“There Are Suburbs Beyond The Five-Kilometre Radius That Most Of Us Live In”: Rose Herceg At MFA EX

“There Are Suburbs Beyond The Five-Kilometre Radius That Most Of Us Live In”: Rose Herceg At MFA EX

In a challenging and confronting talk about the media industry’s insular nature, Rose Herceg and Anathea Ruys told attendees at Sydney’s MFA EX conference that they needed to get outside the bubble to make advertising truly inclusive and, therefore, effective.

Lead image L-R: Anathea Ruys, CEO, UM Australia; Rose Herceg, president, WPP Australia and New Zealand.

Herceg, president of WPP Australia and New Zealand, told the notably white and female crowd to get “Out of the office and live in the world. There are suburbs beyond your own. There are suburbs beyond the five-kilometre radius that most of us live in.

“Get out, observe, witness, see, eat, participate in the richness of Australia, that’s one of the best ways that you can unstereotype itself.”

Herceg and Ruys, CEO of UM Australia, were talking about their work with the Unstereotype Alliance, a thought and action platform designed to help eradicate harmful stereotypes in all media and advertising content.

The pair explained that in research they had carried out, they asked Australians whether they felt seen in advertising. Some 60 per cent of women see themselves in advertising.

“I would argue that number is because women are still given all the traditional roles – cook, cleaner, chauffeur for kids sports on the weekend, homemaker,” said Herceg.

However, when it came to feeling as though they were portrayed positively in advertising, just 18 per cent of women felt as though they were portrayed positively or stereotyped.

The numbers were similar for other groups in society. More than half of the LGBTQI+ community felt seen as did 48 per cent of disabled people – neither of which are brilliant. But more shocking was that just under a quarter of disabled people felt they were portrayed positively or stereotyped as did just over a fifth of the LGBTQI+ community.

“Women feel that they’re being shown as homemakers and as more interested in fashion and beauty. The LGBTQI+ community feel that they are depicted as not as intelligent as other Australians. Those with disabilities believe they are depicted as aggressive, angry and not as intelligent as other Australians,” said Ruys.

Ruys explained that a deep dive the Alliance did with the Chinese Australian community showed that 60 per cent felt as though racism was “widespread” in Australia and that non-white people have to work twice as hard.

“Then, 47 per cent, almost half of this group, believe that they’re depicted in stereotypical ways in media and advertising,” she said.

“Those stereotypes are that they are depicted as hardworking, conservative, intelligent and shy. Don’t you want to be depicted as hardworking and intelligent? The truth is that stereotypes, no matter if they’re attached to a word that has historically been considered good or bad, are equally diminishing. Not every Chinese Australian is or wants to be considered as having these attributes”.

Issuing a call to arms from the crowd, Ruys told them to “challenge the briefs that you accept into your agencies” and ask themselves to consider how they perpetuate stereotypes.

Rounding out the talk, Herceg added that agencies needed to “challenge and review” the ways that they recruit people.

“This is the best way that we can transform our community Park your unconscious bias and bring into the world of media new faces and new voices,” she said.

“Overwhelmingly, our respondents believe that we have a responsibility to make change in the space. They see media as having such an important role to play in tackling these changes. In fact, television networks were considered equally as important as politicians as being able to drive change in this space,” said Ruys.

The talk certainly gave attendees much to consider as they headed for the coffee carts and brand activations during the break.

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