DDB’s Ben Welsh Talks Changing The Ratio In Adland

DDB’s Ben Welsh Talks Changing The Ratio In Adland

DDB Sydney chief creative officer Ben Welsh knows he is part of the diversity problem in the Australian advertising industry but has found himself in a new minority in recent years; the over 50 category. From the prevalence of ageism to embracing Indigenous storytellers, Welsh shares his learnings from B&T’s Changing the Ratio event…

If changing the ratio is the solution, I am the problem.

I’m a privileged white male, university educated and from a comfortable middle-class background.

I’m guilty of unconscious, and in all probability conscious bias.

My one saving grace is that my increasing age is making me a minority in our industry, particularly the creative side.

B&T’s ‘Changing the Ratio’ event was always going to be interesting.

MC Mary Haddock-Stanilands set the tone, rocking up on stage with a thick kiwi accent. She spoke about her identical twin brother, revealing that she was once a boy. Now, she is a hilarious woman who is Head of Membership for Diversity Works NZ. She knew from the age of four that she was different to her twin.

Our first speaker was Professor David Slocum from The Berlin Scholl of Creative Leadership. I learned what it was like for an immigrant from the land of Newtonia to negotiate a salary and working conditions. A difficult task when you are so superstitious that a salary ending in an odd number is preferable to an even one and you don’t want to start anything new on a Monday. You have no idea what drives the other person. An important lesson here was that we – particularly women – are better at negotiating for someone else. So, pretend you’re not you.

Then we had a panel talk about #showus, a joint venture between Dove and Getty. Dove ANZ assistant brand manager Carmen Younis, Getty Images creative researcher Petra O’Halloran and Edelman Australia MD Fern Canning-Brook.

While a strong session, I would have liked more diversity. The #showus movement is as relevant for boys growing up as it is for girls. Boys are subject to the same imagery and, if not the same pressure to believing in an ideal, they will inevitably contribute to the problem.

The next panel discussed the topic ‘is advertising ageist?’. The answer, from Julia Zanetta who is clearly sixteen and not sixty something:

“If you are seen as old, you are fucked. It’s so ageist and terrible it’s unbelievable.”

Some interesting stats about target audiences and media ratings followed. Basically, advertising stops at 49, unless you’re talking about retirement, cruise lines and incontinence. We’re not quite “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” but we don’t offer much of a prospect for marketers. Which is odd as there’s a good chance we’ll be around for another 40 years and we have all the money.

I could go on, but there were other speakers who deserve a mention – there are tougher hurdles than gender or age. Peter Kirk made this abundantly clear when he talked to us about the challenges facing indigenous people in advertising. The world’s greatest story telling culture, the world’s most distinctive art brands has no voice around the advertising campfire. We need to change that.

Those with a disability are doing better – it was great to hear Peter Psathas, experience co-ordinator at The Works talking about disability in the workplace.

Congratulations to Cat Hay for pulling it all together and all those involved. The only downer was the lack of support from our industry. So many name tags remained uncollected and I can’t believe it was the result of multiple senior moments.

If you’d like to support the day, ask Cat for a charter to hang in your workplace. It won’t fix the problem, but it is an elegant start.

*Despite his 30 years in the industry, Ben Welsh maintains he’s only 27.


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Ben Welsh changing the ratio DDB Sydney

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