Advertising leaders commit to tackle systemic racism

Posted on: Wednesday 03 June 2020

Following George Floyd’s death and widespread protests in the US, many businesses across the advertising industry have commited to take lasting action to address ingrained inequality

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Over 200 organisations from across the ad industry - including IAB UK and a number of our members - have signed Creative Equals’ open letter and committed to actively address systemic racism within the industry, create inclusive cultures and harness the cultural power of advertising to authentically portray racial injustice. 

Within the UK’s media and advertising industry, minimal gains have been made in diversifying the ethnic make-up of leadership, according to UK IPA industry census data from April 2020. It shows that 4.7% of executives were recorded as BAME in 2019, compared to 5.5% in 2018. 

The letter’s signatories have pledged to hold themselves accountable in the following 10 ways: 

  1. To empower leaders and boards to drive representation and inclusivity by being a core part of the leadership team’s strategic priorities with clear KPIs, actions and objectives, transparently communicated. Participating companies will monitor their data to understand what goes on within the organisation.

  2. Senior leaders must step up, speak out and take action. All leaders need to acknowledge the escalating racism of the last few months in town halls and company wide gatherings, in order to open this conversation in their organisations. Leaders should use their company channels to share links, information, resources and black-driven research.

  3. Enable employees to understand their own privileges (and what white privilege means) and their biases to help them become accountable allies and activists.

  4. Call out racism whenever it is encountered. Everyone is responsible for this, from the CEO to all staff across the organisation. Companies will implement an incident management plan or refer to equality policies for guidance. Building trust creates solidarity in the workforce and provides a psychologically safe space to work. This can allow for issues such as micro-aggressions (subtle acts of discrimination) to be addressed.

  5. Create safe and inclusive spaces to have open and frank conversations about racism with everyone in attendance. Use these to promote active advocacy and open dialogue for both black talent and allies.

  6. Use existing employee resource groups, such as WPP’s Roots, Publicis Group’s Embrace or for those without networks, assemble ad-hoc forums now such as Publicis Sapient’s ‘Brave Spaces’. 

  7. ‘Check the make-up of your own circle and seek out different points of view,’ as recommended by WPP U.K. Country Manager & CEO GroupM UK, Karen Blackett OBE.

  8. Check-in with black employees - particularly if a leader or line manager. 

  9. Represent at every level and most importantly, within the leadership team: welcome, promote, champion, and celebrate black employees. Commit to amplifying and elevating black talent, working with black-owned businesses and supply chains.

  10. Companies to examine their preferred supplier’s list to ensure their advertising isn’t funding white supremacy or racist content.

If you are an industry leader and would like to add your signature and support this open letter to our industry, email hello@creativeequals.org

You can read the full open letter via Campaign here

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