A view from Claire Beale

We can do more to secure the future health of adland

Two subjects dominate this week - wildly different but both important to secure the industry's future health.

The first is the issue of ethnic diversity in agencies: tough to measure, difficult to address quickly. The industry finally seems to accept that we need to better reflect the rich diversity of our culture through a more diverse breadth of agency talent. Yet the IPA’s diversity study found that many agencies simply don’t monitor the ethnic background of their staff, so benchmarking how diverse we are right now is a challenge. 

I can sympathise. Last year, Campaign ran a story about the Metropolitan Police issuing an ad brief. To illustrate the story, we used a picture from a famous Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO campaign showing a group of non-white guys. When the story went out on social media, stripped of context, the accompanying picture appeared to conflate crime with skin colour and promoted a pressure group to question if we were biased. The group demanded to know what the ethnic make-up of Campaign’s staff was. Fair enough, perhaps, but we’d never categorised our team like that, never thought of ourselves as anything other than great individuals, and the idea of trying to label everyone in order to make a point was discomforting. Nevertheless, had we been a bunch of white males, this is the sort of wake-up call that would have been long overdue – which is exactly why it’s crucial we keep asking the questions and tracking progress, however hard. So, again, thanks to the IPA for spotlighting such a desperately important issue.

The other subject that’s preoccupied us this week is creativity, though that’s never far from the top of our agenda. DDB’s global creative chief, Amir Kassaei, wrote about why his agency won’t be chasing every creative award going any more. The fact that the article has been the most-read story on Campaign sites around the world over the past few days reflects the growing concern over the proliferation of creative awards.

There’s no value in a big haul of low-calibre awards, particularly if you’re winning for the sort of scam work that undermines us all. Yet the right creative awards matter more than ever and, as a standard-bearer for creativity, they are another key to our future success. Studies consistently show that work that is brilliantly creative enough to win robust awards is also more effective; agencies that can demonstrate they have hit this sweet spot are likely to be better business partners for their clients. Awards also create a benchmark of excellence, inspire new creative ideas, attract, motivate and retain talent, and help clients understand what great creativity actually looks like. But, in awards, as with most things, quality beats quantity every time.

claire.beale@haymarket.com      
@clairebeale

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