WFA launches first global ad industry inclusion census


The advertising industry is to come together to conduct its first global census to provide “hard data” on the workforce, including diversity, equity and inclusion, around the world.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) is running the census in partnership with Campaign, Kantar and industry bodies the European Association of Communications Agencies and VoxComm.

Major brands, including Diageo, GSK, Havas, Mars, Mondelez and Reckitt, are supporting the census.

National advertiser and agency associations in more than 20 markets will promote research and encourage local marketers to participate.

“The WFA and its diversity and inclusion taskforce believe that the strains and pressures of the pandemic have made it harder for many organisations to prioritise their diversity and inclusion efforts, while research has found that many women, in particular, have considered leaving the profession,” the organisers said.

“The survey will assess where the global advertising and marketing industry is in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion by investigating workforce composition across the industry, as well as people’s perception of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including their sense of belonging and their perception of progress.”

The WFA-led initiative follows the UK ad industry’s All In census, which took place in March.

The aim of the global census is “to generate the largest and most representative sample possible” and it “will help inform an action plan for improvement”, led by the WFA’s taskforce.

The participating markets in this census are Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Hong Kong, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the US.

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An online questionnaire will go live between 21 June and 2 July and the results will be compiled and analysed by Kantar. They will then be published by Campaign’s global network of editions later in the year and presented at leading industry events in October.

The UK is not participating in the global census because it recently ran All In, but the WFA plans to build the UK results into the global findings. The WFA questionnaire is an abridged version of the UK survey, which was also run by Kantar.

Stephan Loerke, chief executive of the WFA, said: “This is a historic moment for our industry. For all the talk of ‘we are in this together’, the pandemic has shown this to be simply untrue. Inequalities have been exacerbated by recent hardships. 

“Anecdotal evidence suggests the industry is going backwards on diversity and inclusion. It is imperative we get a first-ever industry baseline so that we can draw a line in the sand and move forward together in improving the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry.”  

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary General, executive director of UN Women and chair of the Unstereotype Alliance, said: “Progress in diversity and inclusion across the advertising industry has been inching forward where it should be racing ahead. The recent State of the Industry report by the Unstereotype Alliance shows that mechanisms to measure and hold organisations to account are critical to the improvement that is so urgently required. 

“This census is an important step to uncover the extent to which marginalised and under-represented groups are under-resourced, and to help identify a clear path for progress.”

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Jess MacDermot, global portfolio director at Campaign, said: “Campaign is delighted to be partnering the WFA on this global diversity and inclusivity survey, which builds on the initiatives we and countless others have already undertaken to highlight both the progress being made by the industry, and the significant challenges that remain and which must be tackled.

“We look forward to lending our ongoing editorial and commercial support to this project, within all our global editions.”

Christopher Kenna, chief executive and founder of Brand Advance, which advises brands on how to reach diverse audiences and works with more than 500 publishers, said: “The WFA and its members are showing how all businesses across the industry need to move in a meaningful way from alliance to advocacy. This means not just saying you believe in diversity but ensuring meaningful progress is made internally and across your media and advertising. 

“This census gives the whole industry a ‘ground zero’ – allowing us to assess where we are, what we need to do. Then we can do it. Because Black Lives still Matter, LGBTQ+ media should be on all media plans, disability should be authentically represented in your creative, alongside many other aspects of ensuring diversity is an advocacy in your brand or agency – and that the resources required to do all this are easily accessible.”



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