Diversity of thought and clients as catalysts for change


This week in AdNews, our CMO Adriana Colaneri shared her views on why diversity of thought is what counts, why we should all be Jedi and how our clients can drive diversity in Adland.


A role model of mine, Dentsu Aegis Network UK CEO Tracey De Groose, recently wrote an open letter to her two young sons about the future of gender equality, in celebration of International Women’s Day. Her advice to them, ‘Be a Jedi’, really struck a chord with me.

Not only am I a fan of the Star Wars franchise, but her analogy regarding why the Light Side always defeats the Dark Side was spot on when thinking about the power of diversity in a business context.

As Tracey rightly points out, the Jedi are bound by shared values and beliefs, but they do not all look or sound alike, whilst the Dark Side invariably does. In both the movies and real life the team with different people, skill sets and strengths united by shared values will always triumph.

As industry leaders, when we hire and promote talent that think or act differently to ourselves we should think of the Jedi; look past the facade and view them as a valuable asset offering diversity of thought to strengthen our team and drive our innovation agenda. All too often agencies are guilty of hiring and promoting a team of clones, governed by mind control and group think (or unconscious bias).

The problem is that innovation and disruption cannot be achieved by a group of people who think and behave the same, viewing the world through the one lens. How can they challenge the status quo when the status quo is what they represent?

Innovation comes from diversity of thought; when a team with different mindsets and perspectives come together to collaborate.

In today's workforce, it is not just politically or ethically correct to have a diverse team, it's good business; it’s how you attract top talent and clients.

I'm often asked what has been the secret to Carat's success and growth trajectory over the past few years. I firmly believe it is due to our unique leadership team, made up of a diverse group of people who bring to the table different insights and skill sets, combined to create a winning formula. This coupled with an inclusive culture that values difference of opinion and encourages healthy debate, keeps us one step ahead of the competition.

Carat is not alone; it’s a proven fact that a diverse and inclusive team delivers higher employee engagement and better business results.

Top talent, particularly millennials, want to work for a brand that has a proven track record in diversity and providing equal opportunities for growth. Agencies with senior female leaders are changing the future by providing aspirational role models for their young rising talent, both male and female.

Most importantly, we are all in this business at the patronage of our clients and our value is to drive their business success.

Could lack of diversity in agencies actually be holding brands back from delivering their business objectives?

PepsiCo CMO Brad Jakeman, speaking at the ANA Conference in October last year, ripped into the lack of diversity in agencies: "I am sick and tired of sitting in agency meetings with a whole bunch of white straight males talking to me about how we are going to sell our brands that are bought 85% by women. Innovation and disruption does not come from homogeneous groups of people."

The industry is suffering from a lack of diversity, made up largely by people who have little in common with the end consumer, and it’s no longer going unnoticed by the clients.

What we need is more ‘vocal’ clients like Brad Jakeman because simply put 'he who holds the gold makes the rules'. Clients are in a privileged position to act as catalysts for change by seeking out diversity in the agency teams they appoint to their business.

The ‘diversity issue’ is quickly becoming one that industry heads cannot afford to ignore, not just from a conscience perspective, but from a commercial one. When clients start taking their brands and budgets to more evolved agency alternatives – those able to deliver true innovation powered by diversity of thought – many will wish they started the conversation sooner.

*This article originally appeared in AdNews.

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