Agency diversity not reflected in output

27 November 2014

LONDON: Black and minority ethnic (BAME) employees now account for 13% of the total employed base of the member agencies of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), but concerns remain about the portrayal of ethnic minorities in advertising.

The IPA's annual survey of employment trends in media, advertising and marketing communication agencies revealed that there had been a 23.6% increase in BAME representation in the workforce over the past year, so that they now make up 13% of the total, near to the 14% figure for the UK population generally.

A recent report for the Advertising Association, however, said that just 45% of BAME consumers thought that advertising was representative of the country's multicultural society. Further, almost half of the country's top advertisers were running campaigns that underdelivered against ethnic audiences.

And when MediaTel sat down to view this year's Christmas TV advertising it found black, Asian and minority ethnic faces almost completely absent from the screen. "An anthropologist would conclude that Britain was made up of white, nuclear, families living in suburban Surrey," it said.

The general belief has been that if agencies themselves were more diverse, this would then be reflected in the creative. And it is certainly the case that agencies are becoming more diverse, as the IPA data shows BAME employees made up just 8.2% of the total in 2008, rising to 11.2% in 2013 and 13% today.

And one of this number, Karen Blackett, chief executive of MediaCom UK, was recently named the most powerful black person in Britain. She told The Voice that it was her "personal lifelong passion" to discover and mentor talent from diverse backgrounds and classes in order for them to get a foot in the door of the advertising industry.

Paul Bainsfair, IPA Director General, was bullish about the outlook for the industry. "With overall staffing levels up, the number of people from BAME backgrounds up, and with the number of women in executive management positions on the rise, the 2014 Census paints a positive picture as we move into 2015," he said.

"If we are to maximise our commercial creativity it will be essential to continue to grow, nurture and retain this diverse talent," he added.

Data sourced from IPA, The Voice, MediaTel; additional content by Warc staff