Behind the Cover: Changing the face of advertising

By Paige Murphy | 5 March 2020

This first appeared in the AdNews March edition. Subscribe here to make sure you get your copy.

The creative contingent of adland is the beating heart of the industry. To fully embrace this, and with a mission to create awesome and inspiring covers, each month AdNews hand-picks an agency to work its magic.

Over the last couple of years, adland has begun to recognise it has a problem: diversity. This is a problem that two young creatives Ava Frawley and Jasmine Subrata are hoping to tackle.

For the AdNews March edition - and timed around International Women’s Day - Frawley and Subrata’s initiative Changing the Face presents the face of the industry’s creative leaders. The caucasian male in his mid-30s highlights a stark reality that clouds adland but also offers an opportunity to drive change.

AdNews journalist Paige Murphy spoke with the team behind Changing the Face to find out how both the cover and initiative came together.

What were your initial thoughts on the brief at hand?
Whilst diversity is on everyone's agenda, talking about it and changing it are two very different things. Changing the Face visualises the problem and gives agencies the tools to improve their workforce for years to come.

Ava Frawley and Jasmine Subrata came up with Changing The Face in 2017, through a competition hosted by D&AD and The Glue Society, and brought it to life with the help of our production and media partners.

Post first brief chat, what went through your minds and what were the next steps you took as a team?
Whilst we know that diversity is much more than just gender, we wanted to start where the issue is most pronounced; in senior positions in the creative department. So to start the conversation we invited Executive Creative Directors and Chief Creative Officers to upload their headshot and by doing so, commit to change. From here we created a composite image which became ‘the face of advertising’ — a powerful snapshot of the industry in 2019.

How did you know you’d landed on the best concept?
For us, we were so overwhelmed by the support that we received that it was evident this idea had strength. We presented the concept internally at Ogilvy who jumped on board as our production partner. Soon after, Microsoft and AdNews became our tech and media partner respectively. We are so grateful to receive this support because it's one thing to have a good idea, but it’s another to make it happen.

Who from the team was largely involved and what were their roles?
It was truly a team of specialists crossing disciplines and has been a massive learning curve for us all. The most important thing was that people were truly passionate about creating change in the industry which kept the momentum going over the past year.

What were the biggest hurdles to making this a reality? Any challenges?
Diversity is multifaceted and whilst the issue is on everyone’s agenda, Changing The Face drives awareness, starts a conversation and hopefully creates change over time.

We have set a three-year goal, and our hope is that over these years we can see a gradual difference in the composition of the creative industry. Although it’s important to recognise where we are now, what really matters is what the future of our industry will look like.

Tell us about the actual creation techniques. How did it come together?
Our focus was to create a composition that was free from any bias or preconceived ideas of what the face of the industry should look like. We also needed an approach that could scale, working for 2 faces or 200 faces.

Ultimately we settled on a programmatic approach, leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to create the face. The process involved analysing the set of the 62 ECD portrait photos for key facial landmarks, before aligning the faces, morphing the facial structures to the average shape and finally averaging the pixel colours at each position. The result was a true, average face of the industry.

By feeding the resulting image into Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, we were able to conduct an unbiased assessment of the face to determine the gender, approximate age and other identifying attributes.

Biggest challenges with the whole process? Did anything keep you up at night?
Our biggest challenge is yet to come. We’ve opened up this initiative to entire agencies so we can accurately depict the current state of the industry. We’re calling on all agencies to upload their data at changingtheface.com.au, and by doing so you are helping create a true representation of your agency. From here you can see how the face of your agency changes each year.

Best bit about the process?
As young creatives, it’s important to know what the future of the industry has in store for us, and it’s amazing to see so many agencies trying to solve this complex issue in their own way. Hopefully this initiative can continue to drive us all towards the right direction.

AdNews

Credits:

Jasmine Subrata: Co-founder & Creative
Ava Frawley: Co-founder & Creative
Gavin McLeod: Executive Creative Director
Jenny Mak: Creative Director
Jennifer Gledhill: Group Account Director
Business Operations Director: Olivia Chamberlain
Senior Account Director: Lauren Barnes
Dan Adijans: Technical Director
Chad Edwards: Creative Designer
Albert Tan: Technical Architect
Susie Macyong: Senior Production Manager
Paola Pelligro: Digital Art Director
Carl Robertson: Art Director
Special thanks: D&AD, The Glue Society, RARE, Microsoft and AdNews

Changing The Face is a tool that helps advertising agencies create a more diverse workforce and they’re calling on you to participate. Submit your data at changingtheface.com.au to help create the face of your agency.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

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