Agencies hoping to be on the right side of history must start to focus on increasing their representation of all demographics rather than relying on stereotypes and token-led stunts, according to Tam-Tam/TBWA’s Ingrid Enriquez-Donissaint.
Courage killed the tunnel vision
How do we overlook people? Stories abound of silenced communities. Nature revealed the lack of people of colour in science; the same pattern persists in many domains. The advertising industry couldn’t possibly rewrite history, but it can tell truthful stories, and even elevate voices and perspectives.
At Tam-Tam/TBWA, we craft around ‘Disruption, between fear and excitement’: fear as a creative risk but also as a norm shaker-upper; with a client like Fadoq, we have the opportunity to help society see wiser generations in a different light. Society’s intricacies should never blind agencies nor should they limit their authority as agents of change.
Intention vs. agenda
When certain agencies use all genres of minorities in ads, they often aren’t doing so unintentionally; it’s generally a corporate choice to give the impression they’re pleasing the masses. Agencies hoping to be on the right side of history and grow business value must start with intentionality through action, instead of (over)reacting at the creative stage. LGBT+ merch, other stereotypes or token-led stunts aren't representation. Agencies who snooze on conveying a truer reflection of society will be up against the likes of 19-year-old Laguerre, "Occupation Hood” creator.
Organisations require introspection and a safe space for employees to learn, unapologetically, for the greater good. WARC ran a survey: ‘Do agencies need more diversity?’ Fifty-one percent strongly agreed while 35% agreed, yet when asked if a framework was in place to tackle their desire for more diverse teams, only 27% ticked the box. The Mad Men days of glorifying women in assistant roles and refusing Black folks for receptionists are gone. Brands are quicker than agencies to grasp that homogeneous spaces with the same beliefs tend easily to reach consensus and slow down growth. Leaving out some/all minorities is unethical, lazy and far from the active voice of the future: Millennial+ avoiding companies without diversity or visionary authentic brands such as Sheertex.
It has never been easier to see humans through their motivations. Let’s learn to manage our fears to unearth refined consumer truths. A PBS study highlighted: 'If you see people who look like you, act like you, speak like you and come from the same place you come from, it serves as an inspiration.' We love image banks, but how many reflect reality? Hence Pre&ent, a hub of images and workshops for marketers, meant to better mirror reality, with people of all ages, colours, shapes, and physical limitations. When it comes to savoir-faire, agencies also have room to bloom; for starters, they must stop improvising cultural cues: strategists sharing insights without first interacting with the target; creatives giving guidance on accents foreign to them; and stylists with zero ethnic hair experience handling an Afro cast – unacceptable.
Golden collabsBe aware of blind spots or be humble enough to discover those you didn’t know were there. Build alliances with experts and consumers with soft spots different from yours (ethnography!), to enrich your lens but also to give you substance to craft relatable stories – to other people and not just the same old two white folks. Daily-TousLesJours mixes urban media and architecture to weave connection and trust between citizens through urban infrastructure. More brilliant collaborations are Hema-Quebec and ZuluxToughTurban.
The world wants to feel seen while agencies need to reprogramme to flourish. Our role is to embrace problems with virgin eyes/ears, but we also need our agency ‘Gabs & Chrises’; dead-curious colleagues not afraid to call sh*t out while also listening to understand. Beyond key industry game-changers, groups such as LWS have been vital in nurturing empowering spaces that celebrate voices of female planners/strategists worldwide, by cheering heterogeneous views and tools.
The essence of strategists is to understand society's knotty fabric, here on planet Earth. Too hard?
Future of Strategy 2021
Ingrid Enriquez-Donissaint's piece appeared originally in WARC's Future of Strategy 2021 report, which you can read here.