Commercial Communications Council tackles inclusiveness and diversity with new policy tool

The Commercial Communications Council hopes to promote greater diversity in the industry with the release of an Inclusiveness and Diversity Policy tool for member agencies to adopt.

The policy follows a survey of the industry conducted by the council which found there is a widespread understanding of the need for greater diversity in the industry. However, there is a clear gap when it comes to formal policies and programmes within agencies.

In response to these findings, the Comms Council Inclusiveness & Diversity Group set a goal that all member agencies have an Inclusiveness and Diversity Policy in place by the end of 2018.

To achieve that, the policy tool for agencies is designed to be tailored to the needs of each organisation. It includes a checklist of practical steps which an HR department or management team can take to ensure their organisation works towards inclusiveness and diversity.  

Further support for HR departments and managers will come from inclusiveness and diversity workshops to be held later in the year that the Inclusiveness & Diversity Group is running with Diversity Works New Zealand. The workshops will provide the tools needed to help create a fully inclusive and diverse workplace because the group acknowledges that having a policy and implementing it are two different things.

Inclusiveness & Diversity group chair Megan Clark says inclusiveness and diversity go hand in hand – one cannot exist without the other – and assisting agencies with a toolkit to effect change in providing an inclusive workplace is a practical yet important tool to help agencies on the journey. 

“We look forward to rolling out the next phase of education, awareness and talent pool development in the coming months.”

Comms Council CEO Paul Head adds advertising is an industry built on creating transformative ideas for businesses, so it is important to strive for diversity in thinking to keep on the forefront of innovation and creativity.

“The industry must be representative of the population its brands are looking to connect with or risk being less effective. This policy tool is a step in the right direction.”

Looking beyond the council and at the wider industry, the discussion around greater diversity is nothing new and many have voiced their thoughts on the impact it has on the work produced as well as how it can be improved.

Earlier this year, TRA’s head of strategy Colleen Ryan explained the importance of diversity in the industry by pointing out research showing human beings cannot help unconsciously conveying gender bias when they communicate.

“When we create communication material we are creating meaning in deliberate and also in unintentional ways. We inadvertently use signs and signals – linguistic and visual – that convey messages coded into the communication,” she said. 

“Consider then that maybe having a few more women in the creative departments might result in comms that attract better unconscious responses from women. Whether or not women consciously recognise advertising that is created by women for women, it seems that they may be unconsciously drawn more strongly to it and therefore identify with the brand it is representing.”

Ryan added around one in 10 creative directors are female (as of March this year) and while the ration is higher across the whole creative team, it doesn’t align with the estimates that say 75 percent of purchase decisions are either made or significantly influenced by women.

“This is not intended in any way to be a criticism of the creative brilliance of the men in the creative teams in advertising nor is it suggesting any lack of sensitivity on their part toward their audience, but none of us is immune to the unintentional covert meanings we create.”

In NZ Marketing, Angela Barnett also took a look at one of the dangers of the codes used in advertising when examining looking at the lack of smart or funny female characters in ads.

But there are signs of progress in a few funny or clever ads with smart women in leadership roles behind them, including Rachel House’s [Hunt For The Wilderpeople] ‘True Rewarden’ for ASB, Flick Electric’s brand campaign, and New Zealand Police’s recruitment campaign ‘Freeze’.

The three ads had females in managerial or lead roles: Rachel House directed ‘True Rewarden’, brand manager Jessica Venning-Bryan was behind Flick’s campaigns, and Ogilvy & Mather’s group creative director on ‘Freeze’ was Lisa Fedyszyn.

However, not all are showing signs of progress. Another ad Barnett pointed out with a comedic female was not actually an ad, rather it was a Funny Girls spoof of a Holden ad featuring Rose Matafeo as a ute-driving farmer with a male voiceover questioning her role. When Holden was asked if it would ever make an ad like the Funny Girls clip, Ed Finn, general manager of corporate affairs, said the idea was “a bit niche”.

“A woman driving is not niche; we’re not Saudi Arabia,” said Barnett in response. “Or perhaps, to be fair, he meant the funny part. Showing funny females in ads is less than niche. It’s rare.”

A checklist for a diverse and inclusive workplace (courtesy of Diversity Works)

· Have an Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) policy and socialise it

· Understand the diversity profile of your existing customers and supplier base, compare it to the environment in which you operate and assess the potential impact of change

· Conduct an internal diversity census, compare it to the environment in which you operate, and assess the potential impact of change

· Develop an I&D Strategy including business case, goals and action plans

· Benchmark, put in place KPIs and report on them

· Hold senior managers accountable for I&D measures

· Have a cross-function and cross-level I&D team in place to undertake priority initiatives

· Ensure managers are aware of related legislative requirements about discrimination

· Train managers and recruiters in key concepts such as unconscious bias

· Promote a culture of respect for and valuing of diversity

· Clarify and embed the concepts of equity and merit, practicing EEO throughout the employment cycle

· Promote flexible work practices and work life balance

· Undertake to pay fairly

· Ensure accessibility

· Celebrate cultural diversity

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