On Tuesday morning this week, a selection of famous, and not so famous, faces from the world of advertising descended on Clear Channel in Golden Square for the latest Advertising Association Front Foot meeting.

Front Foot was designed to create a network of heavy-hitting advertisers, media-owners and agencies, temporarily putting business on hold to come together to campaign for advertising and ensure the industry has a voice in wider society. Run by the Advertising Association, it’s also a great opportunity to rub shoulders with MP’s, counterparts from ‘rival’ agencies and clients whilst hearing from a range of inspiring speakers.

October’s meeting looked at a range of subjects, all falling under the broader theme of representation within advertising. Whether that be the numbers of ethnic minorities working in agencies or those with disabilities portrayed in UK advertising, the subject of why brands and agencies struggle to truly reflect society in their ads is an increasingly pertinent topic for us all.

First to address the audience was Women and Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage MP. She talked about the importance of representation in advertising and its influence on a younger generation of people, quoting research carried out for three new CREDOS reports. This included growing areas of concern like male body stereotypes, with boys as young as 10 saying they feel increasingly under pressure to look a certain way due to the portrayal of men in the media. She also talked about the importance of reflecting the UK’s ethnic profile in advertising. Currently 57% of white respondents to the CREDOS research think advertising represents the UK’s multicultural society, compared to just 45% of those from ethnic minorities.

Screenshot

It was insightful to get the perspective of an MP on the advertising industry of today. She even outlined her favourite campaign of recent times; unsurprisingly, This Girl Can. For her, it was a great example of advertising inspiring inclusion.

Next up, we were treated to a new panel of heavy weights, answering a mix of pre prepared questions and those thrown from the audience. The three doing the answering were Cheil Worldwide’s ECD Caitlin Ryan, Mars Marketing VP Michelle Oliver and Pearl and Dean CEO Kathryn Jacob.

Key points discussed between them focussed on the inclusion of those with disabilities in advertising and whose role it is to push this agenda. Should it be a client mandate within the brief or lie with the agency in the script and casting process? Michelle Oliver brought her experiences having recently overseen the new publically-acclaimed Malteasers campaign featuring actors with disabilities in key roles. She went as far as to say that casting someone with a disability had commercially improved the performance of the campaign.

The final subject discussed was on diversity in advertising. The panel were all in agreement here that taking care to ensure advertising reflects modern Britain isn’t just morally desirable, it also makes commercial sense. But, with 90% of those working in advertising being white, the change towards a more diverse attitude starts at home, with us in the industry.

Many of those in the room agreed that we could all do more to help with this process but that it was at grass roots, entry level positions that the biggest change could be made in the next few years as a new generation embarks on their careers in advertising.

This view on the importance of diversity is very much in line with the conversations going on currently at WCRS and the wider Engine Group. Although there’s no quick fix, awareness of the challenge and a commitment to overcome it is a great first step in us all embracing fair representation within advertising.

Find out more about Front Foot here – http://www.adassoc.org.uk/about-us/