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With an ethnic population of over 10 million, we are truly living in multicultural Britain. And in this day and age it is important for businesses to showcase their internal diversity. But when it comes to the advertising industry are we getting it right?

According to the latest BAME figures released by the IPA, employees from a BAME background account for only 13.1% of agency staff and out of those only 8% are at the top of the seniority scale.

In the light of a multicultural Britain where most of your major cities such as London, Leicester and Birmingham have a majority ethnic population the representation of BAME’s isn’t representative of the population. IPA President Tom Knox said: “If we are to realise our goals, we need to do much more to promote the proven business case of diversity in leadership teams which will require us to come together as an industry and re-think our strategies.”  

Industry leaders came together on January 26 for IPA’s discussion aptly titled Playing the BAME Game. With Tom Knox at the fore, the panel comprised of OMG Ethnic’s Debarshi Pandit, Managing Director Sunshine Nadya Powell and Former CEO McCann London Zaid Al-Zaidy and was attended by representatives from Grey’s, Liberty and Managing Director Here & Now 365 Manish Tiwari.

To keep up with UK’s changing demographics and to appeal to a larger audience – agencies can no longer be a stronghold of “white middle-class men”. It is important for everyone to feel equally represented and for that agencies need to be more inclusive.

Along with that as an industry we need to celebrate diversity. While there are several industry awards taking place, it is time to have the Best Multicultural Campaign Award – not only to celebrate the best of talent but also to make clients and agencies aware of the potential they are missing out on.

Speaking about the BAME Game Manish Tiwari said: “Diversity means diversity of representation – the belief that the faces, voices, tones and media channels used in ads should speak to a world and that is only possible if we increase that representation within our agencies.

Given that diversity of representation is one of those issues marketers find it easier to sign up for than to implement, what is the evidence for practising diversity in communications? The IPA along with the Advertising Association have published evidence of the spending power of multicultural audiences in different markets, and specifically targeting these communities could help mainstream advertisers develop new revenues and clients explore untapped markets.

For example at Here & Now 365, we have been working with Asda to push their world food section to the South Asian, Polish, African and Caribbean communities and the fact that they have witnessed a considerable year-on-year growth in sales during ethnic festivals shows the potential of the market. The reason we are able to achieve this was through our in-house diversity which helped us understand the mindset of the communities we are targeting.

By targeting ethnic groups we can help clients celebrate Christmas all year round with Chinese New Year, Jewish Passover, Polish Mothers Day, Eid, Carnival and Diwali. To understand the nuances of these communities and target incremental gains it is important to have people within these communities work on the planning.”