It was on a trip to Cannes Lions that creative Ant Melder realised the full severity of Australia’s diversity problem.
After speaking to a fellow Aussie, Melder, who recently founded agency Coffee Cocoa Gunpowder, was mistaken for another “brown” ECD. He brushed it off, but after it happened the next day and the next, he realised it was a symptom of a wider problem in the industry.
You see, Melder is one of the few culturally diverse creative leaders and found himself in a case of mistaken “browndentity” among a sea of Anglo-Aussies at Cannes Lions.
Speaking at B&T’s Changing the Ratio event on a live debate around quotas, Melder questioned: “Is there really only room for one brown ECD in the consciousness of Australian advertising?
While he can see the humour in what happened at Cannes Lions, he also called for things to change.
“I look back at my career, many times I have been mistaken for the IT guy. For the catering guy. Many times, I’ve been ‘the only’ many times in the room in an industry that is supposed to be talking to a really diverse nation,” he said.
Despite his experience, Melder doesn’t support quotas and was arguing against their prevalence alongside AFL head of media Sarah Wyse and Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese.
“Nobody wants change more than me. It’s really personal to me, but I don’t want quotas,” he declared.
“Organisations being mandated to hire me on the basis of my skin colour is just as insulting as organisations not hiring me because of that. Put me on a role on the basis of anything other than I was the right person for the job, immediately I would feel undermined and insecure and under pressure. Singled out.”
With quotas not being the answer to the industry’s problem, Melder instead said we need to work on a solution together, which could mean educating younger people about opportunities in advertising.
“Right now, kids at the start of their careers in school or in college, often don’t even think or know about advertising as a potential career; the Pakistani kid in Lakemba or the Lebanese kid that goes straight into his dad’s mechanic business… they could be brilliant in this industry but they just don’t even know about it,” he said.
“Let’s reach out to them and provide opportunities to them to get into it. Let’s stop fishing in such a tiny pool.”
Melder and his team ultimately won the debate with 75 per cen tof the audience voting against quotas and in favour of wider, cultural change. Read more on the debate here.