‘Elitist composition’ keeps adland out of step with the mainstream

‘Elitist composition’ keeps adland out of step with the mainstream

A lot of research makes its way across our desk, most of it useful in helping the industry make smarter investment and strategy decisions. Some of it just fluffy PR flotsam, or the offcut of an agency client pitch.

But it is not often that you get something that is actually provocative. Although Reach Solutions’ Andrew Tenzer has form on producing such interesting material.

Last year his team, in partnership with house51, produced the Empathy Delusion, a gold winner at our own Media Research Awards. In it, the Reach insights team claimed that ad executives lack empathy and are out of touch with mainstream Britain, and Dominic Mills, although not fully able to reconcile its conclusions with the industry he knew, called it “serious, sober and thought-provoking.”

This week Tenzer and his team published a follow up, and it neatly – if a little awkwardly – skewers some other misunderstandings the industry might have about the wider UK public – for it argues that ad execs think people care about money and fame way more than they actually do because they care about them.

The study also evaluates ‘social virtue’ marketing strategies, but concludes that “no-one believes social virtue influences buying, not even the advertising and marketing community.”


And why does adland foster such misunderstandings? Well, partly because its own social class and privilege is skewering the picture – a symptom of the industry’s “elitist composition”, the report states.

It’s a brilliant demonstration of both the importance of media research in challenging conventional wisdom, but also proof that leaving your own bubble is essential if you wish to develop a better understanding of the world.

It’s also a powerful argument that if you want more nuance in your marketing and business decisions, then you should look to build a diverse team, and that will not only include gender and race, but class too.

Indeed, this all reminds us of something a media researcher once glumly pointed out: if advertisers and their agencies are supposed to have their fingers on the pulse, why was it they did not predict the outcome of Brexit?

The Future of Publishing

We’re very sorry that Virgin Media crashed and burned on Thursday, leaving many of you without access to the Internet just as our latest digital event was getting underway. The good news is from next week each session will be available on-demand.

Our personal highlights include the sessions with Alison Phillips, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mirror and James Mitchinson, editor, The Yorkshire Post, discussing how Covid-19 has impacted their newsrooms; our deep-dive panel debate on examining what clients want from publishers and the argument for a new single currency for publishers; and Michaela Jefferson’s interview with James Wildman, president, Hearst Europe – one of media’s great optimists.

There’s plenty more to sink your teeth into, and the event was followed by our new Future of Diversity series, which we kick-started with Pride in Advertising. Enjoy, and please do give us feedback on how we can improve these events, which we will continue to host for free.

To coincide with the streamed event, we have also published a roundtable debate looking at how publishers are navigating their way through the pandemic – read the views of David Mulrenan, head of investment at Zenith UK, Amy Brown, head of trading at Hearst UK, Sue Todd, CEO at Magnetic, David McMurtie, head of publishers UK at Google, and Lee Lythe, chief investment officer, Spark Foundry.

The Future of Diversity: Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

As the Black Lives Matter protests continue and industry leaders continue to promise change, we’re all looking at how we now move on from words to action. With that in mind, we’ve launched a new addition to our Future of Diversity digital series – a full-day stream dedicated to tackling questions like whether it’s enough for a business to just employ a D&I specialist, whether it’s time to ditch the BAME label, and what white allyship really looks like in this industry.

Register for the event here and tune in on Tuesday July 14. Like all our digital lockdown events, The Future of Diversity: Standing Shoulder to Shoulder is completely free to stream, but we are looking for “sponsors” to support the event with 100% of any sponsorship money going directly to charities and progressive causes. If you are interested, please get in contact.

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