“Inclusive planning is future-proofing your business,” said Nafisa Bakkar, chief executive officer and co-founder of media company Amaliah.
Speaking at Campaign’s Media360 conference, Bakkar issued a warning to those who are not making diversity a priority, adding: “What we’ve called ‘minority audiences’ are in fact the global majority. If you don’t have the conversation now, you will be left behind.”
The panel was critical of businesses who try to approach inclusion with a singular push, aiming to reach a hypothetical target and then not thinking about inclusion for the rest of the year.
Claire McAlpine, joint head of social change hub at MediaCom said: “This is all about microdecisions. You have a role to set the agenda. Which audiences are being targeted, which influencers you’re working with: systemic change changes on a day-to-day basis.”
When asked about whether or not the panellists had seen change across the industry the general response was that while we are seeing change, it is slow and especially slow among traditional media companies.
Ibrahim Kamara, co-founder and editor-in-chief of digital media platform GUAP said: “Change takes time. People have been working in a set way for a long period of time. [Traditional media companies] need to see it on a business level.”
In support of encouraging the change, Jerry Daykin, vice president head of media at Beam Suntory added: “We can all play a role in this. I’m a middle-class, white, privileged man. You have to try and think outside your bubble, and it’s a lot easier if you’re surrounded by people who have that experience.”
The discussion moved to large brands that are doing inclusion and representation well. For the panel, there were two which came to mind, and the first is a MediaCom client.
Kamara said: “Reebok. Every project they listen to what we think and just allow us to do what we need to do to make impactful work. Obviously we’re selling a product, but behind the scenes, Reebok are doing something for that audience. There’s an impact that will last longer than the campaign.”
Bakkar added: “When we worked with Dove, they wanted to do a global campaign which pushed the ‘Dove self-esteem’ markets. So what they did was work with independent media owners in each market, and they treated the independent media creators as the creative agency effectively.
From the beginning to the end, there was a lot of autonomy, a lot of control and a lot of trust. From a client perspective, if my objective is penetration into this audience in a compelling, authentic way, what’s the platform I can work with that gives us the right to speak to that audience?”
Kamara concluded: “You can buy numbers, but you can’t buy the authenticity. Anyone can do paid ads and get a million impressions today. In terms of people actually caring, that’s something that you can’t just buy.”
A popular trend among brands is to try and target marginalised groups only during specific events. The LGBTQ+ community will often be inundated with support during pride month which is then hastily removed from sites and shop windows at the end of June, and in more recent times, businesses are targeting Muslim communities during Ramadan.
Daykin said: “Pride can be the most shallow time for it. [Communities] have huge cultural nuances. We’ve really dug into the insight and have ways of talking to that community right through the year. It doesn’t mean there can’t be a role for brands in those key occasions, when you’ve been supporting those communities for a good time, then absolutely shout about it during those key moments. Don’t ‘pretend’ that you care.”
In closing, the panellists were asked how to make these inclusive steps more everyday.
Bakkar said: “Get in front of media owners like us when you’re planning. For example, in barbecue season, you think of sizzling pork sausages, right? Let alone vegans, let alone muslims; for a lot of the Caribbean community, barbecue means macaroni and cheese.
That’s an everyday moment that goes totally under the radar. It almost doesn’t become diverse planning, it’s just a good idea.”
McAlpine added: “Don’t just save these conversations for Pride and Ramadan. It should be every single campaign you’re working on.”
Kamara concluded: “I feel like the industry defines what those cultural moments are rather than what the audience chooses. A lot of things are predefined based on objectives rather than what cultures actually want on an everyday basis.”