Marianne Calnan
Apr 28, 2024

Rise 2024 conference: Marketing chiefs offer six lessons on the benefits of DEI

Marketing chiefs from Diageo, Lego, and Procter & Gamble at the Rise conference emphasised that diversity and inclusion drive better ROI.

Rise 2024: Focused on making DE&I part of brands and brand strategy. Photo: Bronac McNeill
Rise 2024: Focused on making DE&I part of brands and brand strategy. Photo: Bronac McNeill

Marketing chiefs from brands such as Diageo, Lego and Procter & Gamble, alongside agency figures and media owner leaders, told the annual Rise conference that diversity and inclusion in adland can help boost return on investment.

Creative Equals and Effie UK examined the correlation between agency workforce diversity and marketing effectiveness to key into this theme. Using aggregated data from the Effie Awards UK from the past three years showed that Effie Gold-winning agencies were 7.2% more diverse than the industry average, while across all awards, the winning agencies were 4.3% more diverse.

The key takeaways from the day:

1. Make advertising 100% accessible

P&G aims to make its advertising 100% accessible across Europe, global chief marketing officer Taide Guajardo said.

She shared that P&G’s existing media plan reaches “75% of the population”, highlighting an “opportunity gap”.

Guajardo said that "less than 10% of ads in the EU” are accessible. “Accessibility is an opportunity as a force for growth... and [can help] people feel included,” she explained.

She showed the audience a P&G ad as it would appear to someone who was visually impaired before playing a second spot using an audio description.

Guajardo said P&G is now focused on being “inclusive by design” with audio description and open and closed captioning as standard and called on the industry to collaborate to accelerate accessibility.

2. Brands have a responsibility to ‘build a better future’

Carolina Teixeira, global brand director at Lego, believed that brands have a “responsibility” to help “build a better future by supercharging new creative mindsets and instilling a sense of belonging”.

This, she said, is an approach that allows the brand to grow with new customers.

Teixeira highlighted the challenges Lego has faced when moving away from the perception it is a brand “for boys” and said she understood why Lego did “not resonate with girls”.

She outlined that the Lego Group’s “More than Perfect” campaign highlighted how language could affect children’s creative confidence, particularly young girls.

The campaign followed a Lego survey of more than 61,500 parents and children aged between five and 12 across 36 countries, revealing that girls as young as five were stifling their creative confidence.

Lego also overhauled its brand identity in April to help ensure greater consistency across its physical and digital branding.

3. ‘Expect backlash’ when you take risks

Samira Brophy, senior creative excellence director, and Eleanor Thorton-Firkin, head of creative excellence, UK, at Ipsos, spoke about taking risks in advertising and handling criticism when you do.

Brophy told attendees that people have made different marketing decisions based on the potential backlash a brand and they personally could face.

She highlighted Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign by Ogilvy UK as an example of strong risk-taking. Now in its 20th year, the campaign challenges society’s beauty standards and promotes self-acceptance among women. It now includes a pledge to never use AI to represent real women in its ads.

4. Marketing can ‘get in the way’ of a product

Ije Nwokorie, chief brand officer at Dr Martens and its incoming chief executive, said marketing can “get in the way” of customers discovering products by “overly focusing” on trends.

Nwokorie said his role as chief brand officer involves “stripping away” anything that prevents customers from discovering Dr Martens’ products, including in advertising, stores or online journeys.

He said the brand "celebrates you, and while you may not feel you fit in, you do belong. It celebrates you and your worth—your background is our superpower.”

Nwokorie was also critical of brands that follow trends. While the Dr Martens brand has been famous among “different subcultures”, it does “not define itself by a particular subculture or trend. Because it’s not trying to be fashionable; it’s attractive to those who don’t want to conform.”

He was named Dr Martens's new chief executive last week and will succeed Kenny Wilson next year.

5. Fear of being challenged ‘shouldn’t stop creativity’

BBC Studios’ vice-president of digital, Jasmine Dawson, shared her advice for creatives and marketers to “harness creativity, consistency and compassion” in ad campaigns and the advertising sector more widely.

She said creating ads “in a world where everyone has an opinion” can be challenging.

Dawson flagged the racist backlash Sainsbury’s faced following the release of its Christmas ad for 2020.

The campaign, which included a TV and social media ad called “Gravy Song”, depicted a phone call between a father and his daughter during the festive season. It was subject to racist comments from some social media users who were offended by the supermarket’s use of a black family.

Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Waitrose took a stand against the backlash the Sainsbury’s spot received. The supermarkets ran their ads back-to-back during two primetime slots on Channel 4 on a Friday evening with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.

6. Inclusion is ‘fundamental to creative excellence’

AI gave Reckitt-owned brand Durex its “best-ever” results for a campaign with diversity at its core, Becky Verano, vice-president of marketing at Reckitt, said.

Verano said that moving to a virtual studio has created more space in the production process to prioritise inclusion and better manage diverse casting decisions.

She outlined Reckitt's striving to convert 80% of its shoots to a virtual studio model. “Technology can unlock some of the practical barriers to inclusion,” she said, urging attendees to be “brave and think about technology as an enabler.”

Verano said that Reckitt’s six Cannes Lions award-winning campaigns had DEI at their core. “We aren't really an organisation that went for the prizes; we are trying to build a culture that values creativity as a business driver,” she said. “Inclusion [is] fundamental to creative excellence.”

She said each of its individual brands, which include Harpic, Dettol, Gaviscon, Strepsils, Vanish and Veet, has its own “brand fight”.

Verano said its “See my pain” campaign for Nurofen, created by McCann London, achieved its highest earned coverage.

The work focused on closing the "gender pain gap", rather than individual product benefits. Verano credited Reckitt’s UK team with being open to a different approach as, historically, product benefits have been a key focus point.

Creative Equals held rise 2024 and took place at LSO St Luke's in Islington, London. The campaign was a media partner for the event.

Campaign US

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