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Dominic Mills 

Genuine all-inclusiveness; and a ban that puzzles

Genuine all-inclusiveness; and a ban that puzzles

Dominic Mills highlights the upcoming All-in industry census and why it's not enough for clients to push for change if they're not leading by example  

Buried half-way down the announcement last month by the Advertising Association of its All-In cross-industry inclusivity initiative, there is an interesting comment from GSK’s head of media, Jerry Daykin.

“We cannot expect our agencies and partners to take this action if we don’t do the same ourselves, so at GSK, we’re all in….I hope all those in leadership positions across our industry, at brands, agencies, media owners and tech companies, do the same.”

All-In, if you missed it, is intended as a one-off census across all industry players on 10 March, 2021. The information it provides (fingers crossed then that enough people fill it in) on diversity is intended to act as a benchmark, against which future action on diversity can be planned and judged.

I raise Daykin’s point because when you think about the many industry initiatives to develop diversity, they’re mostly agency side.

When clients talk about diversity, it is sometimes seen as a stick with which to beat agencies or to burnish their corporate do-gooding credentials.

As evidence, let me quote you the introduction to the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) most recent report on client-side diversity.

In it, Marc Pritchard, chair of the ANA and P&G marketing boss, writes: “…we want to work with agencies and media providers with diverse workforces. We can’t dictate who they hire but P&G-preferred providers are those who advance equality…”.

He then goes on to define equality in a U.S context as 50/50 male female and 40% minority ethnic, these being the overall U.S population figures.

Perhaps it’s me, but that seems like a veiled threat to agencies.

Meanwhile, as the ANA report shows, its members’ marketing teams — thus a good client-side representation — are miles off Pritchard’s target: 67% female and 74% caucasian. 

The nearest I can find to a UK equivalent, are some figures from Marketing Week last year.

According to its (admittedly self-selecting) sample of 3,880 respondents, 88% of the industry is white; 70% female; 5% Asian; 4% mixed race; 2% black; and 1% other.

By class, which can be a partial proxy for race but also another constituent of diversity, 82% identify as lower-, middle-, or upper class (61% in the latter two categories) and only 17% as working class.

I should add by the way, that if there are diversity stats on a cross-company or aggregate basis for either the media owners or the ad tech sector, I have’t seen them either.

So there you have it: a client-side sector that remains strongly white and middle class pushing its suppliers to be more diverse.

Of those suppliers, it is agencies that have been most active — as this timeline shows, while everybody else seems to have got a free pass.

That is why what Daykin says about clients stepping up matters.

And of course it matters more than ever now. First, because it is against a backdrop in which the subject of ethnicity has shot up the agenda, not just in the context of Black Lives Matter but also as revealed by the disproportionate health, educational and employment impact of the pandemic on BAME communities.

And second because, although I don’t have the stats, I suspect for many inclusivity work in terms of recruitment and retention has taken a backwards step.

The next IPA census will show whether I am right or wrong as far as agencies are concerned, but even in 2019, inclusivity went backwards (marginally, it must be said) but that was when things were normal.

Now? Who knows, but I know of several agencies that have just put their initiatives on hold. And when survival is at stake, it’s hard to be too critical.

Perhaps people will think I’m being unfair on the industry, and particularly on clients and agencies. Let me temper that by saying that there is one area where I think there has been significant progress and that has been in front of the camera, where it is so much more common to see multi-ethnic faces. That’s a big change in four or five years, and it’s a change that both sides can take credit for.

I don’t expect big change in inclusivity of employment across the breadth of the marketing/advertising industry will come overnight. But if we could look back in five years’ time and say, “All-In was the thing that started the process of change,” that would be a result.

Let me add a final note: Oxford University said last week that its 2020 BAME intake topped 23% and those from state schools 68%. If Oxford, until recently a bastion of white privilege, can turn itself round, what’s to stop the marketing industry?

Jab…ban…puzzlement

Apart from going on holiday, one of my favourite activities is thinking about or planning one. After a year of effective suspension, I’m back in the market and, judging by conversations with others, this is by no means limited to the silver surfer market.

I’m therefore more attentive than normal to holiday ads, whatever the medium but especially those in the weekend press.

But after the ASA ban last week of Ryanair’s infamous ‘Jab & Go’ ad, what should they be saying?

I confess, I am puzzled. The ASA classified the 3,000 or so Ryanair complaints into three areas.

First, misleading, in that the ad could imply most of the UK population could be vaccinated by the spring or summer and therefore able to travel without restriction; two, offensive in the way the ad trivialised the pandemic and ongoing restrictions; and three, irresponsible — especially the ‘Jab & Go’ — because it could imply that vaccines could be obtained on demand, offer protection after one dose and, by using imagery of people neither wearing masks nor distancing, encourage irresponsible behaviour.

Charges one and three were upheld — and you can read the full verdict here.

Hmm. I accept that the ads ran at the end of December and in early January when the vaccine drive was in its infancy and its efficacy ad protocols less clear.

But even so, did the complainants really think they could, for example, avoid all the bother of masks and social distancing while on holiday? Or were they just serial Ryanair complainers?

And where does that leave advertisers who don’t even mention vaccines, let alone pre-flight tests, or social distancing rules?

This Easyjet Summer 2021 holidays page looks, for example, how it might do in a normal year.

A Great Rail Journeys ad in Saturday’s Guardian for Glacier Express (no idea what it is, but it’s not for me) trips in April and May (two months away!!!) says nothing about vaccines or eligibility by age seeing as probably only those 65+ will have their double doses by then.

Irresponsible? Of course not, because you’d have to be a hermit not to understand those things. But inconsistent? I think so.

Which brings me to the final puzzle. Given what we know now about dosage efficacy and the rate of vaccination, could the Ryanair ads run now without being banned? Maybe.

And here’s a wacky suggestion. Just like cigarette packs by law must carry gruesome imagery, why not mandate that all travel ads must have a picture of someone on a ventilator. That sounds responsible.

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