Jerry Daykin, senior media director at GSK, has criticised the industry’s approach to representation as a series of “missed opportunities”.
Speaking to Campaign as the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) launched an open-source guide to tackling diversity, Daykin said adland has missed the mark in terms of “really deliberate, active representation”.
“If we're honest, historically, advertising hasn't succeeded in being truly representative,” he told Campaign.
Daykin also said that there are some diversity issues that “get forgotten” in the everyday practices of brands as a result of “looking at average groups of people”.
“There are lots of moments in our processes where, bluntly, we work with teams that aren't always as diverse as we'd like them to be and, therefore, the perspectives that come into those teams can miss opportunities,” he continued.
“Even when we're putting people on screen, you don't have to look much further than how women have been presented in advertising – they tend to be supporting cast, focusing on the domestic side of life."
Daykin is a part of WFA’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, which launched last year and co-developed the company’s guide with Belinda Smith, chief executive of Americas at M/SIX.
With contributions from brands including AB InBev, Diageo, Mars, Procter & Gamble and Unilever, Diversity & Representation: A Guide to Potential Areas for Bias in the Creative Process highlights 12 key areas where bias can occur within the creative funnel.
For each area, the guide puts forward a question marketers should consider. They are:
What steps are you taking to make sure your brand is accessing all the diverse opportunities for growth?
How are you ensuring your strategy is grounded in diverse consumer insight?
Are you bringing representative inspiration and deep insight to the brief?
What steps are you taking with your suppliers to bring in more diverse talent?
Are you keeping diversity top of mind at all stages of the creative process?
Does your testing and learning plan incorporate representative audiences?
Are you keeping diversity top of mind at all stages of the production process?
Are you checking back to ensure the edit delivers on our vision?
Are you considering local nuances and ensuring that both global and local impacts of decisions are considered?
Have you reviewed your media plans to ensure they are progressive and appropriate?
Have you considered, as part of your launch plans, the impact amongst different diverse groups?
How are you building your body of knowledge, effectiveness and insight?
The free guide also includes key resources that can be used to tackle any gaps or areas of concern.
It can be downloaded from WFA’s Diversity & Inclusion Hub as part of the company’s efforts to improve representation across the industry.
Smith added: “We always hear marketers asking for examples or specific tactics they can use to create systemic and holistic change. This guide is an important and powerful illustration of how we can completely rethink or interrupt a process to ensure we’re living up to our goals and making our industry better with each piece of work.”
The guide will also work as a device to hold industry leaders accountable for their diversity and inclusion efforts, which have been reassessed since the Black Lives Matter movement came to the fore in June last year.
Among works praised in the guide is Guinness’s “Liberty fields” – which recounted the story of a female Japanese rugby team – Durex’s disruptive “Challenge the norms” campaign and Gillette’s “First shave” spot, which caused a conservative boycott of P&G products for its depiction of a trans man’s first experience of shaving his face.
“Increasingly, brands have to be nimble and agile,” Camelia Cristache, senior communications manager and diversity and inclusion lead at WFA, said.
“Working at speed can mean cutting corners in the creative process; this is when mistakes can happen and the resultant creative can fail to represent society in all its diversity.”
Cristache continued: “We hope this new framework will provide brands and their agencies with practical guidance that helps them avoid such pitfalls and ensure that content is as representative and inclusive as possible.”
Earlier this month, BBC Creative revealed an educational programme aimed at improving the diversity of talent entering the industry.