Inclusion: as easy as ABC

MediaLink Great Expectations 2021

IPA President Julian Douglas delivered this speech at MediaLink Great Expectations 2021, delivering his blueprint for inclusion in the industry.

I am on a mission to tackle the systemic issues in diversity and inclusion we have in the advertising industry and my Great Expectation is that 2022 will be the year we finally make a meaningful difference.

We are all too aware of our poor performance in diversity, but to date progress has been glacial.

This pace of progress has been so slow because too many of the people in positions of power and influence didn’t want it to happen. Too many were holding onto the past, securing the status quo, rather than embracing the future. Even as targets were set, commitments signed, too little action has actually happened.

So why the optimism? What is different this time?

The answer is as simple as ABC…

A is for Acceleration

One of the very few positives that Covid-19 has delivered is an inflection point, a discontinuous moment to change things. As Einstein put it "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity..."

A second, rare positive from the pandemic has shown that with a trigger of sufficient horsepower, enormous change is possible. We’ve seen multiple vaccines developed in record time. We’ve seen 10 years worth of tech adoption by businesses, schools and families in 10 months, in some cases 10 days. 

What if we were to harness those positives to apply a multiplier effect to how we tackle the perennial problems advertising faces in diversity and inclusion? What if we were to make incrementalism our enemy and resolve instead to move 10x sooner, 10x bigger, 10x bolder?

And being bold is especially important when it comes to talent.

In the words of René Carayol MBE:

"When it comes to inclusion, if you are bold you may fail. If you are not bold, you will fail."

B is for Belonging

The industry is missing out on some fantastic people and the contribution they can make, both to agency and client business, due to the myopia and lack of flexibility of people in leadership positions.

I urge you not to limit the range of talent you draw from. And do not limit their opportunities just because they are from a working class background, or from a minority ethnic community, or from any other underrepresented group.

Creating a culture of belonging should be a priority for every leader.

C is for Collaboration

Living through lockdowns and WFH we have a newfound understanding and appreciation of our interdependence. We’ve seen into each others homes, seen our families, pets. We’ve realised how much we rely on others.

Most of us have long agreed that we can achieve more acting together than alone. To tackle an issue as complex and deep-rooted as inclusion we cannot succeed in acting alone. Collaboration isn’t a nice-to-have, it is a necessity. 

And so I take great heart in the positive step changes we are already seeing in our industry through collaborative initiatives such as Black Representation in Marketing (BRiM), and the All In Census and Action Plan from the AA, ISBA and IPA.

So there it is. My great expectation is to finally tackle diversity and inclusion in advertising. Let’s make 2022 the year we move from good intentions to meaningful action.

 Acceleration. Belonging. Collaboration. It’s as easy as ABC.

Julian Douglas is Vice Chairman and International CEO at VCCP and IPA President.

For more on how to drive inclusion in our industry, visit the IPA Fairness Hub.
Last updated 17 April 2024