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Does More Diversity in Brand and Ad Agency Teams Add Value?

Does More Diversity in Brand and Ad Agency Teams Add Value?

As the UK becomes increasingly diverse, marketing teams and advertising agencies are asking themselves whether this diversity is being accurately represented within their own industry.

Why is diversity so important for the advertising industry? And will increasing the diversity of your team have a positive impact on it, or should there be more considerations at play?

How Diverse Are Brand And Ad Agency Teams?

According to data from the 2020 IPA Agency Census, 15.8% of staff at media agencies and 12.3% of staff at Creative / Other agencies are from a BAME background. Although this is roughly in line with the number of BAME people living in the UK (13.8%), it is well below the IPA’s 2015 targets of having 25% of new starters from a BAME background by 2020. Furthermore, BAME representation at C-suite level is just 4.7%, well below the IPA target of 15%.

The struggle to meet diversity targets is even more pronounced in more senior roles, with recent data showing that 37% of the companies within the FTSE 100 did not have a single director from a BAME background. Although the numbers are slowly increasing, questions could be raised over the lack of representation in boardrooms when compared to the number of BAME people living in the UK.

What Are The Benefits Of Greater Diversity?

Having more diversity within teams has been shown to have a positive correlation with financial performance. McKinsey analysed data from Canada, Latin-America, the UK and the US, and found that companies within the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to see financial returns that exceeded their country’s average. Companies with higher levels of gender diversity were 15% more likely to see higher than average returns.

There are other significant benefits as well. A study from Harvard Business Review found that companies with more diverse teams were more likely to solve problems faster, as they were able to bring a wider perspective of opinions to the table.

A Deloitte survey revealed that greater levels of diversity could reduce high turnover rates: 39% of workers said that they would leave their organisation to join a more inclusive one, while 23% of respondents said that they already had. Furthermore, a survey by Glassdoor found 3 out of 4 job seekers in the US say that a diverse workforce is an important factor when considering a job offer, demonstrating that more diversity can help to attract new talent to a company.

A more diverse team can also help increase the creative output of your team. Lincoln Stephens, CEO of US nonprofit The Marcus Graham Project, which seeks to create opportunities within advertising for people from a diverse range of backgrounds, pointed out that an increase in  diversity may help brands craft authentic marketing campaigns. “Perspective breeds thoughtful creativity. When they lack perspective, brands have the ability to be tone deaf,” he said.

Alex Goat, Chief Executive of Livity, a youth-led creative network in London, echoed this view, claiming that: “..creativity and diversity are inextricably linked,” and that it has been, “…proven time and time again that more diverse teams lead to more creative solutions and more innovation.”

Not Enough On Its Own

While increased diversity can be extremely positive for brands, it’s important to consider how these diverse teams will function in practice. If companies begin hiring more inclusively while having little consideration of how to manage a culturally diverse team, they may quickly be accused of having made ‘token hires’. Brands and agencies should be aware that their efforts to create a more diverse workplace are part of a broader strategy and not just a tick-box exercise.

Christina Brooks, CEO of diversity-focused software company Ruebik, spoke in an interview about the risks that short-term inclusion goals can have. “Token hiring is just window dressing with no real commitment to infrastructural change or challenging problematic behaviours around inclusion and culture,” she said.

And Arthur Woods, Co-Founder of diversity recruiting platform Mathison, spoke in an interview about how companies who want the very real long-term benefits of inclusivity need to do more than simply hiring diverse staff. “We see organisations that have instituted plans for diversity hiring actually failing to retain and advance those very job seekers,” he said. “Amongst underrepresented populations […] individuals step into an organisation, they don’t receive mentorship and support from other leaders, they don’t see leaders [like them] at the top of the organisation. So they wonder, is there a place for me here?”

Brands and ad agencies still have more to do when it comes to having an inclusive and representative workforce. Greater diversity could create a lot of positive changes, but long-term inclusion strategies need to be in place for brands and ad agencies to get the best results from a diverse team.


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