There Is Still Work To Be Done
A piece by Nnamdi David, Head of Strategy for Mediahub UK, in February 2021. It was originally posted on adforum.
Tell us about yourself. Who or what inspired you to get into advertising and marketing communications?
I’m Nnamdi David, Head of Media Strategy at Mediahub UK (part of MullenLowe Group UK), a global media business dedicated to bringing a more creative approach to media though insights, data and media. I’ve been in the industry for about 12 years. I studied Marketing at University and I guess what originally inspired me to work in this industry was the satisfaction of seeing my work and efforts being engaged with and talked about in culture. To this day this is my motivation, I’m fascinated by human behaviour and excited about the different ways we use comms to influence behaviour.
What is your opinion on the current state of diversity in the industry? Have you seen a significant change since the start of your career?
There is still work to be done, I’m not here to bash the boards so to speak, but I’ve felt a material difference in not only the people and the make-up of agencies, but also where ideas are coming from and voices leading conversations in the walls of agencies. For me it’s not just about optics, it’s important we’re giving diverse voices the platform as well as empowering these voices, that’s how we diversify and stay diverse. No one is motivated solely by presenteeism.
Over the years, there’s been a rise of roles focused on Diversity & Inclusion, the introduction of quotas, and other possible solutions. What have you seen to be the most effective, and where have you seen these initiatives fall short?
This is sort of related to my previous point, I don’t believe in presenteeism to deliver diversity optically is the right solution. It’s just lip service, so in general I don’t think quotas are really effective, also I just don’t think quotas exist, in their nature I feel they are a reductive solution, that inherently demotivates diverse talent, whilst also creating a negative narrative against diverse talent.
Diversity & Inclusion needs to be on the agenda in boardrooms, and I think Diversity & Inclusion roles go a long way in demonstrating a business’ commitment to the cause, whilst also ensuring it remains on the agenda of the agency. I think these roles are effective starting points to driving change, however, without any true empowerment these roles are destined to fail.
Within your agency, what’s being done to increase/maintain the diversity of talent?
To increase diversity, two directives spring to mind, we have an apprenticeship program, which helps increase the width of our hiring net ensuring we’re giving an opportunity to young talent from all backgrounds and not just traditional university routes. A bit further up the age bracket, we also use neutral CVs, so we remove some unconscious bias that often occurs when assessing CVs.
To maintain diversity, we have a diversity and inclusion team, who’s role and responsibility is to ensure diversity remains on the agenda, whilst also increasing awareness, and empowering voices across diverse communities. Two examples that stick in my mind; we had Cephas Williams, an inspired and inspiring voice delivering a talk to the entire agency (virtually), and we’ve had talks from Outvertising which was easily one of my favourite talks of the year and really helped kick start conversations about diversity with our clients.
Looking to the client-side, are there any brands you think should be commended for their efforts?
I can’t speak much for the internal efforts, but externally and this is probably a bit of a cliché, I’ve been really impressed at Nike’s ongoing commitment to empowering voices from all communities. I think their LDNR ad, really embodied this, and a lot of their comms since then has followed suit.
What do you think can be done at a grassroots level to open opportunities to create a more inclusive future in the advertising world?
I think apprenticeships are a good start, but ultimately, I think there is more outreach needed. There is so much mystique around agencies and this is probably why a lot of young people never say their dream job is to work in advertising. I remember telling my Mum I wanted to work in advertising, and she was nervous because she didn’t know much about the industry, didn’t have many friends in the industry and was concerned there was a sinister reason behind this. I think we need to really reach out to more diverse communities and schools and begin recruitment there.
Following one of the largest movements in history for racial justice, what was your agency's response? Have you launched or participated in any initiatives?
Last year we launched our Diversity & Inclusion charter, whose purpose is to lay out a series of aims, strategies and commitments that we, our clients and suppliers will adhere by so that we all become accountable in our determination to make meaningful change. The charter lays out our commitment to hiring targets, training commitments and the work we will be doing with our clients.
Our agency is committed to educating staff to recognise their own unconscious biases and to actively challenge discrimination. We now run bimonthly all-agency “lunch & learn” sessions focused on diversity and inclusion education, including training sessions on active allyship with Hustle Crew and inclusive and diverse casting with The Eye Casting Agency. We’ve also developed and delivered a "Be Inclusive" module for our in-house management training programme and we are in the process of developing an inclusive hiring training programme for all hiring managers.
We know we aren't perfect but we’re making good progress, I think.