The Advertising Association, ISBA and the IPA have joined forces to spearhead diversity

The creative industries have come together to form a new Advertising Association Inclusion Group to drive diversity and inclusion across the industry.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


The creative industries have come together to form a new Advertising Association Inclusion Group to drive diversity and inclusion across the industry. 

The launch comes at a crucial time as the Coronavirus crisis delivers an unprecedented challenge to the industry.

The group will be chaired by Kathryn Jacob OBE, CEO of Pearl & Dean, who warned that sadly the crisis is already having a huge impact on diversity and inclusion at a grassroots level. She explained, “The initiatives that exist to recruit diversely are in dire need of support and funding; recruitment levels will fall and learning and development budgets cut. In order to avoid a massive drop off in the already low diversity and inclusion numbers in years to come, we have to act now.”

Jacob added that the current crisis offers an opportunity for the industry to reset and adjust its thinking about diversity and inclusion, just as it already has with remote working.

At the heart of the adjustment is greater cross industry collaboration and the group’s membership spans the brands and organisations committing to making tangible change on diversity and inclusion including Creative Equals, Channel 4, Saatchi & Saatchi and GSK. The group will meet monthly and track progress and change across the industry as it bounces back from the Coronavirus crisis.

By sharing what works we can all benefit and drive diversity and inclusion.

Kathryn Jacob

The power of collaboration

The group’s first action is already live, the creation of the Advertising Needs You website which showcases a number of the best diversity and inclusion schemes from across the industry, as well as highlighting the best work.

Jacob believes that collaboration is vital to progress. “By sharing what works we can all benefit and drive diversity and inclusion,” she explains. “The whole momentum is around continuing to build on existing schemes and practices, ensuring that our industry is open to all talent.” In line with this, the partnership between the Advertising Association, the IPA and ISBA will enable the group to tap into the collective clout of the entire industry landscape. 

This approach will enable the group to amplify the brilliant work and initiatives of existing organisations as well as provide relevant resources and news to people across the industry.

Furloughed not failed

The cross-industry collaboration comes at a pivotal time for the industry. Anecdotal evidence from HR directors suggests that the current crisis is already having a negative impact on diversity and inclusion. Those with caring responsibilities, disproportionately made up of women, are accessing voluntary furlough schemes. As a result, the lack of diversity in particular fields, such as creative departments, is exacerbated. 

Jacobs agrees that there is no question that this situation has intensified some of the pressures that people are experiencing. This is why she hopes that creating a forum to offer support both now and in the future is key. “Right now, those in furlough must feel that they will have a role to play and that organisations are not leaving them to cope rather than thrive. It’s essential we look at our teams and structures through the D&I lens. Everybody should be asking, how can we use the furlough schemes to best protect staff in caring roles, those from low income backgrounds, or BAME recruits in their first role?” she adds.

Seek out the quiet voices. This crisis is a shared experience and we need all inputs, not just the loudest voices.

Kathryn Jacob

Driving diversity remotely

While the crisis is leading to a reduction in investment in diversity and inclusion, arguably when it comes to remote working, pitching remotely and hiring remotely, the industry is facing up to a whole new set of inclusion challenges. While the explosion of online industry events have made the space more inclusive and accessible, technology can amplify existing systems of bias. For example, technology platforms such as Microsoft Teams can have play into the tendency of extroverts to dominate meetings. 

Jacobs believes that these challenges present an opportunity to change and innovate. “Get people to actively include everyone. Seek out the quiet voices. This crisis is a shared experience and we need all inputs, not just the loudest voices.”

She says that businesses are exploring which forms of communication work best for them, using different platforms for different needs. “It’s a period of learning and adjusting that has unified us all. Colleagues can sit in on meetings and events that they might not have had access to before. Where it can, the industry seems to be collaborating and more productive than when we were office-bound, and we have all connected on a much more personal level than ever before.”

At a time when across the industry we are peering into each other's homes on a daily basis Jacobs wants to leverage this ‘uplevelling’ to the full advantage. She explains, “there are also some incredible corporate initiatives across the industry that support returners, women, BAME, LGBTQ+ and disability. Our intention is to encourage the industry to transfer those groups to virtual form and use its inherent creativity to make it work.”

Diversity demands investment

Making it work demands both collaboration and investment which can deliver solid business results. Commenting on the launch of the new inclusion group, the Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said that only by drawing on a diverse talent pool can a business truly reach their full potential.

However, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, investment in training to build diverse and inclusive teams has been hit. It is a challenge which is business critical for the advertising industry as hiring diverse teams to create diverse work is so vital to driving commercial success. Jacobs believes that investing in diversity and inclusion is key to both future proofing your business and ensuring your teams thrive. She adds, “that investment is vital and should be prioritised.”

In a bid to ensure that the industry doesn’t overlook the importance of diversity in the midst of the crisis, once the hub is launched it will help to illustrate the value of diversity to the industry. Jacobs explains, “We will be looking closely at the monetary value of recruiting and retaining diverse teams as well as the creative impact such teams have.”

This is an approach which will ensure that the industry’s post-Coronavirus bounce back is fuelled both by collaboration and an acute recognition of the commercial imperative to continue to invest in diversity and inclusion.