Blogging Competition Entry: “Diversity Is Key”

It’s fair to say that things are getting better, but a distinct lack of diversity within the advertising industry still continues to persist (to my knowledge) in the UK.

As a recent graduate from the University of Sussex, I spent 3 years at a college where (if I had to compartmentalise), “upper-middle class” kids were by far in the majority. To avoid such categorisation, I’m going to define this dominant group as young people whose parents went to University and more often than not, happened to have maintained long-standing (and successful careers) in the creative industries.

Where I came from (and without divulging too much), this was certainly not the case. Thus, my time spent at University was actually an astonishing period of enlightenment where I was made aware of the possibilities for a career that could actively involve the application of my creative/communications skills.

This is why I can only react to the recent publication of the Iris (agency that invented the 2012 Olympics mascots) staff benefits handbook with anger and despair. Not only is the linear and unimaginative conceptualisation of the brief disappointing in itself, but the execution involves employees of the agency stereotyping the typical benefits claimant in the UK; dressing up in sporting attire, smoking whilst heavily pregnant and riding mobility scooters.

Cocooned in their own ignorance, and almost certainly blinded by the lack of diversity that they have been exposed to themselves (ski trips to Val d’Isère don’t qualify as cultural education programmes), these affluent, educated representatives of the creative industries in the UK are doing nothing to encourage and inspire any form of inclusion and involvement for people of differing backgrounds.

I find it quite astonishing that in 2012, a selection of intelligent (open for debate) and educated people were able to produce and distribute a piece of work that openly draws upon the archaic and divisive nature of snobbery and classism that has polluted our society in the UK for hundreds of years. In a country that harbours some of the lowest social mobility statistics in the developed world (see “The Charts That Shame Britain”), and just a year on from the worst rioting that we have ever seen, Iris appear to have got off quite lightly.

What is most disappointing is that, the transition towards a fully functioning knowledge economy is paramount to our country’s growth. The implementation of “city academies” for example (judge them as you wish) is designed to nurture a wider range of directly applicable skillsets that could at least provide otherwise marginalised young people a chance to not only enter a relatively inaccessible industry, but also to develop a career based on a means outside of paying £9,000 a year for tuition fees at University.

Within the advertising industry, enhanced conversations with potential consumers that encourage inclusion and inspiration are more important than ever. Thus, the involvement of great thinkers from all walks of life will be integral to the success of any advertising agency moving forward. Be warned Iris.

*End of Entry*

Message from AdSoc: If you’d like to submit an entry to the Bloggathon for a chance to win an internship at CHI & Partners in London, find out how here. The deadline has been extended to December 25th

One Comment

  1. Sam wrote:

    Jonathan Akwue, Global Client Managing Director at Engine wrote an interesting article on diversity for this week’s Campaign. He takes a fresh approach on the topic, applauding recent initiatives taken by various members of the industry. Examples include BMB’s innovative decision to take up diversity as a creative challenge by means of a Skype interveiw roulette played by over 400 people in a 16 hour period and the Ideas Foundation’s online platform ‘I am creative’ which gives young people a chance to respond to briefs set by sponsor companies.

    Youth engagement agency Livity has partnered with Google to develop the Advantage programme to give young people from less advantaged backgrounds eight weeks’ training and experience in digital campaign management leading to fully paid 12-month digital marketing apprenticeships at some top UK companies.

    This year, for the first time, Advantage is running alongside Google’s agency graduate scheme which means that both groups will share industry-leading guest speakers and participants support each other and exchange ideas.

    Akwue will be speaking on these issues at the IPA with Hegarty, Wight and Ed Vaizey on 13th November. The event will also launch the documentary Diversity In Advertising, made by Clever Peeps, Media Citizens and The Ideas Foundation.

    For the full article see: