I attended The Marketing Society’s ‘Being Braver around Race’ event on 20th February. Held at the amazing Facebook HQ, just off Tottenham Court and delivered in Fishbowl style format I knew this would be interesting. Following the intro by Marketing Society’s CEO Gemma Greaves, the mic was thrown (literally) to Adrian Walcott, co-founder of BAME 20/20 and then to WPP’s Country Manager, Karen Blackett. Both kicked off the conversation with personal, reflective stories about their experiences with race in their career journeys to date. This really set the tone and each speaker that followed fed off this and built upon. I was hooked, listening intently to every story. It became apparent, very quickly that this was a true example of diversity. Diversity in styles of expression, point of view, upbringing, class, experiences, achievements, career paths. So many differences way beyond race. Madeline Mcqueen mentioned it when sharing her views, we are all from the human race and we often forget that.
Following its commitment and agenda to ‘discuss the uncomfortable taboo issues that have remained shut firmly behind agency doors’, on February 20th The Marketing Society opened its doors to one of the biggest issues that will affect the future of the industry - race. As a ‘virgin’ to the Marketing Society, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Was this another chance for marketers and agency bods to tick the proverbial diversity box, or were the people attending the event really going to take a long, hard and honest look at the industry, the audiences it serves and why addressing the matter of race, representation and portrayal are not only challenges, but a real opportunity. The evening was a fishbowl format, opened by Gemma Greaves, who highlighted the aims of the Society to start these difficult conversations in a bid to create greater and wider debate, but to also create a forum to share positive and negative experiences with a group of like-minded people to take the discussion forward.
On February 20th the Society held a second of its fishbowl format events at the Facebook offices in London - the topic; Being Braver around Race. Gemma Greaves, the Society's Chief Executive, determinedly said while opening the evening, ‘race is something we don’t talk about, but we should’. Given the waiting list and the full audience for the event, there are lots of us who agree. The inspirational Karen Blackett and Adrian Walcott set the stage as opening speakers. In an incredibly powerful discussion, full of humour, positivity and resilience, here is some of what I learnt: The time for change is now A number of participants bravely shared their experiences; from facing and witnessing the ugliest of physical and verbal racist attacks, to institutional racism, unconscious bias and routine micro-aggressions in the workplace.
Following-on from the 2017 Marketing Society fishbowl event on another taboo subject, mental health, top marketers client and agency side were joined by a selection of influential guests at a pioneering event put on by The Marketing Society at Facebook’s offices in London. Fishbowl events are designed to be a comfortable place for an uncomfortable conversation - this one on Being Braver around Race in marketing. Society Fellow Karen Blackett, OBE, and Brands with Values Managing Director and Co-founder of BAME2020, Adrian Walcott kicked off a free conversation that was then opened up to the audience. Guests were invited to stand in the middle of a circle of audience members and take to the microphone. Life is tough for the very few “BAME” in marketing, and always has been. Many guests spoke of the difficulties they have faced as “BAME” people getting into the marketing sector and being in it today. “BAME” is and always has been significantly under-represented in the marketing sector. This originates from getting a foot in the door in the first place. Recruitment is an issue.
A contrarian friend of mine was fond of saying there are two types of people in the world - those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t. Irritating to some and intellectually reductive to others, we all categorise to some extent to make sense of things. Market segmentation is, after all, a core practice in marketing. The philosopher, Isaiah Berlin, divided the world of philosophers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs and foxes. Hedgehogs were those who saw the world through the lens of one big idea: he included Plato, Proust and Nietzsche in this category. Foxes, on the other hand draw on many sources, knowing a little about a lot of things. For Berlin, Hedgehogs have the virtue of coherence and consistency while foxes, who include Shakespeare, Balzac and James Joyce have the virtues of range and creativity although sometimes contradictory and illogical. Hedgehog thinking is centripetal, fox thinking is centrifugal.