Without diversity, the advertising industry is committing commercial suicide. Yet, despite unified calls for change, the balance of female leaders and non-white employees in advertising agencies declines while brands and customers increasingly expect their agencies to reflect the society they serve.

Our Managing Partner Richard Robinson, recently voted Male Agent of Change by the Women’s Business Council and Management Today, shared his views and steps to change with a panel of experts at Advertising Week Europe led by chair Nishma Robb, Head of Ads Marketing, UK Google.

Marie-Claire Barker, Chief Global Talent Officer MEC; Bejay Mulenga, Co-Founder Filli Studio, Supa Academy; and Nadya Powell Co-Founder, The Great British Diversity Experiment & SOWhite joined the debate.

Do the maths

In inner London, 51% of the general population now comes from a BAME background, but only 20% of people in adverts come from a diverse background. Women hold 30% of agency executive roles, while those from an ethnic background occupy only 12% of all roles, with just 8% in terms of senior leadership.

Nishma acknowledges that we’ve made progress – but it’s been small. And it’s been slow.

The business argument

It’s simple: if a mere 20% of adverts feature people from a BAME community, that does not reflect the world we live in. It also highlights the lack of talent in our creative industries to mine the insights, create the ideas and produce the work that will reflect and influence the ultimate customer. If we want UK creative industries to continue to receive £20 billion per year in client spend then we need to ensure we have an industry staffed by the best talent for the future.

 Stop waiting for the cavalry: get to it

“Don’t wait to be asked, take action” championed Richard, “Someone has to start the change and everyone can.” Marie-Claire spotlighted the importance of making sure people feel they add value and are included – from big business meetings, to brainstorms, to a spontaneous lunch. Nadya urged the audience to look at the whole supply chain – from ad agency to production house, adding, “for different conversations, you need to invite in different people – you may get conflict, but, you’ll get better ideas.”

Richard called on brand marketers to consider the positive role they can play in working with their agencies to advertise advertising and market marketing to ensure the best and brightest talent is found and supported through to the future, just as HP and Verizon are doing in the USA.

“Engage, make a personal difference, and ensure that our industry has the talent to build the best campaigns anywhere in the world” concluded Richard.

To learn more, please click here to watch the full replay of the session:


Read Huffington Post’s review of the seminar: