Diversity and Mental Health at AWE 2019

By Natasha Randhawa

Amidst the action of Advertising Week Europe’s second day, our Chief Exec Gemma Greaves took part in two thought-provoking sessions. The Marketing Society’s Global Communications Executive, Natasha Randhawa, reports.

The World is Diverse, so why isn’t your Advertising?

Moderated by Microsoft’s Head of UK Marketing, Tina Aird, Tuesday’s panel gathered together a varied cast (a mix of genders, sexualities and physical abilities alike) to talk diversity. Inclusion should start internally, said LinkedIn’s Joshua Graff, whilst all agreed with Gemma that as marketers, we have the skills, the platform and the responsibility to lead towards a more inclusive culture.

On that note, here are a few practical learnings we could all implement in our offices today:

‘We have a diversity and inclusion agenda where we are pitching different agendas against each other – sexuality vs gender – instead of talking about them all. This “Pick n Mix” inclusion needs to stop.” – Caroline Casey, Founder, Valuable

‘A company should have a purpose instead of a brand. It shouldn’t be a message you just put out to the public – you should live it, breathe it. Start with your most precious asset, and that is your employees. If you can’t create a diverse environment in your workforce, you won’t succeed externally.’ – Joshua Graff, Senior Director, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions EMEA

‘We need to change the language. We need to know the language, be positive and inclusive.’ – Gemma Greaves, Chief Executive, The Marketing Society

‘It’s important to ask for help and speak to people. We can get very insular – especially in agencies – and we need to hear from others. Even if you get something wrong, you can learn from it.’ – Richard Miles, Creative Director, Therapy Agency

R U Ok? Managing Mental Health in the Ad Industry

There wasn’t an empty seat in the audience as the conversation called upon CALM’s Jane Powell’s decades of experience, personal stories on suicide from mental health advocate, Steph Slack and practical advice from the Chair of Channel 4’s Mental Health Employee Network, Sahil Seth. Whether it’s through your campaigns or conversation with a colleague, the bottom line is to be real, be vulnerable and be human.

‘It would be more helpful to “de-medicalise” mental health. Pull back the language so it’s not alienating – “I’m feeling shit” not “I’m having a mental health day”.’ – Jane Powell, Founder and Former CEO, CALM

‘The best campaigns are all about what actual humans are like. Those are the most effective stories with the highest cut-through.’ – Sahil Seth, Partnerships Executive and Chair of 4Mind, Channel 4

‘A lot of stress can be caused by the culture of the organisation. If your fundamental way of your business doesn’t change, you’re only sticking a plaster on the issue. Look at your general culture. Are people experiencing more stress because there’s no flexible working? What can you as a leader change?’ – Steph Slack, TEDx Speaker, Writer and Consultant

As an industry, we foster an always-on, high-pressured culture and in the process of searching to answer our market’s needs, we often forget to reflect on our own. The recurrent theme in both of these sessions and many of the others I attended is that we can do amazing things when we embrace our differences and nurture the creativity within our teams.

By The Marketing Society’s Global Communications Executive, Natasha Randhawa