Celebrating Difference: What Does It Mean To Be Truly Inclusive?

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In recent years the advertising industry has experienced huge upheaval when it comes to representation. That isn’t just in the commercials and billboards we see but in the people behind the scenes creating them. The industry produces work that crosses paths with different races, classes and sexual orientations—and if that work is going to accurately mirror society, then brands and agencies need to have the right people in the room to deliver the message. 

Diversity, inclusion and intersectionality are now front and center of the cultural conversation in a way they never have been before, and it’s the next generation of talent entering advertising who will be key to keeping these values at the heart of the industry’s agenda. Advertising Week New York will play host to senior leaders sharing their views from the summit, but the week’s NewGen track also gives a platform to rising industry stars eager to tackle big issues head-on. One such initiative is IAMHUMAN, a non-profit organization born out of Advertising Week Europe with a clear aim: raise awareness about intersectionality.

PRETTYBIRD’s Head of New Business, Mia Powell— co-founder of IAMHUMAN alongside Verizon’s B2B Marketing Manager Rob Ryan and Advertising Week’s Jack Hershman—says that her personal perspective has helped to drive the group’s ethos. 

“As a mixed-race woman in this industry I feel there have been so many discussions around race and sexuality but sadly no conversations around intersectionality and what impact this has on the success of an individual,” she explains.

After curating a panel at this year’s Advertising Week Europe, Ryan says that IAMHUMAN will help extend the discussion in New York. “We want to bring more of IAMHUMAN’s approach to facilitating these important conversations to Advertising Week New York—reaching more people, challenging more perspectives and ultimately bringing about more change in how people think about intersectionality and representation,” he says.

For Powell, the challenge for ad agencies, media companies and production houses is to create safe spaces for their staff to have “awkward conversations.” Or, as IAMHUMAN’s mantra goes, ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ By asking what it means to be truly inclusive, the industry must also ask difficult questions about discrimination. 

She says: “I feel we have made a good leap forward, I work for an extremely open and diverse company which has allowed me to thrive. I cannot speak for others in my position but I do feel like there is still a way to go before there is an equal playing field for all.” 

Ryan is encouraged by a recent, groundbreaking Gillette commercial, showing a father helping his transgender son learn to shave, but stresses the need to make sure campaigns like this are produced with LGBTQ+ people behind the scenes.

“I think as a generation we value diversity and creating an inclusive society,” says Ryan, “and so is being supported by an industry powerhouse like Advertising Week, [it’s] really encouraging that people want to see a change.”

IAMHUMAN will be hosting a panel at Advertising Week New York, for more information and if you would like to attend click here.

Simon Reynolds

Commercial Editor at Dennis Publishing

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