an industry we need to catch up with our customers.
The second is the welcome it gives to the John Lewis ad as an example of older people in advertising. Readers will know how I feel about this Christmas campaign. I much prefer the Aldi’s spoof where, instead of a set of binoculars, the man on the moon receives a companion, delivered by balloon to brighten his Christmas. (The gender politics of describing her as a “special buy” might be slightly problematic, I suppose, but I choose to believe that she willingly strapped herself to the chair – and I wish them both a happy Christmas)