Two weeks on from the Future of Diversity: Standing Shoulder to Shoulder digital event, Mediatel’s Steven Scaffardi hosted a roundtable debate looking at how the ad industry can live up to the promises it made in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lauren Ogúndèkó, Head of Response Media and Board Director at PHD UK and Member at MEFA, and Demi Abiola, Publishing Director at PHD UK joined industry colleagues to discuss what changes still need to be made to address inequality.

Steven Scaffardi (Chair): What are your thoughts on the industry’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement so far and on the pledge signed by many industry leaders to address inequality and take action against racism?

Lauren Ogúndèkó: I think the industry has had a huge wake-up call. Some businesses have made better progress than others, but the running theme we all saw was the acknowledgement of needing to do better. At PHD we’ve already made strides in actualising a lot of the plans we’ve been producing for some time.

Demi Abiola: There is a tsunami of change and anger happening across the world as a result of the killing of George Floyd; and the historic and systemic racism many Black people have experienced is being brought into people’s social consciousness. It seems to have galvanised leaders into making a pledge with clear actions which offer accountability against the 10 goals they have stated. The key will be whether they truly commit to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Steven Scaffardi: Do you think the industry has a responsibility to take action against racism and if so, why?

Lauren Ogúndèkó: Absolutely. The industry is responsible for visualising the act of selling to consumers through advertising and this needs to be more diverse and representative. We should be celebrating different cultures and embracing differences through creative outputs. We simply can’t realise our true potential as an industry if we continue to allow racism to exist.

Demi Abiola: Racism is a social disease, and given our industry is about communication we should be well equipped to help. Advertising can help overturn the negative narrative that often ensues stereotyping and the frequent lack of nuance with regards to cultural references.

Steven Scaffardi: So what can advertisers actually do to support Black communities and consumers?

Lauren Ogúndèkó: Advertisers can start to truly embrace Black communities and respect the power of the Black pound. Black communities are worth billions to the UK economy and want to spend with brands that reflect them and cater to their needs. Advertisers can also champion having more Black representation in their creative talent. Representation matters and if I don’t see someone that looks like me in a product being advertised I most likely won’t make a purchase.

Demi Abiola: When looking within, identify the number of Black employees at different levels and consider how the senior leadership team looks. Creating a culture where Black people can thrive will mean they are becoming true allies. A diversity of employees allows for a range of perspectives which in turn creates the conditions for business to grow.

Ogúndèkó and Abiola also discuss their hopes for what a truly inclusive and anti-racist organisation will look like in five years’ time – looking forward to no need for D&I ambassadors; attributing direct growth based on a company’s adoption of anti-racist policies; and constant assessment of key areas including recruitment, working conditions, promotions, social connection, and learning.

For the full roundtable transcript, click here.