Diversity, equity and inclusion have become common buzzwords for anyone working in the media and marketing sector.
But are these buzzwords being put into action?
That’s the question Rachel Corbett investigates in the sixth episode of Rethink, a podcast by Think with Google.
Joining Corbett to discuss the value of diverse workplaces is Tara McKenty, who is a creative director at Google and the co-founder of RARE, a platform that helps drive diversity and inclusion in tech, media and creative industries.
“Diversity of perspective leads to better insights, better outcomes and simply better work,” McKenty says.
“When you’ve got a diverse set of people writing the ads and creating the advertising for our large, diverse set of audiences, the chances are it’s more likely that the creative is going to be relative, it’s going to reflect our audience bases and it’s going to make audiences and users feel affinity towards the products we’re selling, the services we’re selling and the brands that we’re trying to create.”
During the discussion, McKenty also dives into the word ‘diversity’ and its varied meaning.
“For me, the definition of diversity is two dimensional. The first dimension is inherent diversity. So it’s traits of diversity that you’re born with. So I describe myself as intersectional, I am LGBTQI and I’m a female working in a male-dominated industry,” she says.
“The second dimension of diversity is acquired diversity. So this is all of the things that happen to you along your life that change your perspective of the world.
“One example of acquired diversity that can also be inherent is people that live with a disability, some people are born with a disability and other people acquire it so that’s probably one that sits in between, that shifts your perspective of the world.”
… and inclusion
If diversity is seeking a wide range of opinions and backgrounds, what’s inclusion?
Speaking on the podcast, creative consultant and national head of AWARD school Karen Ferry points to a quote from diversity advocate Verna Meyers: “Diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion is asking them to dance”.
And for diversity to be an effective force, our systems need to take an inclusive approach, Ferry argues.
“The way our systems work is that they favour people who are white or male or middle class, and they disfavour anyone who’s not,” she says.
“And that doesn’t mean that anyone who is favoured is a bad person. It just means that our systems don’t allow for people who are diverse minorities to excel in the same way that anyone else could.”
Specific to advertising, Ferry highlights how easily – and accidentally – an ad can exclude certain audiences.
“We leave coded messages through all our stuff. And a lot of that can sometimes come off as exclusionary,” she says.
She uses the example of an ad featuring nothing but white Australians living in federation houses.
“You might come from a background where none of those things are what you want,” she says.
“What it can do at its worst is then make people think this brand isn’t for me because they don’t understand me.”
Putting it in action
One example of diversity and inclusion being put into action in advertising is the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) 2016 Spring campaign.
Overseeing the creation of the ad was The Monkey’s creative director Barb Humphries.
“We set about casting the most diverse cast that we could and that was a really awesome and fun job to work on,” she says.
However, alongside the annual Spring campaign, the MLA has a usual 26 January ad.
To follow up the diversity ad, MLA went with a campaign that asked: “aren’t we all boat people?”
While the ad certainly has some humour, Humphries explains that acknowledging the sensitivities of the subject was one of the top priorities.
“They worked with Reconciliation Australia and various consultants on the concept,” she says.
“But also once they had the cast, they workshopped the dialogue with the cast and made sure that everybody felt comfortable saying the lines that they were saying in that situation.”
Humphries points to the need for creatives to be able to write from someone else’s perspective, but reveals how this campaign was one instance where this was not possible.
“There are certain subjects and occasions where it’s just not right to make it up in your own head and write about – certain issues that you maybe don’t have the best understanding of,” she says.
“The best intentions can land in the worst way.”
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