The elephant in the room: Unpacking the creative industry’s lack of minority personnel

Earlier last month, we saw personal body care brand, Dove, receive ‘eye-opening’ criticism regarding its insensitive advert.

‘Dove’s racially insensitive clip of a black woman appearing to shed her body for a ‘cleaner’ white version is now a removed Facebook post promoting the brand’s body wash provided a reminder that the ad industry is still very much divided. The full video included three women with different skin tones, and social media users compared it to more blatantly racist ‘white-washing’ ads from the 19th Century’ – A powerful opening from Adweek’s take on Dove’s new debacle.

However, Dove is just one of many household names that unfortunately seem to alienate a wider demographic made up of minorities in their creative in-house strategic meetings. As it seems that this would have been red flagged immediately when brainstorming had someone of an ethnic background been present in the creative pitch, that or there was lack of extensive market research.

We also had the likes of Pepsi’s ‘tone-deaf’ advert, which mimicked the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting police brutality, in non-other than a satirical narrative, which was then removed from online within a matter of hours. More recently (adding to the list), Nivea’s ‘invisible’ deodorant range, with slogan “white is purity” alongside the tagline ‘keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it.’

The absence of BAME in these creative fields raises an important narrative and rather an important question at that – what are advertising agencies looking for when recruiting and why do they lack appeal to BAME creatives?

An article by Gemma Charles, from Campaign live, writes, ‘Representation of diverse ethnicities in the industry is tied up with socioeconomic, educational and cultural trends. Jobs in advertising and marketing are disproportionately filled by the university-educated middle classes, which has the effect of limiting the opportunities for those from different backgrounds.’

Though it seems logical to hire those who have a relevant degree or qualification in the specific field they are trying to fulfill, that however, should not mean that agencies should be biased/unfair in hiring individuals based on what top charted university they have graduated from. The industry itself is a demanding and competitive one, but to add a complete unfair twist to the mix of solely hiring graduates from middle class backgrounds that are typically white, not only demotivates those who want to break off into that industry, but also diminishes the possibility of any kind of advertising/brand or company having any sense of relatability with ‘real people’, or those of colour.

These agencies are in fact part of the problem, as they contribute to the Gulf of isolating themselves from minorities seen on screen, which is then reciprocated on television, where representation is needed most.

There are many ways around how an agency could combat the low level of BAME’s in creative roles, by allowing internships/apprenticeships or taster days, opened at all levels. This allows all individuals to experience a day in the life of what a typical day to day looks like and runs, to which those who want to be in this industry can envision themselves growing, effectively representing to future candidates that this an industry open to them too.

‘…And the industry as a whole has to work together to attract those who are slipping through the net, perhaps through apprenticeships or by educating potential recruits at an earlier age.’

Another way of combating the low levels of BAME’s in creative roles is by possibly ensuring that there is enough training being completed throughout the whole company – top to bottom (vice versa). This ensures that top-earning creatives who are looking to employ fresh blood, are not biased when trying to create a fully diverse team; equipped with new and various ways in trying to engage with potential candidates to achieve their full potential.

Here’s to more diversity in 2018.

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