Adland urged to take a lead on representing ethnic diversity

Ad agencies should do more to represent the ethnic diversity of Australia, Mediabrands boss Henry Tajer said in a question and answer session at Mumbrella360.

In response to a question from producer Gerard Hosier about the poor representation of ethnic diversity in Australian advertising, Tajer – who is also president of the Media Federation – said agencies should do more.

Around 40 per cent of Australians speak English as a second language or come from non-Anglo backgrounds, yet there is only around three or four per cent of advertising spend diverted into ethnic media, Tajer said. And government bodies with quotas of 7.5-8 per cent to spend on ethnic media could be role models in driving that change.

“Then you can express creatively with a whole layer of culture and a whole layer of depth which I think is really reachable,” he told the Mumbrella360 audience.

“It’s something that as an industry we should embrace and it’s up to us to embrace it. We shouldn’t wait for someone to tell us, we should be leaders. Our default should be leadership. Following is not enough and it’s an excuse.”

However, McCann’s executive creative director John Mescall took a different view, telling the audience that representation of ethnic diversity in ads is not even part of the conversation with clients, and it is not the responsibility of advertising agencies to bring it up.

“The advertising industry isn’t here to lead,” he said. “We are acting on behalf of our clients not ourselves. You should ask the question of the people commissioning the work. Why is there not cultural diversity in the advertising I see on my screens? Why is there not cultural diversity in the programming I see on my screens?

“It’s a much broader question than one you can just put to the marketing and advertising industry. We are a very reflective industry we don’t lead ,we reflect what we believe is going to work in the marketplace at a point in time. I’m just telling it the way – it is it’s very pragmatic.”

Stuart Gregor, founder and creative director of Liquid Ideas and chairman of the PR Council, said he did not see ethnic diversity as an issue in the public relations industry, and praised the work of Tourism Australia to embrace it.

Nick Baker, chief marketing officer for Tourism Australia, said the representation of Aboriginal people and culture should be a part of the mainstream and Tourism Australia was working to do that.

“It shouldn’t be just a picture of Indigenous elder whose drawing lines on the sand,” he said. “It’s got to be about how relevant they are. It’s not to sideline it and make it a separate stream, but to mainstream it, and we are very active about making some films to bring those experiences together.”


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