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        Advertising today is a world of brands, content, and all sorts of slickly produced ads. It’s certainly not a world where diversity is at the forefront, but it can be done.

        The environment has changed and advertising now serves a wider audience than ever before. There’s no point creating ads for the one per cent if a huge proportion of the population can’t see what it’s all about.

        There are rules for making ads that achieve better results, and diversity is certainly one of them. But there’s more work to be done.

        What is diversity, and what is not?

        Advertising is predominantly a male industry, with 84 per cent of ad buyers male, while the majority of creative directors are male. It’s a trend we’ve seen for some time and one that isn’t changing.

        All around us, media and cultural values are shifting. To respond, the role of women in advertising needs to be a reflection of wider social norms. In the US, the fourth annual Ketchum Women in AdMedia study, which analysed more than 1,300 ad campaigns, shows that just 25 per cent of women directors are involved in campaigns with two to five million in total media impressions.

        If you’re working on campaigns with over 500 million, only 16 per cent of ad creatives are women. The vast majority of ad agencies are not providing creative directors with mentoring or opportunities to direct. Anecdotally, too, many women are not attending creative workshops because they worry that they won’t be taken seriously.

        Another popular perception is that women don’t look for careers in advertising, but that’s not true either. In 2012, women spent nearly $160 billion on advertising, with women now making up 52 per cent of global advertising spending. The equality gap is closing slowly.

        In fact, according to McKinsey’s 2013 Womenomics report, if women had the same career choices as men, they could increase their income by up to $600 billion a year.

        Is the whole world a diverse place?

        The great thing about marketing is that you can reach as many people as you like with your message, whatever their background. That means your target audience can be international, and perhaps the makeup of it can be more diverse than the country it’s from.

        While it may seem like it’s the only choice you have, you can’t use global, national, regional or local demographics to create a more diverse environment. According to my own experience, it’s not enough to just hire a few more women to work on campaigns. You need to hire a few more men too, so you can spread the creativity around.

        As we have grown and evolved, we have come to better understand that this cultural disparity among creatives does impact the way they relate to and communicate with different audiences

        The bad news

        You can’t really be everywhere at once, so there’s a risk you’ll miss out on people with great ideas, but with a very different point of view. This is especially the case with younger audiences, who are less likely to understand the ads they see.

        When it comes to tackling diversity in advertising, we need to understand what type of marketing can benefit from it. It’s no longer enough to get people to watch the right ads, but it is possible to get them to buy the right products – if the message is relevant.

        As a top expert on advertising and marketing, Will Hearst and Mead Johnson UK are proactively looking at their current and future campaigns. However, they understand that this will be a long-term project that will evolve over time.

        “If we were to get it right, the potential benefits are substantial,” says Claire Smith, Director of Media Relations, Mead Johnson UK. “In this digital age, most consumers get what they need to get from their devices. I think it’s fair to say that we are living in the age of immediate, compelling communication – which is what this campaign is about.”

        Filling the CMO role with a diverse range of experience is still a challenge. So while it may be easier to find women advertising directors, it is harder to find non-diverse CMOs who can lead the marketing for companies that aim to change the world.

        And this doesn’t just apply to advertising. Diversity is a key trend in marketing – and elsewhere in society – and the same approach needs to be taken for an inclusive, empowering environment.


        Advertising today is a world of brands, content, and all sorts of slickly produced ads. It’s certainly not a world where diversity is at the forefront, but it can be done.