Bravery comes in many shapes and sizes and the advertising and PR industries tend to pick and choose which ones they uphold. The brave campaign is an ideal, and some agencies achieve it some of the time. But when it comes to brave values, most agencies operate according to the principle, “stick your neck out, get garrotted”. Even those that pay lip service to whatever value is trending at the time.
Last week, Ogilvy PR decided that lip service wasn’t good enough when it came to marriage equality. It has made a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in all its forms and that includes marriage equality. It made its support for marriage equality crystal clear on its home page.
Are you wondering what OPR’s clients thought? You’re in the majority.
Ogilvy PR Australia chief executive officer, Kieran Moore, stands out. “I wasn’t concerned one bit about the website change. We’re not a big bank or government body that has to get passive support for issues like this. We’re in a privileged position when it comes to saying things. We’re in a great position to use our voices for things that are important.”
As Moore sees it, because of the industry that Ogilvy PR works in, it has a real opportunity to take stand for people that are important to its people and its business. And those people are incredibly diverse.
Of course, it’s not all altruism. There’s a business strategy woven in there too. Diversity promotes better work. “I believe that a diverse and inclusive working environment brings out the best in people. People can only turn up if they can be themselves.”
Among OPR’s 120 people are quite a few working mums with school age children, for example. These women can work from 6 – 2pm so they can do the school pick up and whatever after school brings.
The agency has just hired an asylum seeker from the Middle East – with fantastic qualifications but no Australian experience. The latter had been a barrier until they applied to work at OPR. “It makes us a very interesting place to work in when there are a lot of different views.”
So what are the obstacles to diverse advertising, production and PR industries? Moore gives a little laugh. The answer to that question is obvious. But her answer is, “Ignorance.”
Then she adds, “I think that a lot of companies think it’s a monumental leap. That they have to go all out in one giant step. But, in fact, achieving diversity and inclusiveness is a whole series of little steps. And that’s how we’ve done it.”
I ask her about my pet topic – ageism. She agrees that advertising hasn’t even begun to look at that elephant in the room yet. “But I think it’s the next frontier.”
She points me to the blog Edith Zimmerman on The Hairpin, which mocked the stock photo cliché, Women Laughing Alone With Salad, a meme in which white, 20-something women look thrilled about lettuce leaves. The post has been shared more than 200k times on Facebook, more than 15k times on Twitter and received nearly 750 comments.
People notice when advertising, PR and production are out of tune with what’s real.