Diversity’s Not Just About Gender: DDB

Diversity’s Not Just About Gender: DDB

Adland can often beat itself up about the role of women, but the conversation should also include sexuality, religion and race too, says DDB Sydney’s managing director Nicole Taylor.

“We don’t have a particular ‘type’,” Taylor tells B&T of the agency’s employees.

“I hope that when people come to DDB there’s no ‘type’.  We just feel like a bunch of people who are authentic, that speak the truth, that feel like they’re not cliché.”

Adland has, for a long time, struggled with a reputation – be it true or otherwise – as being, for most parts, white, male and middle-class.

“Creativity and profits are unquestionably and intrinsically linked to diversity, as is a thriving and successful culture,” Taylor argued.

“DDB 2015 is the result of years of research into best practice, strong and enduring client relationships and the creation of a business model, both financially and operationally, that can support flexible working conditions.” Taylor added how within the no ‘type’ concept the DDB Group has a diverse senior management team, made up of both men and women. In fact, Taylor noted when some of the senior team went offsite recently, the group was made up of only women.

Diversity is a well talked-about topic, with executive creative director for Ogilvy Melbourne, David Ponce de Leon, questioning why the industry hasn’t moved with the face of Australia.

However, as the subject is written about so much, The New York Times recently questioned whether we actually know what diversity means, and whether people are actually doing anything about it.

“It has become both euphemism and cliché, a convenient shorthand that gestures at inclusivity and representation without actually taking them seriously,” wrote Anna Holmes in a recent article.

“It’s almost as if cheerfully and frequently uttering the word ‘diversity’ is the equivalent of doing the work of actually making it a reality.”

Within adland, the gender diversity matter was recently brought to its head by ad agency Leo Burnett, who hired five new creative for its Sydney arm, all of whom were white males.

The agency was heavily criticised by publications and social media, which saw CEO Peter Bosilkovski issue a statement saying the agency clearly has an issue to address.

It’s an issue that many seem to realise is happening, but not much is being done. A recent study by Weber Shandwick showed particularly when it came to women in senior roles in companies, there was a lot of talk about it, but not a whole lot of action, a sentiment echoed by DDB’s Taylor.

Industry body The Communications Council has stats on the number of women and men employed by Adland, however, doesn’t have a breakdown of other diversity areas outside of gender.

Corporate communications director for DDB, Melissa Simpson, believed a lot of it comes down to the hiring process.

“The natural hiring way is like attracts likes,” she says. “It’s like a mentality.” That’s not a bad thing per se, but can end up with a particular mould of employee.

“It’s about having a recruitment process and a commitment to diversity,” she added. “Diversity is not a really simple thing, it does take process.”

DDB’s head of planning Fran Clayton says it can happen because people aren’t aware it is happening. Yet, when it does rear its ugly head – the recent Leo Burnett furore a case in point – it does force agencies to have a good look at themselves.

“I think unconscious bias is the biggest problem,” Clayton said. “There are a lot of C-suite people who would go ‘oh, I don’t think I have a problem in my company’.

“So just becoming aware that they do. It’s not that you’ve got men or women at the top intentionally creating this problem, it’s just about going ‘shit, now I’m aware of this’.”

To up the diversity within Adland – and all industries – Taylor said it does require the constant conversation and coverage about it, “to be able to keep it at the top of the conversation list for the public”.

It’s not just Australia which is attempting to push forward in diversity. In response to The New York Times piece, a club for ad agencies in New York – unsurprisingly called Ad Club – launched a social media campaign called #imPARTofDIVERSITY.

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