Building belief is key to creating more diverse work in 2023

Creative Director, Carl Shand, shares how he aims to inspire young Black creatives drawing on his own experiences.

Josie Shand


In 2021 there were 225,000 people in marketing & advertising of which approximately 33,000 were Black British. A statistic which should shock you to the core. Although campaign briefs increasingly address the importance of DEI, the questions still remain. As an industry are we treating diversity as another tick-box exercise? Are we truly ensuring that inclusion is thought about in every aspect of our work and recruitment process? 

Creative businesses have a unique platform to launch powerful campaigns that audiences enjoy, but that can inspire some to take action. The industry is rich with talent and influence. Therefore, despite the economic and emotional challenges afoot,  2023 must be the year that we explore new avenues that weren’t considered before. Hire young talent, inspire them and work collaboratively to create exciting, fresh ideas.

The power of lived experience

Pushing forward an inclusive agenda means focusing on the team behind-the-scenes and where we source knowledge from to create good work. A diverse team that has lived experiences in such communities is ten times more powerful and equipped than those teams that lack. We need to be giving the floor to new talent as only then can we truly look at the bigger picture, create stronger inclusivity in the workplace and grow from our learnings. 

Despite the current market challenges, there is optimism that things can get better. However,  in an industry where 95% of senior leaders in marketing agencies are white, we must look at our structures internally before true progress can be made.

Carl Shand is Creative Director and Founder of Why & Partners, a first-generation black British male and also my dad.  Growing up in Harlow, Essex, Carl lacked the support of his parents, he had to be his own motivation and build his own belief  in his creative abilities. Despite finishing school with average grades, he began his journey in the advertising industry and worked his way up to go on to win 36 awards as a Design and Creative Director in global agencies.

He is also a role model to me. He taught me that without a degree I could still thrive in an industry that was once all about the educational requirements, who we know and what experience we held.

Josie Shand, Team Assistant, Creativebrief

He is a role model to those that don’t have the qualifications and want to explore the world of marketing, representing a pathway black British creatives can believe in. He is also a role model to me. He taught me that without a degree I could still thrive in an industry that was once all about the educational requirements, who we know and what experience we held. 

In the 21st Century, businesses are increasingly showing interest in Industry led initiatives such as Major Players and The Industry Club, which focus on young talented people  in underrepresented groups, hungry for an opportunity to shine. It is important that industry leaders don’t lose focus on this endeavour in the downturn. Acknowledging the benefits of these organisations as a gateway for extraordinary collaborations is vital to change.

We have seen Diversity and Inclusion efforts grow, inspiring young creatives to express themselves with a fresh lens and it is important this trajectory continues. Virgin Atlantic and Lucky Generals’ campaign created with the help of The Diversity Standards Collective is an example of how this theory is put into practice to achieve results. 

The DSC’s influence increased awareness of different communities and ensured they were portrayed accurately and effectively by involving wider teams with members from several diverse backgrounds. So, let’s put people first, brainstorm and engage in more courageous conversations that will then hopefully spark powerful innovative ideas.

In both my work and in personal life Carl has been an inspiration, encouraging me to be proactive, use my creative mind when new projects arise and constantly think about the purpose behind the work I produce. To help prioritise diversity and inclusion in 2023, he shared some of his experiences and advice with me and with BITE:

Carl Shand


Creative Director and Founder

Why & Partners

Q: How was your journey getting into the industry? 

A: Tough. After college, confident of finding work I applied for 80 to 90 jobs all of which required experience. This was unsuccessful. So I later went back to the college for help. My tutor called a design agency in London and ‘sold me in’ with kind words,  until he said ‘and by the way he’s black’. Perhaps unsurprisingly I didn’t get the interview.

However, through nepotism, my best friend's father, a Creative Director at one of London’s leading above the line agencies recommended me to one of London’s leading typography studios. The founders had no interest in seeing my portfolio. Not so tough!

Q: What made you want to take on mentees? And why?

A:  Industries will always use the knowledge from the past to meet the needs of consumers today. I passionately want to use my experience in marketing to help mentees find the BOOM! to a legendary creative idea. There is a but… today’s commercial zeitgeist of hours in the office bears no comparison to the slog in my early years, which is a good thing. But mentees should be made aware that ‘success’ does not come easily. 

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of best selling books including Tipping Point is quoted as saying: ‘It takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials’. 

Unknowingly at the time, I signed up to his theory. 

Q: How do you aim to inspire your mentees?

A: If I can instil the ability for mentees to ‘Stop, Look, Listen & See’ that great stories are everywhere. This is at the heart of how a great idea connects with an everyday truth in society. Articulating this idea, either verbally or in written form in a compelling way is imperative. A big idea poorly presented can be lost forever. I can help mentees learn how to sell an idea. A best selling novel doesn’t need pictures. The result: When a stakeholder's imagination is stoked, it’s unstoppable. 

Q: Do you have a strong ethos that you live by?

A: The majority of people who know me well sometimes (jokingly) ask ‘Am I being interviewed’? My ethos is Why? How? What? Inspired by Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. 

Mentees can fast track their career path by starting with Why? But maybe not in the social setting!

Q: What DEI strategies do you hope to see materialise in 2023?

A: I’m privileged to live in what I believe is the most tolerant and diverse society on the planet. DEI strategies are playing out in our everyday lives outside of any industry. 

As a result a company's strategy will always be informed by societal and behavioural trends in either social media, tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, radio, public opinion or other! I don’t mean to duck the question. What I want to materialise is the day when DEI ceases to be a strategy.  

Q: What is your goal for this year?

A: I don’t think I have a goal, more an ambition. Last year I chose to leave the agency I worked for. Working in a creative, fast-paced, agile agency environment is what I do, but I needed time to think. 

My ambition is to share my experience with a creatively curious ‘DEI native’ entity.

Q: What advice would you give to industry leaders interested in mentoring and making a difference to this issue?

A: Collaborate with mentees. Walk in their footsteps.  Our experience is clearly valuable but avoid the trap of glorifying what you know. A mentor's achievements can easily morph into our personal shrine or echo chamber. Not good. This might sound like I’m inhaling the fruits of a mycelium network but I believe symbiotic relationships in nature are defined by a shared need. I need the mentee as much as the mentee needs me.

To find out about Carl and his work click here. 

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