The past 14 months have been difficult for a number of reasons, but the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, due to the harrowing murder of George Floyd, has led the advertising industry to take a hard look at itself and wonder whether it’s doing enough about inclusivity.

Consequently, in March a survey was launched by the industry’s “Inclusion Working Group” made up of the Advertising Association, ISBA, and the IPA. With 16,000 respondents, the inaugural “All In Census” survey managed to reach around 20% of the whole industry. When results were released a fortnight ago, they provided powerful reading, posing questions of whether our industry truly represents the country. The Advertising Association itself then followed up survey results with an online seminar, the “All In Summit”.

During the summit we heard from disabled actors about the Maltesers campaign, launched ten years ago, which remains one of only a handful of advertising campaigns to feature disabled talent. This issue is underlined by the survey results in which disabled talent is shown to be vastly underrepresented in the industry with just 9% working in advertising vs 20% of the working age population. We heard from prominent colleagues from working class backgrounds who spoke candidly about the challenges they face in a relatively middle-class industry, and the conversational code switching that they frequently have to employ. This was backed up by findings of the All In Census which revealed that 28% of advertising professionals attended a fee-paying school (the national average is 8%). The summit touched upon recruitment as we heard about the effects of unconscious bias, with just 1% of executives being black, compared with the national average of 3%.

The session closed with an action plan, focusing upon three immediate aims:

  • Improving the experience and representation of black talent
  • Supporting disabled professionals and the immediate audit of websites across the industry to ensure full accessibility.
  • Encouraging talent from working-class backgrounds and the uptake of the Social Mobility Commission Toolkit.

Inclusivity is profoundly important; not only is it the right thing to do but it also makes commercial sense. Many studies have pointed to the positivity that a diverse workplace brings to the bottom line: “the relationship between diversity and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time” (McKinsey, 2018).

Ultimately, though, it’s by our actions that we are all judged. Here at the7stars we launched our anti-racism charter last year with just a few examples below of what we have already done:

  • Creating our own ethnicity pay gap investigation to identify any issues.
  • Designing bespoke ally training for the whole agency.
  • Changing our Foundation grant-giving strategy to include charities who are actively involved in anti-racism.

We see this very much as just the start of our journey into inclusivity, but we are emboldened by the knowledge that steps are being taken to spotlight disparity and to improve inclusivity across the industry.

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