Is the industry taking the need for greater diversity seriously?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 12 April 2018
This first appeared in the AdNews April Edition: Diversity, education, print's evolution.

The diversity stakes across adland have sent ripples throughout the industry for some time.

Whether it's about minority ethnic groups, LGBTQ people, religious bias, gender imbalance, or ageism, there's a huge sense that there's more to be done.

Take gender balance across the industry as one example. In 2014 the female CEOs across the media agency patch were few and far between. These included Mindshare CEO Katie Rigg-Smith; Hyland founder, Virginia Hyland; and CEO of Initiative Australia, Lee Leggett.

Fast-forward to 2018 and over the last one to two years the number of women in the chief executive seat has increased significantly. Agencies such as Spark Foundry, Zenith Media, UM, OMD and Columbus all have female CEOs.

Creative agency-wise, there are women at the helm of Loud, DDB, Special Group, TBWA Melbourne, Ugly, and Leo Burnett Group, not to mention MDs at Clems Sydney, BWM Dentsu Melbourne, and R/GA, among others.

But, while being able to name many, the number of women still pales in comparison, particularly in the creative director and executive creative director roles, to the number of men.

While these examples just touch on women in senior roles in media and creative agencies, there is of course much more work that needs to be done in other areas.

Our AdNews Live! Reframing Australia event last year explored the disconnect between the industry and Australia's changing demography, and why brands that do not adopt a more representative approach will lose. We also looked at the cost of creative whitewashing and the business benefits of connecting to Australia's super-diverse population. Then there's the pay equality of the people in these roles which is a whole other piece of the diversity puzzle that should be addressed. Despite things not being at a happy resting point just yet, work is being done with great initiatives like The Agency Circle and more conferences and events (including our own) becoming more accountable and improving speaker diversity.

Achieving diversity is a task that depends on everyone. So, is the industry, across media and marketing, taking the need for greater diversity seriously or does it remain lip-service? We posed this question to two agencies and two brands, asking what diversity means to them and their business and what are they actually doing to improve it.


Diversity is certainly the zeitgeist of national conversation; it's on everyone's lips. Whether it is a question of diversity in Australia's race and culture through political debates on immigration or within our very own marcomms industry on how we reach an ever-diverse and fragmented audience and at what frequency.

There is no question that diversity of race and culture brings benefits and new opportunities with it, the very coffee industry we operate in exists because of cultural influences brought by immigrants in the mid-20th century. However, the challenge we face as marketers on how we reach an ever-fragmented, diverse audience today is more complex.

It seemed relatively simple back in the day - a traditional media campaign featuring TV and a handful of other traditional ATL channels could achieve your communication objective, but now we're faced with a diversity of consumer touchpoints so numerous, it's hard to know where to begin. It's also likely to get harder as touchpoints become even more proliferated with the explosion of the internet of things.

To combat the ever-increasing touchpoint explosion, it's more important than ever that marketers focus attention on the efficiencies of brand touchpoints and the ROI they're getting from each. Ironically, the answer could lie in our ability to choose the right touchpoints and execute fewer things well. It's about quality over quantity.

This notion is supported by a recent Kantar TNS study which found in general 80% of brand impact comes from only 20% of touchpoints. Interestingly, it's noted that while we need to focus on the 20%, we also need diversity among the brand touchpoints selected. In today's digital world, 25% of brand perceptions come from digital touchpoints, 25% from paid media, and a whopping 50% of brand desirability. According to TNS, connection is delivered through experiential touchpoints. The multi-sensory experience and human touch and its importance in building brand equity cannot be underestimated.

Tech giants like Apple understand this with the famous Apple retail experience and Nespresso understands this with its flagship concepts located in blue chip retail locations globally. From a coffee insider, I can tell you that the rent paid at a Nespresso concept store in an iconic location is likely not recouped from in-store capsules sold, but rather these experiences are viewed as a powerful brand building touchpoint deployed as an integral part of the marketing mix.

Campos Coffee is an active digital brand, but for 15 years our flagship cafes have had laser focus on delivering the best quality product and experience, delivering that human touch which is vital in building brand desirability. Without balancing physical and digital touchpoints, Campos Coffee certainly would not be the brand it is today.

So what does this all mean? Paradoxically we can afford to respond to the diversity challenge by choosing quality over quantity, continuing to balance digital and experiential touchpoints and selecting these based on a criteria of greatest brand impact.

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There has never been a better time for diversity in our industry in my opinion, despite significant improvements that need to be made. The challenge is not simply the diversity of the team itself, but also the ability and flexibility to support the diverse working requirements of the team.

With deadlines, skill shortages and a rapidly evolving eco-system, this has always been a challenge, however, tackling this gives us the potential to open up significant talent pools. As an industry, we are becoming increasingly more flexible in supporting people with various attributes and lifestyles.

I can see this in our own Blue 449 and Publicis Groupe initiatives, and I know it extends to other industry players. We have initiatives in place to allow people to work flexible hours in order to accommodate individual family dynamics, interests, hobbies and obligations.

We have increased our paid parental leave, and benchmarked our salary across experience bands and genders to ensure all staff are being paid fairly. So, diversity is improving, but as an industry we need to do much more, and the good news is that there is a conscious focus on driving change.

The ambition has to be that diversity becomes an unconscious focus - that we get to the stage where we don't talk about it, it just happens.

This is the exciting part of the whole debate. The hope is that this debate becomes redundant as the next generation see only talent and capability versus gender, race or ability.


More than ever before, the industry is agitating for change and many industry leaders are very vocal in their commitment to recognise where the gaps exist. They are also taking tangible steps to adjust ingrained mindsets and behaviours. This fosters the growth of a fully diverse and inclusive talent force, one that is reflective of today's society. And, that's what we are aiming for, so we see the value of this change. Certainly at IPG Mediabrands this is a priority, and this is felt from the top down.

Michael Roth, IPG Global Chairman and CEO is a great activist for diversity in the industry; at a regional level, Leigh Terry, CEO of IPG Mediabrands APAC, made a public commitment by signing the Mandate For Change in 2017 and has introduced a number of initiatives since then to progress to our goal of achieving a fully inclusive network across the region, spanning not only gender, but race, sexuality, religious beliefs, age, and ability.

To effectively work towards this goal, we need to first understand and acknowledge what the existing barriers across multiple markets are and conduct proprietary research to uncover the insights that will inform our local market action plans, training initiatives and recruitment policies.

At a local level, Danny Bass, CEO of IPG Mediabrands Australia, has built the HR division into a much stronger position within our business operations, led by Lisa Gray who could not be a more passionate advocate for our people. Within the last year, we introduced mindfulness training for all our people, and plan to roll out unconscious bias training this year.

We conducted an internal pay parity exercise to ensure that we uncover and address any discrepancies which may arise, and we communicated the results of this exercise to all our people. A number of our Australia executives are mentors in our bespoke Connect diversity-based mentoring program which matches talent from across the region with a mentor from a diverse pool spanning the APAC leadership team in the regional and local market. We match mentors and mentees who have something in common, but also differ in gender, country of origin, and/or other characteristics to amplify the understanding and perspective on the diverse development opportunity within our industry. Connect mentor and mentee benefit by learning from the context of each other's cultural differences, market experience and gender insights, to truly broaden networks and perceptions, bringing diversity to life.

TINYPulse, our feedback platform, supports a safe and anonymous vehicle for our people to be heard and to let us know how we are performing in providing a supportive, inclusive working environment that champions equality and celebrates diversity. Results indicate our strongest team cultures and tenure exist in the teams that promote diversity and inclusion. This is significant, as retention and happiness are key people priorities for our business.

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We're seeing a shift in behaviour, attitudes and opportunities when it comes to diversity. The issue is being discussed now more than ever - people feel like they can step up, speak up, bring issues to light, and be heard. Companies are starting to look inwards rather than outwards, at what they can specifically do to help keep diversity at the forefront of processes.

However, this is a systemic issue that won't be solved overnight; driving diversity initiatives into the foundations of company culture takes time. Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce involves more than just adjusting your hiring practices.

While creating job roles and ensuring that everyone has a fair chance is essential, true diversity comes from the very core of your business. What can start at hiring, needs to also be applied to all internal processes to help decrease bias at all stages of employment and help ensure equal opportunities for everyone.

At GoDaddy, we have a specific commitment to help narrow the gender and ethnic gaps that continues to help move us in the right direction. Each year, we pull our internal data, evaluate where gaps exist and then turn this information into actionable plans. We've made progress in many areas, but in others, we haven't come as far as we'd liked.

For instance, the 2017 data shows we have increased the population of women at the company from 24% to 26% of the total workforce. Partnering with the Clayman Institute to develop a new system that enabled the company to proactively identify qualified women and other qualified candidates, women in senior leadership ranks at the company went up 5%, to 31% overall. However, we did see a 2% dip in the number of women in tech roles in the company.

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