In an era of political division and uncertainty, diversity has never been a hotter topic. But in these fractured times, brands can play an influential role in society and culture – and consumers expect they should.
In a recent study by Lloyds Bank, two thirds of respondents claimed to have a more positive association with brands that reflect diversity in their advertising. It’s no coincidence then that diversity and inclusion has featured so heavily in creative advertising over the past 12 months.
Diversity in advertising
Beyond Lloyds’ own ‘For your next step’ campaign, focused on giving confidence to its customers, no matter who they are; we don’t have to look far to find many other brands working to build value around celebrating difference. Think Maltesers’ braille billboards and ‘This girl can’ from Sports England to disruptor brands founded on modern, inclusive values – Airbnb’s recent unifying ‘We accept’ campaign, for instance, pulls the thread on President Trump’s executive order on immigration with an homage to acceptance: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong.”
We hear often that diversity is a crucial asset for business. In no other industry is that more true than in creative advertising and communications, where the most innovative, most infectious ideas are built on different ways of thinking. In short, valuing diversity is valuing new ideas. And since new ideas are our currency, agencies that focus on diversity and inclusion are best placed to deliver them.
According to 2016’s Great British Diversity Experiment, the more diverse the talent pool the more distinctive, merit-worthy creative ideas are generated. The study, which set out to uncover why diversity makes good business sense in the communications industry, also found that people in diverse teams are also more comfortable to be themselves – a vital ingredient to creative thinking.
Do we practice what we preach?
The report highlights ways in which businesses can act now to embed diversity within the culture of their organisation. A necessity, it would seem, as despite being an industry that so readily plaudits diversity in its work with clients, it seems advertising and communications businesses still have a way to go when it comes to practicing diversity themselves.
Of the recently published Campaign Power 100, a compendium of the marketing industry’s most inspiring and brightest stars, less than 33% of the talent was female. And not one media or advertising business made the cut in Stonewall’s annual Workplace Equality Index of the 100 most inclusive employers in Britain – including Auntie Beeb, which incidentally featured a same-sex kiss in its Christmas ad for the first time this year.
Now more than ever, diversity matters. It’s time for the creative industries to not only embrace and celebrate difference in its work, but embed it within its own organisations. The more we can appropriately and authentically represent the diversity of culture, our clients and their customers in our own teams and our own thinking, the stronger our relationships and the more outstanding our work with them can become.
Note: The image used for this blog post is from the ‘We Accept’ campaign by Airbnb 2017.
“Valuing diversity is valuing new ideas. And since new ideas are our currency, agencies that focus on diversity and inclusion are best placed to deliver them.”