How To Action Diversity & Inclusion in Marketing


In partnership with ISBA we recently launched “Representation of a Nation“, a Diversity and Inclusion guide highlighting the importance and value of D&I for our industry, with practical advice for marketers on how to elicit change. In the guide we provide recommendations on how businesses can A.C.T through steps in Accountability, Collaboration and Trading and the importance of actioning from the inside out to authentically deliver in marketing.

In follow up to the guide, we will be writing a series of blogs on diversity & inclusion topics to maintain an on-going dialogue on this vital subject and provide further insight to help take action. For this first blog, we wanted to share our thoughts on the latest 2020 IPA Agency Census results and how we collectively address, starting with ourselves and our own organizations, with a checklist of questions to help drive inclusive marketing forward.

Covid’s impact on ad industry representation

Based on the recently published IPA Agency Census 2020 Results, it’s clear that Covid has unfortunately had a detrimental impact on ad industry numbers and representation.

Key highlights (2020 vs 2019) for IPA UK member agencies…

  • Overall agency staff numbers fell by 10.8%.
  • While non-white representation has gone up slightly from 13.7% to 15.3%, it still remains low. Only 6.4% of C-suite level roles are held by individuals from a non-white background.
  • Individuals under the age of 25 has significantly declined by 29.4%, with those over 50 continuing to fall.
  • Female employment has been the most impacted with female representation falling by 12.8% (males 8.1%). Females in part time roles fell by 24.5% (males 15.1%).
  • Females in C-Suite positions also declined from 34% to 32.4%.

As a female it’s disheartening to see the stats, not just within the advertising industry but across global businesses. With many women this past year multi-tasking full time work, childcare, home schooling and domestic chores all from home, an unsustainable situation, many have encountered redundancy or voluntarily stepped down or out of their careers. As women are often the greatest advocates for diversity and inclusion within organizations, the loss of women in business can have a significant effect on the wider D&I landscape, which is highlighted in a recent Forbes article. The Unique Impact of Covid19 on Working Mothers, Black Women & Women in Senior Leadership

The need to fully support, not just recruit diverse talent

While the 2020 census stats are a reflection of Covid’s impact it is also a reflection of how quickly decisions, often driven by unconscious bias and corporate short termism, can affect the diversity of an industry and thereby the work it produces. It also shows the imperative need for greater support systems within business to enable diverse talent to thrive.

The answer to increasing diversity in the workplace is not purely recruitment, which can be treated as a compliance exercise, but rather ensuring all individuals irrespective of gender, race, social characteristics, or other traits such as being the care giver of dependent children and aging parents (aka the sandwich generation) feel genuinely valued, included and supported by the organization.

How to action this… is by conducting regular surveys with all employees to provide continuous learning on what’s working, what’s not and ensuring the right support, training and mentoring programs are in place for all. Also welcoming suggestions and ideas from employees to create a collaboratively driven diverse and inclusive culture and support system from within the organization. Doing so will not only help ensure career growth for all, but drive engagement rates, new ways of thinking, innovation and creativity for the organization, benefiting all.

So what does this mean for marketing?

As the ad industry still lacks in diversity, it’s not a surprise that most of the work it produces does as well. While strides are being made to address through initiatives such as the WFA’s Diversity & Inclusion Hub, The Conscious Advertising Network, and The Inclusion Group, formed by the Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA, who recently launched the “All In” survey campaign, we are still at the start of the journey which requires a collective effort by all.

As businesses emerge from Covid and continue to re-build and re-structure, now is the time for marketers to embed sustainability practices, which includes diversity and inclusion, in their marketing approach and help drive industry change.

How to Action from the Inside Out: Guiding Principles & Key Questions to Ask

 To help marketers start the conversation and take action, we’ve outlined key guiding principles and questions to ask.  

1. D&I is everyone’s responsibility

When researching D&I roles, it’s interesting to see how the majority still sit within the context of human resources and not beyond. For diversity and inclusion to become a part of a company’s DNA, it needs to become everyone’s responsibility, with KPIs incorporated into employee performance reviews and roles incorporated across the organization working collaboratively with human resource and management teams.

It should also be championed from the top down. If senior execs do not genuinely embrace it and actively promote it, it can be a challenge to embed across the organization. That said, we are all responsible for the advancement of diversity and inclusion in our organizations and need to be the driving force for change. Marketers are perfectly placed in our view to take the lead as marketing communications (both internal and external) can be a formidable force for good in shaping the views, values and behaviours within business and society.

2. Embrace ALL diversity at ALL times

We often see D&I agendas predominantly focused on gender and race, which are vital but there are also 7 other protected characteristics that businesses and marketing teams should be focusing on. Disability as an example, which transcends gender, race and social differences is often overlooked yet according to the World Bank one billion people in the world has some form of disability, which should be actively reflected in business and modern advertising.

We also see many organizations focusing on one characteristic one year and then moving onto another the next year, as some believe it’s impossible to focus on all at once. While we understand the logic that it’s better to do one thing well, vs several things half baked the issue is as individuals, we are not defined by just one characteristic but are all multi-faceted. Diversity and inclusion is also not a fad, so focusing on a specific area that’s being talked about most or considered “on trend” is also not the answer. To authentically embrace inclusion, businesses and marketers need to consider all human characteristics at all times.

 How to action this… is by appointing leads to champion each of the protected characteristics and beyond, who then become experts in the respective area and can collaborate with human resource and management teams in implementing best practices for the organization.

Per the UK Equality Act 2010, the 9 protected characteristics for reference are the following…

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Assignment
  • Marriage & Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy & Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

3. D&I Checklist – Key Questions to Ask

To help drive inclusive marketing practices forward, starting from the inside out, key questions to ask are the following…


1 Do you interact with people who have a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, or are they all kind of the same? What about in your workplace?

2. When was the last time you read or saw something that challenged your beliefs, or made you think differently about how you think or behave? Are you open to reading news/information from different sources to gain insight on opposing views and opinions?

3. Do you feel valued, included and supported within your organization? If you do not, is there someone you can turn to in order to help address?

4. Do you proactively help to drive diversity and inclusion discussions and actions within your organization? What about in your industry?

5. Do you proactively engage and support marginalized team members who may feel excluded or be silent in meetings or discussions?


6. Does your company truly embrace diversity and inclusion through its actions, not just rhetoric?

7. Does it have D&I training in place to help educate everyone in the organization, foster inclusive behaviours and stop unconscious bias? Do you welcome experts in to provide for outside in perspectives?

8. Does it have a mentoring program where all staff, but particularly those from marginalised groups, have the opportunity to be mentored to further their career.

9. How does the company recruit, support and develop ALL talent to ensure long term career growth?

10. Are you communicating your company’s D&I efforts both internally with employees and externally with suppliers and consumers?


11. Is your marketing team diverse and inclusive? Does your team feel valued, included and supported? Do they feel confident they can openly share their views or issues without fear of negative consequence or unconscious bias?

2. Are your agency partners diverse and inclusive? Do they feel valued, included and supported?

13. Are you aware of how your partners recruit, support and develop diverse talent, long term?

14. Do your commercial contracts with your agency partners and suppliers meet your company’s diversity and inclusion practices and policies? Do you have visibility of theirs?


15. How well do you know your audiences? How often do you engage with them directly? How often do you engage with your sales and customer service teams to gain greater insight?

16. Are D&I objectives incorporated in all of your briefings to agency partners, media owners and tech providers? And, do you have tracking in place to assess the impact on all audiences?

17. Do you have a diverse team of individuals developing briefs and evaluating the work that is produced (ie creative, media plans, etc)? Do you tap into other team members outside of the marketing bubble, to get outside in perspectives on the work?

18. Is the given activity being planned improving society via embracing diversity and inclusion? Not just in terms of what is created, but HOW it is created (ie diversity in the talent that is producing the work).

19. Is the activity reflective of the diversity in our society today? Not just in terms of gender and race but considering all protected characteristics and beyond?

20. Are you targeting audiences using a diverse portfolio of media channels, not just those that have the highest indexes?

At Flock we are learning more and more about how the best companies drive best practise and benefit from the results of D&I inside their organisations, and how they engage their customers through their marketing. We are keen to learn more, share what we know, and help those companies who seek our help, where we can. If you would like more information, to collaborate, or just share your ideas please contact us via the form below.

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