Does being more inclusive in adland mean changing the technology? AKQA thinks so

But first to another DEI (diversity,equity,inclusion) initiative.

Media agency Starcom and Channel 4 are bringing out the final two episodes in their Brave Stories film series, interviews focussing on workplace taboos, with people from diverse backgrounds or marginalised communities about their personal experiene of working in media.

All very praiseworthy but they do go on a bit – a little editing might have helped and they mostly seem to be Starcom owner Publicis Groupe employees, which you somehow feel doesn’t quite get to the bottom of it.

Channel 4 chief revenue officer Verica Djurdjevic (who pops up a lot in C4 missives these days – clearly destined for even higher things) says: “It’s so exciting to see the launch of our final few episodes, shedding light on such important topics. Through being transparent and honest about what people experience when it comes to age and ethnicity, can we only hope to pave the way for a more inclusive industry going forwards and support them with their challenges.”

The full series is here.

An initiative that may well have impact is AKQA’s RGBlack, a new digital platform aimed at ensuring the tools creatives and other content providers use don’t discriminate or harm marginalised communities with the images they use.

Much prejudice is still with us because it’s always been there, hence the current fashion for pulling down statues of people who profited from the slave trade (as did the whole British establishment of course.) A lot of it endures in images, according to AKQA, in particular the way that skin tone assumptions (white is normal) embed themselves in AI tools.

So black skin often looks blurry, flat or shaded in photographic prints and this has moved into digital image libraries. Hence such people are often excluded from ads and the like.

Using funding from WPP’s Racial Equity Programme, AKQA says it will work towards building consensus among creatives and technologists to develop a new standard of craft for digital creators that includes combating the (mostly unwitting) racism present in existing tools. Presumably through an A1 variant.

Might just work without anyone noticing it. Just the job in a world showing some signs of DEI fatigue.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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