Getting further away from the frontline
Our industry struggles with different perspectives and voices, however. The IPA’s latest Agency Census shows that there are fewer BAME people in UK agencies than last year, and the targets for women in senior positions is still some way from being met. It’s no wonder, then, that 72% of people feel the majority of advertising does not reflect the world around them, while 63% didn’t see themselves represented in most advertising. If the people making the work aren’t represented, then how will the people they’re trying to reach be reflected?
There’s a danger that the marketing sector is going to get even further away from the frontline and is at risk of navel-gazing. We only have to take the experience of lockdown to see the trajectory we could be heading in. We have all had to adjust, but it’s fair to say that the life of a marketer right now is a relatively easy ride, cocooned in the comfort of Zoom calls and ‘quarantinis’, and getting further away from the reality of what’s going on in the world. There’s a duty on us to stay grounded and relevant.
Going from mainstream to BAMEstream
To be grounded, we need to hear from the harder-to-reach groups. The statistics show that people from BAME backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic: 63% of all those who have died of COVID-19 within the medical profession are from ethnic minority backgrounds; 34% of more than 4,800 critically-ill patients with COVID-19 identified as Black, Asian or minority ethnic. These percentages are vastly out of kilter with the percentage of BAME in the NHS and society as a whole.
There is a huge swath of society that is experiencing lockdown in a tragically different manner, and if we try to resort to returning to bright, positive adverts that either sell things that no-one can afford or are simply misguided to the reality of people’s experiences right now, then marketers risk renewed calls of being ‘tone deaf’. To prevent this, we have to look beyond the mainstream narrative of what we’re reading or watching. Now is the time to go back to the basics of understanding what’s really happening in society and work out how to be relevant in all of our customers’ minds.