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It’s about time senior marketers expected more from their agencies

I’m not sure how many of you have followed the Kevin Roberts debate but as someone who is passionate about diversity within the industry it's been incredible. 

From being initially shocked by the fact that such an industry figure could think “the gender diversity debate is over”, to being amazed by the swiftness in which Publicis acted in ‘getting rid’ of Roberts from its business (at least in the short term) to today's (Wednesday 3 August) resignation

I do believe it is important that more men get into the gender diversity conversation but the comments by Roberts were simply indefensible and the backlash is totally justified.

Fortunately the comments do not seem to reflect the culture at Saatchi & Saatchi as a whole. Emma Perkins, executive creative director at MullenLowe Open, tweeted: “I spent nearly a decade of my life at Saatchi and I have never worked anywhere with as many talented, ambitious female leaders as there were in the Saatchi network. Kevin’s bias is absolutely out of touch with his own network.” 

Kate Stanners, global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi, stated on BBC Radio 4's Today programme “the Groupe acted so swiftly due to the number of employees within Saatchi and the Publicis Groupe who had taken issue with what he said.”

I am sure that this is true but I would be amazed if the Twitter backlash didn't contribute. And assuming it did, I have no doubt that the following two tweets, from the North American president of global beverage group at PepsiCo and the chief marketing officer of Airbnb, were the ones that ultimately put the nail in the coffin, because the majority of our industry is driven by the bottom line and clients ultimately drive those profits.

When a comment by a leader within the organisation threatens those key relationships, there is only one likely outcome.

In one of our first Token Man interviews, Michael Brunt, chief marketing officer of Economist, was horrified to find out that only 11.5 per cent of creative directors were female and the first thing he did following the interview was go back to his agency to find out what their own gender diversity was. 

So here’s the thing, despite the best efforts of people like Cindy Gallop, Karen Blackett, Laura Jordan Bambach et al and organisations such as Creative Equals, SheSays and Token Man, change is simply not happening quickly enough.  Most agencies simply don’t have the structure or support network to create an environment where women can succeed.

Of course, there are exceptions and there are certainly some men and women blazing a trail when it comes to gender diversity. But if every senior marketer simply insisted tomorrow that their creative teams were as diverse as their customers, then we would get significant change.

Here is my wish. If you're a senior marketer, then go to your agencies today and ask for the mix across their creative department. If it does not meet an acceptable standard (e.g. minimum 30 per cent female and 15 per cent BAME), put them on 12 months probation. If they do not meet that requirement 12 months from today, put them on notice and find an agency that does meet that criteria.

Not only will you feel good about yourself, you will also find your new agency will deliver you with creative that connects and reflects far better with your audience. And consequently will make you a better brand. 

And if you're a chief executive of an agency, don’t wait for your clients to ask. Start investing in the support infrastructure that will allow women (and other minorities) to thrive.

This means giving everyone in a hiring position unconscious bias training. It means delivering flexible working hours for everyone, which will be great for creativity and working parents. It means giving women mentoring and access to role models. It means tasking recruiters with putting diverse candidates forward. And it means looking hard and deep at the people you already have in the senior leadership of your agency and managing out those who are never going to be supportive of a diverse agency (alas quite a lot of these people still exist in ad land). But ultimately it means deciding what kind of agency you want to build.

I have no doubt that those invest now, will be the ones who will come out stronger in the long term.

Daniele Fiandaca is co-founder of Creative Social & diversity initiative Token Man

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