In this opinion piece David Ponce de Leon, executive creative director at Ogilvy Melbourne, discusses why adland needs shake-up its hiring to include a more diverse range of cultural and national identities.
If the face of Australia keeps changing, why isn’t the face of our industry changing with it? Most importantly, how are we expected to communicate with this new Australia if we as an industry are not playing an active part of this change?
Australia’s migrant population is at its highest since the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s, with almost 30 per cent of people living in Australia born overseas and around 45 per cent of the population having at least one overseas-born parent.
Admittedly, the UK remains Australia’s biggest migration source and workplaces Australia-wide have historically enjoyed a healthy British contingent.
Our Kiwi cousins follow a distant second, probably because if that number was to increase anytime soon, there will be no people left to work in New Zealand.
Nevertheless, the proportion of our population born in the UK is in steady decline, while at the same time the number of Chinese and Indian-born Australians continues to grow, doubling and tripling respectively in the last 10 years.
Other multicultural communities on the rise are those from The Philippines, Vietnam, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia and Germany. (Ja, Germany.)
So, are we as agencies missing out on a massive multicultural opportunity?
The majority of advertising in Australia still sounds and feels like it is still being exclusively targeted at Anglo-Australian audiences.
As an Australian born overseas, I’ve witnessed first-hand the shortcomings of the lack of cultural diversity in our workplaces over the years and I can only wonder what will happen if we keep failing to consider our dramatic population change. It is an issue often mentioned but seldom addressed.
In my opinion, what we need is a more diverse hiring and staffing policy, one that actually promotes and supports a more balanced representation of our cultural diversity. A real step-change policy that doesn’t smack of tokenism.
With challenge comes opportunity, and on top of the obvious economic benefits, agencies could profit in more ways than one.
More creatively rich and diverse ideas. Work that is better targeted and connects more effectively with consumers. A deeper understanding of what makes certain population segments tick. Better capabilities to tackle government briefs, which often demand effective communication with people from cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Just to name a few.
Procter & Gamble’s ex-marketing director for Australia and New Zealand, Sujay Wasan put it best, saying, “Multiculturalism has to be part of your DNA, your culture and structure. It gets fuelled and it gets momentum if you have a champion for it at the highest level of your business.”
We are not the homogenous nation of thongs, singlets, beer, cricket, football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars we sometimes imagine ourselves to be.
For almost a third of us, it’s an adopted culture.
I consider myself fortunate to work at an agency that is not just multinational, but also genuinely multicultural.