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How advertising is addressing uncomfortable truths about its own industry

Caroline Dinenage MP, former Minister for Advertising, speaks at the Advertising Association Parliamentary Reception

Advertising Association

6 min read Partner content

The Advertising Association has recognised the media companies and ad agencies driving real change in diversity and inclusion, as the industry sets out the next phase of its All In action plan, which was showcased in Parliament last week.

The advertising industry encompasses a wide variety of business types and skill sets, but those in attendance at the All In reception last week had one thing in common: a desire to build a workplace where everyone feels like they belong.

The Advertising Association’s Parliamentary Reception took place in the House of Commons and was attended by members of the industry and Parliamentarians with a genuine passion for diversity and inclusion, as well as an ambition to improve how working in advertising is experienced by marginalised groups. All In – the initiative founded by the Advertising Association, ISBA and IPA– also used the event to announce the first wave of companies to have become All In Champions, as well to announce the next focus areas for the campaign.

Dame Caroline Dinenage, who is the Conservative MP for Gosport, and former Minister responsible for Advertising at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, spoke at the reception, congratulating the Advertising Association’s leadership and saying how impressed she was that more than 16,000 people employed in the advertising industry had completed the All In Census last year –  the  the first and biggest survey of its kind ever conducted by the advertising industry across all of its sectors.

“This is a unique snapshot of the industry,” said Dame Caroline Dinenage as she addressed attendees. “All In not only gives us a new insight into the profile of the industry’s employees; it’s giving people a chance to share their own protected characteristics – and crucially their experiences of the workplace. And that will define how to best recruit and essentially how to retain some of the more talented individuals that we need in the industry.”

She called the survey, which aims to assess and improve diversity and inclusion in advertising, “pivotal”, adding: “It really takes some balls to ask the important questions that you might not like the answers to.

“And some of it doesn't actually make for very easy reading. Why is it that only 2% of those working in the advertising industry have a physical disability, compared to 7% in the UK working population? Why is it that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to have felt uncomfortable in the workplace, and why do less than half of those with mental health conditions feel that they can make their company aware of them?

“They're tough questions, aren't they? But they're the right questions, because only by asking this can our workplace become more inclusive, more diverse and more representative.

“The All In Champions have all adopted a series of actions that have been shaped by the Census data. The growing number of fantastic case studies demonstrates how they've implemented the industry action plan and how it’s creating a wealth of best practice for all of us to share.”

Dinenage went on to explain that improving diversity and inclusion was “not simply the right thing to do”, but would also ensure new voices, ideas and perspectives strengthen the creativity of an industry she called one of the UK’s “global superpowers”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, also spoke at the reception, noting that despite the progress the industry has made so far in terms of representation in advertising media, there is still a long way to go.

“The issue of course, is that we shouldn’t just show [diversity] on our screens because it makes us feel better, or because it brings money into the coffers. We have to live it as organisations as well,” she said. “We have to make sure that the people in the rooms putting on their adverts and designing the schemes and doing all of that work also feel that they are represented. And that is why all of the different pledges from this campaign are really, really important. It isn’t just about what we see, because what we see has already vastly improved.”

Among the 70 companies revealed at the reception as inaugural All In Champions were media owners, ad agencies, retail brands and tech giants.

In order to qualify, the companies had provided evidence that they were supporting the All In programme and had adopted the first six actions from its action plan: improving the experience and representation of Black, disabled, working-class, women, Asian and older talent.

Acknowledging that some of the survey results made for “painful reading”, Kathryn Jacob OBE, Chair of the Inclusion Working Group & CEO of Pearl & Dean, praised the All In Champions for their efforts in tackling the issues the Census raised.

“This work is crucial,” she said. “It's immensely gratifying that in response to the results, so many companies – many of you in the room tonight – have stepped up, signed up and signalled a willingness to be part of this work.

“The All In Champions have all adopted a series of actions that have been shaped by the Census data. The growing number of fantastic case studies demonstrates how they've implemented the industry action plan and how it’s creating a wealth of best practice for all of us to share.”

To help companies prepare to become All In Champions, the Advertising Association has hosted a series of free-to-attend sessions providing guidance tackling each action – and it will now do the same for the next three actions in its action plan, which aim to improve mental health in the workplace, as well as the experience of both LGBTQ+ and disabled talent in the industry.

It’s clear that more uncomfortable questions and answers may lie ahead – but this is an industry that’s not afraid to confront a few of its own home truths.

The full list of All In Champions are: adam&eveDDB, Advertising Association, AMV BBDO, Bray Leino, Channel 4 Television, Clear Channel UK, Dentsu (including Carat, Dentsu X, B2B International, Mcgarrybowen, Gleam Futures, iProspect, John Brown, Isobar, Merkle, MKTG, Posterscope, Story lab, re:production, Whitespace), Digital Cinema Media, Direct Line Group, Google, IAB, IPG Mediabrands (Initiative, Rapport, Reprise, UM, Orion), ISBA, ITV, Leo Burnett, Mail Metro Media, McCann Worldgroup, MediaCom, Omnicom Media Group (MGOMD, OMD, Hearts & Science, Drum, Fuse, PHD), P&G, Pearl & Dean, Pinterest, Publicis Groupe (Leo Burnett, Performics, Publicis Media, Saatchi & Saatchi, Spark Foundry, Starcom, Zenith), Smart Energy, Specsavers, Tesco, the7stars, TikTok, VCCP and Wunderman Thompson.


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