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The Unconscious Bias of Brands

18 April 2018 | Fabric, London

Are you sitting uncomfortably? You will be.

Following a year of discontent over the lack of diversity in adland and ludicrous marketing gender-fails, the light on unconscious bias continues to blaze.

How do buried prejudices taint marketing campaigns? Who suffers? Why are so many brands getting it wrong? If the future is AI, is discrimination hard coded? Do answers lie deep within our industry’s culture?

Campaign Underground’s third instalment aimed to reveal the psychology and impact of adland’s problematic mirror-image syndrome.

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  • Mark Evans
    Marketing director, Direct Line
  • Lisa Talia Moretti
    Digital sociologist & strategist
  • Paul Feldwick
    Consultant, coach, author, and thought leader
  • Sophie Cook
    Writer, speaker, broadcaster, politician
  • Graham Page
    MD Offer and Innovation, Kantar Millward Brown
  • Myralda Derks
    VP CMI Home Care, Unilever UK
  • Moran Cerf
    Trail-blazing neuroscientist
  • Naomi Sesay
    Head of innovation & diversity, Media Trust
  • Jen Heazlewood
    Creative director, R/GA
  • Mark Earls
    The HERDmeister


13.45 The doors unlock...

14.00 Go Underground: Dare you confront your own bias?

Sensory experts, Vetyver, will be making us more conscious of the unconscious, stimulating our senses in a series of sensory experiments to see what they reveal and diversity and inclusion specialists, EW Group, will provide immersive live scenarios all about unconscious bias and its impact at work.

14.25 Forward: An Underground Welcome

By Campaign

14.30 Prologue: Chair's intro

By Mark Earls, the HERDmeister

14.40 Chapter I: How things we don’t know change our behaviour

By Professor Moran Cerf, professor of neuroscience and business, Kellogg School of Management

Recent understanding from marketing and neuro-economics shows that our decisions are partially driven by unconscious biases and acts that are inaccessible to us. We later explain them, often erroneously, post-hoc as if they were under our full control. This session explores how neuroscience can inform marketing understanding. What is ‘choice blindness’ and how does it drive our behavior? How does new marketing research combine the two, allowing us to change behavior and drive decisions beyond the conscious decisions of people?

15.05 Chapter II: Adland - The Battle To Evolve

By Naomi Sesay, head of innovation & diversity, Media Trust

Beneath the human psyche, lies some murky business. Old perceptions, damaging ideas and stubbornly held notions of who we believe we are. Naomi Sesay from Media Trust, unravels these prickly concepts and reveals the raw essence of how and why we acquired the belief systems that create such a hew & cry in Adland today. Using the concept of a collective conscious, Naomi throws a fresh light on Unconscious Bias and issues a call to action to the evolving ad industry.

15.25 Chapter III: Designing Stories Without Unconscious Bias

By Jen Heazlewood, creative director, head of experience design, London, R/GA

80% of consumer purchasing power is women, 28% of the US are in the non-white minority and 60% of the world is from Asia. Everyone is different but traditionally when we design, our unconscious bias steps in and we ignore signs to design for different people. The R/GA design model helps us get behind the context, environment & mindset of our users in order to create conscious ecosystems. The more we understand our unconscious mind, the more it starts to impact the way we think and create. What does this mean for creating global experiences where different mindsets are required to align to our design?

15.45 Chapter IV: Trans Global Shopping Express

By Sophie Cook, writer, speaker, broadcaster, politician

Suddenly it seems as if transgender people are everywhere, reality TV shows, writing, working in your corner shop and even in politics. Are they new or were they always here? After the Pink Pound what’s the prospects for a Trans Pound? How does the gender revolution affect brands? Is gender identity the new frontier or a marketing dead end?

16.10 Break

16.40 Chapter V: “Unconscious Bias, Big Data and AI: Hey Siri, who am I?”

By Lisa Talia Moretti, digital sociologist & Strategist

Data is just data until you give it meaning. And herein lies a challenge. We've spent so long trying to understand how the Newsfeed works that we've failed to monitor the changes to the human algorithm. In this talk, Lisa Talia Moretti will critically assess AI discourse, discuss the merits, challenges and hidden biases within big data and share why the key to unlocking the human-machine conundrum lies in deeply understanding and, perhaps, redefining what makes us human.

17.00 Chapter VI: Stamping out Stereotyping

By Myralda Derks, VP CMI Home Care, Unilever UK & Graham Page, MD offer and innovation, Kantar Millward Brown

As a founder of the Unstereotype Alliance, Unilever has been at the forefront of the industry in reviewing its brand campaigns globally, with the pledge to remove gender bias from all creative outputs and more accurately portray people. Hear more about this initiative, and how Unilever and Kantar Millward Brown have joined forces to demonstrate that progressive advertising is not just an ethical imperative, but a business imperative too.

17.20 Chapter VII: The meaning of the gesture is in the response

By Paul Feldwick, consultant, coach, author and thought leader

While media images do contribute to our shared construction of reality, it’s wrong to imagine that people are mere passive recipients, or that any image has a single, simple meaning. People make their own sense of what they see and hear, and are capable of debating, subverting and ironising it. Let’s encourage open debate of complex issues rather than impose our own limited perspective, trusting that this approach is more likely to enable society to evolve and change its values and behaviours.

17.40 Chapter VIII: Neurodiversity: The forgotten Diversity conversation

By Mark Evans, marketing director, Direct Line

Neurodiversity is arguably the biggest source of untapped talent and potential. Born with innately diverse minds, Neurodiverse people have “superpowers” that can bring innovation from the edges. But unconscious bias in both internal culture and in traditional recruitment processes is systematically limiting the emergence of these superpowers.

Q&A and Epilogue

By Mark Earls, the HERDmeister

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