25 October 2022

Performative allyship is no good, we need intentionality to drive real change

Investment Business Director Demi Abiola, discusses performative allyship and why we need to intentionally drive real change to ensure we have permanent resolve with anti-racism and race equality.

Summer 2020 seems like such a long time ago. We live our day-to-day lives now almost without a thought about (you know what) and the indelible impact it made upon our lives. Out of the tragic death of George Floyd, spawned a global movement highlighting the injustice and atrocities that have afflicted people of colour.

That summer gave rise to a groundswell of optimism about the future in terms of the progression that the advertising industry was making towards being more inclusive. The “Adland Commits” open letter was a tacit admission that the industry needs to do more to make meaningful, and engender impactful, change.

So, the question we have to ask is where is that progress? And are we truly holding ourselves accountable?

Inevitably, anniversaries like the death of George Floyd or Black History Month allow for comment and introspection and then we seem to fall back to the status quo again. But we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of this fact. That energy and momentum that was in such abundance two years ago has dissipated to some extent.

Performative allyship is essentially the practice of words and actions that do more to promote an individual or organisation’s own self-gratification, than actually helping the causes they are intending to showcase.

Real inclusion requires being an active ally and being intentional in our actions when it comes to anti-racism and race equality.

There has certainly been progress in the last two years. I can’t list everything, but a few things do come to mind: BRIM (Black Representation in Marketing) from the Advertising Association has provided a framework for individuals and companies to identify how they can do better in supporting Black marketing professionals.

The Black Pound Report by Lydia Amoah was a deep dive into the UK’s Black and Asian and multi-ethnic consumer spending power, untapped potential and profitability. It is encouraging to see the report now gaining more traction.

Naren Patel and the work he has done with putting MEFA (Media For All) on the radar of the industry and its people has certainly increased awareness of the challenges people of colour face on a day-to-day basis. As it grows in scale and numbers, this influence will only continue to rise.

Organisations such as Diversity Media Sales provide a platform to access under-represented groups. In their case, they work with a broad range of publishers, from minority-owned content publishers which offer content made for and about their communities to mainstream publishers working hard to be at the forefront of representation and inclusivity helping them grow their efforts with inclusivity and representation.

Their goal is to enable minority communities to see themselves better represented in the media, and for majority communities to better understand minority identities. Advertisers benefit through direct access to highly engaged audiences, enabling them to play their part in changing the landscape of inclusivity. We should champion, encourage and celebrate companies like this.

mSix&Partners, where I work, is doing positive intentional work in attracting diverse talent into the industry. We have recently set up the The&Academy, a new apprenticeship programme in Birmingham that will shape the next generation of digital specialists from under-represented groups. It brings new opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds, partnering with Google, Meta, Amazon and TikTok, to ensure apprentices learn from and work alongside the best media, digital, and creative specialists around.

Our internal DEI advisory board, The Collective, was established to tackle the collective blindness that fuels systemic bias within our agency, industry and lives. The Collective drives positive change through constructive dissent. This includes participation in our hiring panels, ensuring all future employees meet our criteria of inclusivity and tolerance.

Summing up, I would make an ask of you: let us be more intentional in our actions to ensure we are not being performative, but have permanent resolve with anti-racism and race equality. This is the only way to ensure we continue to drive lasting change in the industry.

This article first appeared on Campaign https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/performative-allyship-no-good-need-intentionality-drive-real-change/1803048?bulletin=campaign_media_bulletin&utm_medium=EMAIL&utm_campaign=eNews%20Bulletin&utm_source=20221025&utm_content=Campaign%20Media%20(202)::www_campaignlive_co_uk_ar_7&email_hash=