NEWS13 March 2018

Why effective advertising and inclusive hiring go hand in hand

Finance Impact 2018 News Trends UK

UK – Truly representative marketing is not just the right thing to do, it also makes commercial sense. But bringing it about in a way that rings true is harder than it looks – and often starts with recruitment, not advertising.

Panel pic

Advertisers and agencies are failing to represent minorities of all kinds in communications, and even people who don’t identify as minorities don’t feel that ads really reflect their lives, the Impact 2018 conference heard.

“Stereotyping is rife in the UK,” said Michael Brown, insight director at UM. “But the discussion around equality is being energised.”

UM research among 2,000 people across the country found that 68% of people want ads to accurately reflect UK society, and 75% say market research has a role to play in helping everyone’s voice be heard. “Everybody in this room has the possibility to have a stake and influence how this story unfolds,” Brown said.

Ros King, director of marketing innovation and communications at Lloyds Banking Group, described the bank’s push to reflect modern Britain, not just in its communications but also among its staff. Research there helped understand how reflective of modern Britain advertising was, and whether representation improved people’s perceptions of brands.

She said that among ads from the top 20 biggest-spending advertisers, only 19% included anyone from a minority, even though minorities included people aged over 65.

“British advertising is still disproportionately white, straight, youthful, and a world of two-parent families,” King said. Around two-thirds of people Lloyds surveyed said advertising should be more diverse, and 65% said they regarded diverse brands more warmly.”

A panel discussion on how best to effect the change that consumers clearly want heard from Karen Fraser MBE, director at Credos. She said a tipping point often came despite doubters within a business.

“In some cases, you just have to believe that what you’re doing is the right thing and press on. There are occasions when bloody-mindedness is good,” she said.

Jan Gooding, president of the MRS and global inclusion director of Aviva, said true inclusivity was “incredibly, incredibly difficult”.

“We’re pursuing an inclusive culture that leads to diversity,” she said. “We’re not chasing tick boxes of different kinds of people. There’s something in it for everybody.”

Fear of a backlash against brands that promoted minorities in their advertising was more often a problem for agencies than for brands themselves, the conference heard; agencies wanted brands to lead, and brands wanted agencies pitching for work to offer diverse teams to work on campaigns.

Diversity within businesses should be seen as a precursor to inclusive communications, the panel said; a brand could not project an inclusive image with any credibility or authenticity if it didn’t promote inclusivity within.

That, panelists said, meant not only recruiting differently, but also providing more support for people when they were hired. “A beautiful tropical fish put into a tank just gets eaten by the other fish,” Gooding said.

Mark Runacus, president of PrideAM, said change started with research, and promotion of the business benefits of inclusivity.

“There’s plenty of evidence for you to take into your organisation to show there is a commercial imperative, and that consumers really identify better and have a much stronger emotional connection with a brand that has an inclusive and diverse approach.”