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Championing progress on inclusion in advertising: a view from government and industry

Caroline Dinenage MP and Sharon Lloyd Barnes | Advertising Association

6 min read Partner content

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead, at the Advertising Association, and Caroline Dinenage MP, former Minister for Digital and Culture reflect on the importance of inclusion in advertising, and how we can nurture talent in our workforce.

Over 16,000 were ‘ALL IN’ and shaped UK advertising’s All In Action Plan

Sharon Lloyds Barnes, Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead, Advertising Association

The advertising industry is a key engine for growth, projected to contribute £29.3 billion to the UK economy this year. It also drives innovation, competition and creates jobs, and the UK boasts the largest online advertising market in Europe, with only the US and China ahead of us globally.

As an industry, we recognise that we need to nurture the talent in our workforce, as well as promoting it more widely as a career option for talent from all backgrounds. Advertising should authentically reflect the diverse society we serve, and not just in the people and cultures that feature in advertising, but also those who make, buy and sell it. But before we could launch any plans for action, we needed to know how our workforce is currently made up. On March 10th this year, the Advertising Association in collaboration with the IPA and ISBA ran the All In Census – a first of its kind inclusion survey for everyone with a role in UK advertising and an initiative that became the blueprint for a global version that the World Federation of Advertisers ran in 27 countries this summer.

Leaders from advertising agencies, brands, media owners, tech platforms and production companies pledged to share the survey with their staff and we received an incredible response of over 16,000. The results not only show us how we identify, but also how we feel about where we work. This invaluable data has shaped the first phase of our evolving All In Action Plan and provides the industry with a vital benchmark to measure individual businesses against.

We announced the first three actions at a special summit on June 10th, with a very positive response from across the industry ecosystem. Many businesses have started to use the data and action plan to align their own Diversity & Inclusion strategies against, so it meets every business wherever they are in terms of improving representation and working culture.

Since the first phase was announced, we have also been working with existing industry pressure groups such as MEFA (Media for All), WACL, Bloom, Outvertising and 40 Over Forty to work on future actions across gender, age, Asian talent and LGBTQ+. By leveraging the fantastic work of these groups we have avoided reinventing the wheel and have accessed relevant expertise across many diverse communities.

We plan to repeat the All In Census in March 2023, and every two years thereafter. We recognise that we can all play a part in ensuring this happens and have been encouraged by the number of businesses who want to be acknowledged as an All In Champion. We will announce this list in June, one year on from sharing the findings and Action Plan, which will include many household names and global stakeholders.

By checking in with the industry to track progress, while delivering further actions, we are confident that we can leverage the very positive intent and commitment to create a more inclusive workplace for all.


Actioning inclusion into the advertising industry

Caroline Dinenage MP, former Minister of State for Digital and Culture

Our advertising industry is truly something to be proud of. In 2019 it contributed £17 billion to our economy, employing more than 190,000 people across the country. It is a vital cornerstone of our world-leading creative sector.

Whether it’s via a well-crafted slogan or a catchy jingle, great adverts stay with us. They have the power to bring about positive change and influence our behaviour.

Simple phrases such as “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.” have helped keep us all safe over the past year, whilst vaccine campaigns have encouraged millions of us to get jabbed and get protected.

But we need to ensure that we are equipping future generations to grow the creative legacy that this industry has cultivated and the first phase of the All In Action Plan will tackle some of the barriers faced.

The All in Census marks a pivotal moment in improving representation across the advertising landscape and we now have some powerful data from which we can benchmark progress.

The All In Action Plan firstly highlights the importance of the experience and representation of Black talent in the advertising industry. The census showed us that while the initial recruitment of Black talent is strong, retention rates drastically drop and just 1% of C-Suite colleagues are Black.

This is an issue we need to tackle urgently and I’m encouraged to see some of the largest names in advertising are powering major initiatives on diversity in our sector, including through the brilliant work of the Conscious Advertising Network and the CAP and BCAP consultation into harm and protected characteristics.

The second strand in the Action Plan seeks to significantly improve the experience of disabled people in the advertising workforce.

Throughout the pandemic, many people have changed their working patterns and it has become increasingly possible to balance our lives in new ways.

But we must work harder to ensure that our digital platforms are fully accessible to all.

The third and final strand of the Action Plan aims to improve the experience and representation of talent from working class backgrounds. To date, the advertising industry is predominantly made up of private school and university graduates.

Promoting social mobility is core to the Government’s levelling up agenda and I strongly believe in increasing apprenticeships in the creative industries.

We are providing individuals with an alternative route into the workforce helping firms of all types and sizes recover from the pandemic. The government’s  Apprenticeships and Kickstart programmes are already making a real difference.

To date, employers in the creative industries have advertised 8000 opportunities with over 2000 placements currently in train - a major achievement so far.

These initiatives will give many people with talent and ambition, regardless of their background, the opportunity to build a successful career in the creative industries. We are a culturally rich nation and it is important that we do all we can to keep up the progress made and play our part in making sure that the workforce at every level better reflects the society that we live in.


You can read the Advertising Association's All in Action Plan here.

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