There has been a lot of hand-wringing and navel-gazing in the ad industry about ethnicity lately, and plenty of promises made. A memo from Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun concedes that “too many initiatives and disparate efforts without focus does not truly change things.”
His team has put together a seven-point plan to “Embrace Change.” It still seems like quite a lot of action points, but the focus is sensibly on transparency, £40m of funding, and mentoring/apprenticeships.
Agencies have shied away from publishing individual data on staff ethnicity, but Publicis Groupe has decided to be up front: 81.8% of senior leaders and 69.1% of its staff in the US are white. This is better than the IPA’s UK figures, which show that 95.3% of senior leaders and 86.3% overall are white.
Publicis has broken down the results further into black, native American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and two or more races.
It will come as no surprise that, at all levels, black employees are behind Asian and Hispanics, and significantly more are lost between entry level and senior leadership. By the time they get to the top, we see 1.9% black, 10.7% Asian and 4.5% Hispanic or Latino.
In the UK, Publicis Groupe CEO Annette King has promised a more targeted apprenticeship programme that — crucially — comes with subsidised accommodation. They will also collect and publish detailed data.
King says: “This is a decisive moment as we all ask ourselves what we can do to drive the change that is so long overdue. We will continue to listen and learn.” Lord Woolley, founder and director of Operation Black Vote (with whom Saatchi & Saatchi have worked in the past) and chair of the advisory group for the Government’s Race Disparity Unit, will join a new Diversity Progress Council that will hold the group to account.
The new plan comes out of a “pause for action” day on 17th June, when all staff were asked to take time out to think seriously about diversity issues in general and Black Lives Matter in particular.