If embracing diversity secures a glorious future for brands, why wait to evolve?

72andSunny creative lead, Genevieve Hoey, urges the industry to view diversity as nature does - an opportunity for growth and prosperity for all.

Nature gets it. Nature has shown us that diversity is the key to true abundance. Biodiversity of plants and animals all working together creates more for all, not less.

We’re all part of exactly the same system, so why does it feel like our industry was the slowest to get the memo?

As a queer, female creative I’ve had to carve a more diverse path. I’ve been dismissed for being gay. I’ve had male partners present my ideas to ECDs for me, because the ECD could only hear words read by other men. My story is not unique nor is it the worst. Despite rapid improvements, it’s an inescapable fact that the marketing environment hasn’t always welcomed diverse species.

Nature doesn’t see diversity as a threat. Instead it’s an opportunity for growth and prosperity for all. In our environment, the same rules should apply. True innovation and creativity is faster, easier and much more powerful when you include diversity in the making and the marketing of brands. (Cindy Gallop has been waving the flag for this forever, please take a moment to enjoy her talk ‘The Future Of White Men in Advertising’. ) While D&I is a hot topic and it’s clear we’re moving on, for an industry filled with creative minds it seems wildly unimaginative we’ve taken this long to get here.

Choosing partners who champion D&I is something we can all do right now. For this article, I reached out to some of the brilliant D&I creators around the world who’ve helped us find better ways to represent diversity on behalf of brands. With acclaimed Australian director Kyra Bartley, we made a Google film on Alzheimers. In an industry chronically obsessed with youth, she made a beautiful film that included and honoured our elders to show how technology can help us to help them.

Kyra Bartley

Kyra says: “I always strive for a feeling of authenticity in my work, and diversity is a key component of that. It’s not just that including a diverse cast is more true to life, it’s that it’s also more interesting to watch! Curiosity is such a powerful emotion to evoke – particularly in the attention-deprived landscape of advertising – and the path to that is rarely through sanitised, bland homogeneity. So right from the start when I’m unpacking a script, I’m looking for opportunities to push against expectation; to swap a gender, to cast against type, to reframe a story through a less dominant character’s lens.”

With celebrated First Nations Director Cornel Ozies we created a Google documentary ‘Rise To the Dream’, which elevates the paralysing issue of ‘shame job’ in remote Indigenous communities.

On his experience working to help brands grow in the diversity space, Cornel commented,” I don’t think brands are scared to embrace diversity. I think it is more about being comfortable. You only know what you only know. People tend to gravitate to others who are like minded. This helps reinforce their values and perspectives – which can limit creativity possibilities.”

Cornel Ozies

Documentary: Rise to the Dream

Maintaining the status quo is ultimately a dead end for a brand. Diversity can bring chaos, but it also leads to powerful and unexpected creative breakthroughs. But D&I has to be an authentic part of the process. I was fortunate to work on a LEGO Diversity project with Sherina Florence, an award-winning US creative leader from our New York office. Sherina donates her time outside of work to organisations that are passionate about democratising equal rights and access, serving as President of The One Club’s One-ID board and People Of Colour Conference (POCC US).

On this topic she commented, “Brands that embrace culture authentically help people feel seen. If people are present and seen, contributing with recognition, the work can become representative. And only the people who authentically experience a culture can create for it. So one has to live and breathe it. Experience the sights, sounds, tastes, beliefs, nuances. Only then is there enough insight to bring forth an idea that the culture wants but didn’t see coming.”

Sherina Florence

As I see it, the creative landscape for evolved brands teems with a rich abundance of powerfully diverse stories. There are so many campaigns from around the world that prove this. Sephora’s ‘Black Beauty is Real Beauty’ elevated the influence that black beauty culture had on the mainstream industry in a way I’d never considered. With ‘You Love me’ Beats challenged society’s obsession with black culture while consistently disregarding the people, and stunned all of us with its poetic truth. More recently, an LGBTQIA+ ad from Doritos called ‘Bold Love’ made me shed several tears, because it beautifully represented so many fights and fears faced by my own community. None of these stories could ever have been told without these brands embracing diversity at their core of their process.

Nature had D&I figured out billions of years ago, so how do we catch up? Start with your team, your partners, your community of co-workers. If everyone has the same lived experience as you – seek more diverse perspectives. Open up your brand ecosystem to others. Genuinely invest in improving your cultural capabilities. Understand that D&I is a journey that never ends, and commit to continually doing the work to get better at it. Get comfortable with the chaos that comes from embracing difference. Value D&I at the heart of everything you do and evolve your brand into a bold, new land of exciting possibilities. Or don’t, and risk your brand being fossilised in the peat bogs of irrelevance.

Just ask Nature.

Genevieve Hoey, is the creative lead at 72andSunny ANZ. 


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