Creativity + diversity = good business

DDB Sydney MD Nic Taylor
By DDB Sydney MD Nic Taylor | 27 June 2017
Nic Taylor

Over a year ago, DDB Sydney made a big choice that would have the most profound effect on our Agency and its future success.

Competition amongst agencies is fierce in Australia, and there’s the sense that it’s increasingly same-same.

We have all searched for the differentiator, a way of being able to create genuine value again for our businesses and avoid commoditisation. We sometimes talk about strategy being the difference, or technology and innovation.

But, no. Whilst we value greatly all of those things, the difference is people and culture.

Our big choice? It was a people choice. A culture choice. And a way of doing business. 

I believe in Bill Bernbach’s principle. That we can create culture. That creativity is the most powerful force in business.

But what’s the key to creativity? Diversity. And we made diversity and inclusion our top agency attribute.

I believe that diversity fuels creativity and therefore should be a key contributor to our success – including our commercial success. It should inspire our existing clients, attract new clients and have a range of implications that represent choices in the pursuit of excellence. 

Diversity matters. Our clients are increasingly focused on this as a big part of their business and look for partners who share that focus. They are using diversity as a procurement measure.

Our clients are increasingly senior women and have a different set of values and expectations. Diversity and inclusion is top of that list.

It matters to our staff and our people – they crave an inclusive culture where differences in gender, age, ethnicity are embraced and supported. These are expectations of the younger generations as we start to compete for talent with the Googles, Facebooks and sexy start-ups of this world.

The importance of diversity and inclusion is recognised across the globe. According to a Forbes survey, 85% of enterprises agree that diversity results in the most innovative ideas. 

“It’s hard to argue with the benefits of diversity, given the decades’ worth of studies showing that a diverse workforce measurably improves decision making, problem solving, creativity, innovation and flexibility,” said Lisa Burrell, senior editor of the Harvard Business Review’s ‘The latest research: Diversity’.

We know that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform others and ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same, according to McKinsey  and companies with more women on the board statistically outperform their peers over a long period, according to Catalyst.

“Diversity fosters creativity. We need to generate the best ideas from our people in all levels of the company and incorporate them into our business practices,” said -Frédéric Rozé, chief executive officer, L’Oréal USA recently. 

This is one of the hottest topics in the ad industry because our history and reputation in this space is not positive. Legitimate change is still a gap.

So, what happens when you make diversity and inclusion your biggest choice? It’s a work in progress, but it definitely feels like we are getting somewhere.

We have champions across all of the organisation – our management team are drivers of this change together with our Associate/Junior Board that is made up of our brightest rising stars.

DDB Sydney is growing in a very deliberate way, attracting the best talent from across the globe and more women into leadership and creative roles with the vision and commitment of our CEO Andrew Little and CCO Ben Welsh – with more exciting people news to share very soon.

Another male in our business championing the cause is our CFO Peter Cameron. With him as my mentor, this week I graduate from my Omnicom University course at Babson College / Harvard with my thesis on diversity and inclusion. I am also proud to be on the Communications Council Board and the Diversity Sub Committee.

A staff survey last year proved how important diversity is to our staff, and that we are strong in this space. I'm proud that 86% of staff agreed that DDB Sydney is a company that encourages diversity. 87% agreed that the office has an inclusive environment where individual differences are respected. And a whopping 92% believe DDB Sydney treats people fairly regardless of differences in age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation or family status. And that’s just for starters.

We’ve generated a series of HR initiatives including a review of parental leave and change in policy for primary and non primary carer, so we attract and retain the best talent in the market. We have a grad recruitment approach that’s focused on ethnicity. And we have our own take on the Phyllis Program, a DDB Worldwide initiative that works to get more women into creative roles. 

DDB Sydney is proud to be part of The Agency Circle, a local diversity initiative designed to create real change in the Australian industry. We audit our work and go through a series of process checks to ensure we represent society and culture in a responsible and diverse way. 

Even if you ignore the awards DDB has won, there is a shared passion for amazing work every time that we know has a positive effect on culture and society. Culture and people has been quoted by large clients as our key and most important differentiator. Using diversity as our agency story has certainly had client and profit benefits.

And best of all? We receive regular feedback that DDB is like one big family. And that puts a huge smile on our faces.

Diversity has a life of its own now and is no longer an afterthought.

We know we’ve only just scratched the surface – there is certainly a lot more to do. 

But creativity + diversity = good business. They just do.

Nic Taylor, managing director of DDB Sydney

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