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All In: Creating the inclusive workplace we want and need

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead at the Advertising Association on how the industry can achieve inclusion together.

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, The Advertising Association

Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead

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The ad industry has been working hard over recent years to improve how people are depicted in our work and this has seen a positive impact on consumers. What was termed ‘progressive advertising’ is simply advertising that mirrors modern society and consumers respond really well when we challenge stereotypes and choose to reflect the world we live in. From the real women in the ground-breaking Dove campaigns and the Maltesers ad that starred actor and disability activist Samantha Renke, to the many ads today that feature central characters with different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientation for example, we know that businesses see a positive impact. The public think the ads are more relevant and enjoyable – and they increase purchase intent.  

With this increasing focus on our work, we wanted to take a step back and give the same attention to the people who create, buy and sell advertising. By improving representation in our workforce our work would inevitably be more authentic and it would also help us attract talent long into the future.

The All In Campaign was launched in January, as a collaboration between the Advertising Association, ISBA and the IPA which ensures the reach across brands, agencies, media owners, tech platforms and production companies via our memberships. Its ambition is to improve inclusion and representation within the industry, with everyone who works in UK advertising feeling that they belong. 

Having formed a small working group across the three organisations early last year, we first launched a hub to showcase all the brilliant initiatives that exist to recruit, support and advance diverse talent. This was an important first step as we wanted to amplify what was already being done rather than reinvent and our hope was that by centralising these resources in a one-stop shop we might accelerate the progress being made. 

In a year when all our lives have been turned upside down, with some positive learnings and extreme challenges, we have repeatedly seen collaboration at its best.

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead at the Advertising Association

We realised we couldn’t prioritise what to do next until we knew how our industry is made up and how we feel about our working in it. This made way for the All In Census, the first ever industry-wide inclusion survey, conducted by Kantar. By creating a special day on March 10th for the industry and getting leaders to pledge their commitment to cascade to their staff, we had an amazing response of over 16k from across the industry landscape. It has also inspired a global roll out of the same inclusion survey via the WFA later this month. This vital data has informed the first phase of the All In Action Plan which has set out the three initial areas of focus:

•           To improve the experience and representation of Black talent

•           To improve the experience and representation of Disabled talent

•           To improve the experience and representation of Working Class talent.

We shared the findings and the All In Action Plan at the All In Summit last week, which featured a range of speakers from across advertising and media, including Sam Renke mentioned above. Despite some positives within the results, particularly in terms of representation, there are some shocking statistics to come out of the questions around our experience at work. For example, 32% of Black talent is likely to leave the industry because of a lack of inclusion and 22% of Disabled talent is likely to leave their organisation. And an area where we need to do much more to improve representation is social mobility, as people from a professional and privileged background outnumber working class people by almost two to one. 

The All In Action Plan has a deliberately simple structure. Initially, there is just one very clear ask of industry for each of the actions above. We hope that if we all do the same three things at the same time, we can make significant progress. And the simplicity of the calls to action is not to dismiss other issues that were reinforced by the data. We are already working with groups including Media For All, WACL, Outvertising and NABS on other actions to be announced later this year.

In a year when all our lives have been turned upside down, with some positive learnings and extreme challenges, we have repeatedly seen collaboration at its best. The UK galvanised itself to stay at home, support the NHS, look after and notice each other in ways that we hadn’t before. Rather than slow down our work on Inclusion, the pandemic has given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper and create the inclusive work environments we want and need. By doing that, we have a much better chance of retaining our colleagues that are feeling under-valued, unheard or just ‘other’ and creating a workplace that will attract – and keep – talent that brings the diversity of thought that is so crucial for a creative industry. I would urge anyone who wants to get involved in All In to get in touch and explore what we can achieve together. 

Guest Author

Sharon Lloyd Barnes, The Advertising Association

Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead

About

Sharon Lloyd Barnes is Commercial Director and Inclusion Lead at the Advertising Association. The Advertising Association promotes the role and rights of responsible advertising and its value to people, society, businesses and the economy.