“I Was Paranoid About Being Different!” DDB’s Priya Patel On Embracing Culture In Advertising

“I Was Paranoid About Being Different!” DDB’s Priya Patel On Embracing Culture In Advertising
SHARE
THIS



DDB managing director Priya Patel may joke about being a “coconut” – brown on the outside and white on the inside – but in this discussion with Ant Melder, she reveals how she learnt to embrace her Indian culture and her view on achieving better diversity within agencies…

Creative agencies have historically underrepresented certain minorities, said Patel, with most of her superiors being “lovely, white, posh blokes” in the early days of her career in London.

“I used to joke that I was the only Indian person in account handling in London,” Patel said on the Brown Riot podcast, hosted by Coffee Cocoa Gunpowder creative partner Ant Melder.

The Brown Riot podcast launched earlier this year, featuring candid chats with a range of creative and business leaders from ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Reflecting on her time at girl’s school in Cambridge in the UK, Patel admitted she initially masked her Indian background to better fit in with her white colleagues, even avoiding another Indian colleague ironically with the same name.

“When I think about it, it’s because I thought I needed to make sure that I differentiated myself and that people didn’t think we were actually the same person!” she said.

“It was this absolute paranoia from the very outset that everyone would just think we’re the same because there wasn’t enough room for two Indian people.”

Surrounded by her predominantly white classmates, Patel said she was aware of the cultural differences, and tried to “speak the same, act the same and have the same experiences” despite her cultural background.

While Patel admitted she tried to assimilate at school and later Oxford University, she later learnt to embrace her difference, or “otherness”, and found it was something that her friends and colleagues enjoyed.

“Over the years, and especially as I got older, I think the ‘otherness’ was something that my friends really loved. And their love for this ‘otherness’ gave me a lot of confidence,” she said.

This confidence carried on with her as she landed her first job as a grad trainee at DDB London, before moving to Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and back to DDB in 2017 as managing director of the Sydney office.

Patel jokes she “over indexes in whiteness” due to her education at prestigious universities and believes this has somewhat meant she has avoided discrimination or stereotyping that others like Melder have faced in the industry.

“I’ve perhaps over-compensated and go out of my way to present a very un-Indian version of myself. I don’t feel like people would instantly think of me as that – because of the way I look and the way I talk,” Patel said.

“I grew up in an environment where I felt quite confident. So, I marched on in [to advertising] as if I belonged there – because a ‘white world’ was all I’d known since school, it had been my life. So, for me it wasn’t necessarily a barrier.”

While racial diversity continues to be a focus for the wider industry, Patel said she’s most interested in diversifying the socio-economic class of advertising.

“Advertising is a very white middle class industry and you only stumble across it if you happen to be in that socio-economic band.

“Trying to get the industry in front of more diverse groups of people is interesting. Whether that be through going into schools or universities and presenting the profession. And generally raising awareness.

“Finding different mechanics to open the industry to people is probably the easiest way of changing it or shifting it.”

While Patel didn’t endorse quotas, she could see the advantages of them in the long term for driving meaningful change, mentioning successes in political points of comparison like Ghana and in the Nordics.

Patel also discussed how Australian marketers compared to those in the UK and suggested they were potentially ‘bolder’, but how ultimately many marketers globally were grappling with the same challenges of balancing short-term and long-term objectives for their brands.

Brown Riot is an ongoing podcast series hosted by Ant Melder, creative partner at the independent creative agency, Coffee Cocoa Gunpowder and produced by sound and music legends, Smith & Western. You can listen to/download full episodes at brownriot.com, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Please login with linkedin to comment

DDB Priya Patel

Latest News

person using mobile application on smartphone, abstract close up of hands
  • Technology

Mobile Advertising Company Kargo Announces New Hires Following H1 Growth In APAC

Kargo has today announced several major growth milestones across the APAC region for the first half of 2021, more than doubling H1 revenue year-over-year with 115 per cent growth. Kargo also ran 41 per cent more campaigns in the region than in H1 2020 and the average campaign size increased by 32 per cent over […]

Hootsuite Acquires Conversational AI Platform Heyday
  • Technology

Hootsuite Acquires Conversational AI Platform Heyday

Hootsuite has today announced its acquisition of Heyday, a Montreal-based conversational AI platform that enables brands to deliver personalised customer experiences through 1:1 messaging conversations. Commerce is rapidly moving onto social and messaging platforms. Hootsuite, a pioneer in the social media management category, has the largest customer base in the industry and with this acquisition […]

Officeworks Partners With Canva
  • Campaigns

Officeworks Partners With Canva

B&T's a huge fan of the Officeworks shopping experience, but just throwing it out there about possible $1 hot dogs?

PRIA Announces National Conference
  • Marketing

PRIA Announces National Conference

Public Relations Institute announces national conference. Sadly, Roxy won't be speaking on unwanted doorstep excreta.

EATIVITY Founder Moira Geddes Becomes First-Ever Micro-Publisher To Take Part In IAB Mentorship Program
  • Technology

EATIVITY Founder Moira Geddes Becomes First-Ever Micro-Publisher To Take Part In IAB Mentorship Program

Moira Geddes, founder and director of independent food publication EATIVITY has been handpicked by IAB Australia to become the first ever micro-publisher to take part in its Mentorship Program, highlighting the important role that specialised custom digital sites play within the country’s media landscape. EATIVITY aims to keep consumers in the know and help small […]

Hivestack Appointments Ichiro Jinnai As President, Japan
  • Advertising

Hivestack Appointments Ichiro Jinnai As President, Japan

Hivestack, the global ad tech leader in programmatic digital out of home (DOOH) advertising, today announced the appointment of Ichiro Jinnai as president, Hivestack Japan. Jinnai will be responsible for driving the regional strategy, direction and expansion of the Hivestack platform in Japan. “I am beyond thrilled to welcome Ichiro Jinnai to the Hivestack family,” […]

LENS Technology & Analytics Appoints Nikhil Elayat As Business Director
  • Advertising

LENS Technology & Analytics Appoints Nikhil Elayat As Business Director

Audience measurement platform LENS Technology & Analytics has appointed Nikhil Elayat to Business Director to fast-track growth opportunities across Australia and New Zealand. Elayat (pictured) joins from New Zealand’s largest independent advertising agency, Stanley Street, where he was head of advertising technology. He played a pivotal role in building adtech functions within the performance team […]

Burnet Institute Launches How Science Matters Podcast
  • Media

Burnet Institute Launches How Science Matters Podcast

Australian medical research institute, The Burnet Institute has launched, How Science Matters podcast. The informative podcast will be co-hosted by former ABC Radio journalist Tracy Parish and Burnet institute director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC. Crabb is also a microbiologist, malaria researcher and will share his knowledge on contagious diseases. How Science Matters was […]

D&AD & Google Launch Shift In Sydney
  • Advertising
  • Media

D&AD & Google Launch Shift In Sydney

This extols "turning your passion into your profession". Unless your passions are dancing dachshunds or roller limbo.