Adland is white, straight and hopelessly out of touch | Mumbrella360 video

In this session from the Mumbrella360 conference, Direction First's Matt Jorgenson and Pamela Wong look at the evidence for and against the assumption that adland is white, straight and hopelessly out of touch.

Addressing a room full of ad industry staff at Mumbrella360, Matt Jorgenson, strategic director at research firm Direction First says: “Most of us in this room are living in a bubble”.

The sessions goes on to reveal that while only 3% of Sydney’s advertising workforce live in the western suburbs, 78% of the general population live in those areas.

“The first thing you should do is get out from behind your desk and immerse yourself in your consumer. Go out into the western suburbs and see what it is like in those areas,” says Jorgenson.

“Get off the tourist trail and see what Australia really looks like out of the inner-city comfort zones.”

Direction First strategic consultant Pamela Wong adds it’s time for the industry to ask some tough questions about “personal judgements we make when sitting inside our bubble”.

“When sitting behind the glass of a focus group, how many times have you allowed your values to cloud your perceptiveness to what consumers are saying to you?” she asks.

Jorgenson said diversity works best when it is “interwoven into the narrative” of an advert, rather than being the central focus, with Telstra’s Technology is Wondrous campaign held up as an example of how to portray the nation’s cultural mix.

Coca-Cola’s Pool Boy ad – which shows a brother and sister fighting for the attention of a male swimming pool attendant – is another example of an ad which incorporates diversity “without a big rainbow flag waving experience”.

And in the fails camp? Tokenism and stereotypes, explains Jorgenson.

“You can wander into this without even realising it’s happening,” Jorgenson says, pointing to Yellow Tail’s Super Bowl ad in the US, which depicted a kangaroo as a DJ.

“Consumers hated it, so spare a thought for the way we stereotype without even realising it,” he says. “The bogan from the country, the useless dad who is domestically challenged, the Asian person who is really good at Excel. It happens surprisingly a lot so be mindful that people feel marginalised when playing to their stereotypes.”

However, on the flip side of the coin, Jorgenson points to MLA’s lamb ad as an example of stereotypes done right – through the medium of inclusiveness. “Even though it played to a load of stereotypes it played to a message of inclusiveness,” he says. “It made fun of everyone in Australia but brought us all together in that process.”

Of course, it’s also important to remember that not all ads that feature inclusivity do it well. We all remember the Department of Finance’s epic ‘game-changers’ fail back in March. 

Wong said there is a tendency for advertisers to treat over-50s all the same. She makes the point that the needs of a 65-year-old are “often lumped together with those of an 85-year-old”.

“Older Australians feel advertising has an age bias,” she says. “If not ignored, they are targeted with face creams, funeral insurance and incontinence pads”.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.