Diversity: Whose burden is it?

By Ruby Derrick | 15 August 2023

The diversity challenge is everyone’s challenge.  

This topic was discussed at This Way Up, the Australian Advertising Festival of Creativity, in a session called Diversity: Whose burden is it?

The panel was based on the proposition that not many in agencies, around boardroom tables or on video calls come from culturally diverse backgrounds.   

Ant Melder, co-founder and creative Partner at Cocogun, and Avish Gordhan, chief creative officer at Dentsu Creative, discussed the actions the industry is taking to garner more diverse talent.

The evolution of Melder’s and Gordhan’s movement ‘Only One in the Room’ was born from this truth.  

As an industry, people need to learn how to promote, attract and obtain diverse talent, said Gordhan.  

“There’s a shortage of racially, culturally and linguistically diverse people in this industry,” he said. 

“We need to do something to try and change it.” 

The presentation started with a brief history of Melder’s and Gordhan’s work ‘Only One In The Room, an organisation with the goal of making the industry more culturally diverse and inclusive.  

From this grassroots movement launched the industry-wide project by the pair known as ‘Destroy This Brief’. 

Melder said as an industry, it's up to everyone to take responsibility for the lack of diversity apparent.  

“Destroy This Brief was born from the thinking that if we can use the power of creativity we use every day to answer our clients' problems, why can't we answer it for our own issues?” he said.  

The idea of the initiative was a brief to the industry – to agencies, creators, directors, production companies and more – to come up with ways to help them create a more diverse advertising community.  

Since starting out on these projects, what stuck out to Gordhan was the assumption that people expected minorities to solve the lack of diversity in the industry.  

“We need to change that mindset. It is not a problem for minorities to solve, it's a problem concerning all of us,” he said.  

It’s the implementation and access to talent that is a little trickier to make a difference in, noted Melder and Gordhan.  

This led them to create some points they think that can be done now by individuals and their agencies to make a difference and build up a culture where transformation is possible.  

  1. Speak to your teams - Teams have ideasthe industry is hardwired to solve problems.  

  1. Don’t rely on management – Ask questions to the people running the businesses. If they don’t have answers, help them find them.  

  1. Go back to school, and uni – Some people have a direct link into the industry, others don’t. Share stories and invite people into your agencies.  

  1. It goes beyond hiring – Agencies aren't always hiring. Find other ways to get diversity in.  

  1. Audit yourself – Keep track of diversity. It’s not a ‘set and forget’ type thing.  

  1. Get on a train – Get out of wherever you are and travel. Get exposure.  

  1. Bring us ideas – Come to us with an idea. Ideas bring people together.

  1. Talk to your clients – If we don’t have these conversations, the industry is in danger of looking and feeling outdated.  

  1. “Be willing to tread on eggshells” - Be willing to get it wrong, stand up and make mistakes.   

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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