Pushing for change: One brand’s quest for inclusivity

Pushing for change: One brand’s quest for inclusivity

Nationwide’s head of media Chris Ladd calls on the industry to do better in supporting brands as they develop diversity and inclusion strategies they can be proud of

“What have you done today to make you feel proud?” So sang M People’s lead singer Heather Small in the song that became the anthem of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Can we yet say as an industry that we have responded to the tragic events in the U.S earlier this year and the resulting reverberations around the world, in a way in which we can be proud?

Certainly, many stopped to think about diversity and inclusion again. October’s Black History Month continued that reflection. However, I think the risk is that some of those well-meaning efforts are not followed through into ever-lasting change in the media industry.

Experts in this field would say that this change is long overdue, and not new news in 2020.

I say all of this from a largely ill-informed perspective. I’m the second child, born to a white British family. My father worked as a Chartered Accountant in London and my mother a housewife – that was her label in the 70s and 80s.

I grew up in the Home Counties with a prep school, then private boarding school education. I’m not ashamed of my background; but the less glorious parts of British history around the slave trade, the Empire, and the Windrush Generation (to name just three) were brushed over in my education.

I learnt a bit from studying history and a lot from playing cricket, which gave me access to some diverse groups who played the game. Watching the history of South African cricket from apartheid to quotas also shone a light on inequalities in that sporting “industry”.

Now, prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests, but also inspired by Nationwide colleagues far more in tune with the challenges faced by minority groups, we and our agencies committed to drive change in Nationwide’s media planning and buying.

So, what have we done so far?

Most importantly, we recognised that we needed to do more. Our media agency partners, Wavemaker and Ebiquity, also reflected on how to accelerate change. Since then, the Nationwide account team at Wavemaker has been leading the agency’s output in changing how they plan and buy media for all their clients.

Prompted by our challenge, Ebiquity has also mined industry data, and improved its own learning and access to these audiences through its joint venture with DECA, with us as their first client. Everyone agreed this was a time for collaboration between companies.

Then, with Wavemaker’s access to research systems not directly available to Nationwide, we strengthened the diversity insight in our own marketing segmentation. Plus, we are commissioning more research through the Ebiquity/DECA partnership to understand further the specific diverse groups’ views on our brand and our advertising.

Our marketing brief template was reviewed to prompt the brief writer to call out more insight around diversity in the ‘target audience’ section. While we look to beef up that insight, just having the prompt has made client and agencies think more about the diverse make-up of a target audience.

We reviewed the very long list of words in our keyword block-list. Some words were still appropriate to block against (e.g swearing), but others just seemed out-dated – and we’ve sought opinion from diverse groups themselves on the make-up of that list.

We no longer have keyword or site “black lists” or “white lists”, with this archaic language binned from spreadsheets, presentations, and contracts.

Through Wavemaker, GroupM is finalising an inclusive website list for online media buying, ensuring we can access audiences through a truly diverse range of sites.

Lastly, media implementational plans now report coverage and frequency against a range of diverse audiences within the target market to see where there is over or under-delivery in reach and frequency figures – although this information is not always available in planning systems. Plus, we are committing more investment to media owners who can deliver diversity of colour, religion or sexuality to our media campaigns.

All this momentum has been super-charged by the bravery of our social media team to post our response to an idiotic tweet about our advertising.

It’s been a fascinating journey so far, but it has at times felt like we or our agency partners had to chase for answers, rather than be given ideas and solutions unprompted.

Some of the questions we are asking? To name but a few:

  • How are media researchers improving data to allow greater insight into these audiences while maintaining compliance?
  • How easy are we making it for those diverse media owners, quite possibly on the brink of extinction due to Covid, to pitch their offering to a trading system dominated by a few buying groups?
  • How much are agencies sharing what their insight functions are finding – even within their own holding company, let alone the wider industry?
  • How quickly is brand safety tech driving the ability to analyse content in context?
  • Which media trade bodies and media owners have re-focused their sales and marketing presentations to show how they can support brands in reaching these audiences?

The launch in September of ISBA’s new diversity tracker highlights the growing demand for ads to be representative, while also calling out just how far we must go – right down to individual sectors.

Speaking to other advertisers via ISBA, I am sure many others would welcome conversations and actions to change our media and creative landscape.

Nationwide will continue to push for change, share our learnings, and probably make some mistakes along the way.

But I worry that commercial pressures in these unprecedented times, or slowness within the media supply chain, may distract or stall the momentum from the last few months.

We all have a part to play. If you are in a meeting and this issue is overlooked, then be brave and ask why?

2020 will be remembered for many grim reasons. However, it must be the year we all did something to make us, and probably Heather Small, feel proud – making our industry’s output truly inclusive for all.

Chris Ladd is head of media at Nationwide Building Society and a member of ISBA’s Media Leaders Group. He has also just joined ISBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Group

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