Test your biases: Why the next generation entering the industry face a near impossible task Posted on

Lucy Hatton & Charlotte Khushi, Senior Creative Team at MullenLowe Group UK introduce the agency’s new paid internship programme & highlight why it’s more vital than ever to support the next generation.

Working as a creative in advertising is a pretty privileged position. You connect a huge range of people through your ideas; they could be young, old, into sports, fashion or both and their postcode could be anywhere in the world. But there’s been something troubling the industry for years; all you have to do is look around your agency, sorry, your Zoom calls. We’re a pretty homogenous lot. How is it that the same voices are still talking on behalf of everyone?

There are loads of insights you can get from strategy and research, and as a creative, you should have a level of empathy to help you take on any brief. But how much authenticity is going to come through in work if it’s just people with the same lived experiences making and validating it? It’s no wonder minority groups have been left out of mainstream media, aside from a few ‘comical’ stereotypes, and feel no trust or connection to advertising.

And it’s also worth checking your definition of diversity; so, you have some women in your department, great! A bit of BAME representation, fantastic! The landscape is visibly getting better, but there are still factors to consider that aren’t necessarily so visible. How many people are neurodiverse? How many people didn’t go to university? How many people are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds? This all should be considered when looking at the people in your agency, to ensure they reflect the audiences your brands are speaking to.

Doing this isn’t just about a moral duty; there have been multiple studies that show a diverse workforce makes better business sense. Who can argue with the bottom line?

Try and test your biases. Don’t be blinded by portfolios and prizes, but really try to see the potential of someone.

Lucy Hatton

Facing a near impossible task

Now, don’t get us wrong. Over the last few years, the industry has taken a long hard look in the mirror, made all the right statements, and begun to take meaningful action.

Then 2020 happened.

Let’s face it, this year has been utterly horrible for so many people, and adland has taken big hits with project’s pulled, and some brands crumbling out of existence. There’s been countless furloughs and redundancies industry-wide, so it’s no surprise that placement schemes and internship programmes have been pulled.

But we as an industry must acknowledge the thousands of youngsters who would have once found it tricky to get in, now face a near impossible task. Stopping these programmes altogether will ultimately halt the progression of diversity in the industry, and the enthusiasm of fresh blood. It’s a lose, lose situation.

It isn’t Breaking News to say that the pandemic isn’t going anywhere fast, and as we adjust to the overused New Normal, we need to make plans for new and diverse talent entering the industry. Those that can afford to wait, will. Those who don’t rely on pay will work for experience. Today’s industry is not an industry that either one of us would have thrived in.

Commit to looking further 

We hear you cry, ‘That’s all well and good, but where is this diverse talent you speak of?’ The industry needs to search for talent further and wider than ever before; try organisations, schools, social media. It’s not enough to go to your adgrad alumni, then give them a brief in the corner of your agency; we must all commit to looking further and training those that might be less familiar to the industry. Try and test your biases. Don’t be blinded by portfolios and prizes, but really try to see the potential of someone.

In the iconic words of @PAM_BOY: “Beyoncé can find 24 black trombone players, but your company cannot find a single black intern, associate, or board member?”

The one good thing about this pandemic is we’ve all realised our jobs can be done from home, so what’s stopping agencies opening up our doors, virtually, to those all over the country? You can set up meetings or bring in interns remotely to give valuable experiences to those who may not have been able to take part in them previously.

What you do with your power, big or small, keeps the industry in check.

Charlotte Khushi


So, here’s the turning point of the article where we plug something, we are doing in hopes of inspiring you to act.

Last week, we launched MullenLowe’s paid internship programme Suckers, built for these virtual working times.

The entry mechanic is sending in one execution off the back of a problem solving brief we have set, and a team of diverse judges from our creative department will judge these entries blindly i.e. no names or CVs that could trigger a bias. We aim to give all those that don’t get through feedback so they can work on their piece to build or add to their portfolio.

Then, when someone is chosen, they won’t be left alone in their room for an occasional Friday Drinks Zoom. We’ll set them up with everything they need, a different buddy each week, as well as training to get them versed on the ins and outs of adland. They will work on live briefs closely with creative teams and progress their winning execution.

Injecting much-needed energy

This won’t just help those entering. This upskills our creative team and injects in much needed energy as the days grow darker and darker.

From creatives, to fellow creatives: it’s not uncool to speak to your HR department. You have the power to open your eyes around your Zoom call and have an opinion on casting, on hiring. What you do with your power, big or small, keeps the industry in check.

It’s not about diversity for diversity’s sake; it’s about reflecting the people we speak to and creating even more convincing and exciting work.

We must not undo the work the industry has been doing; it’s come a long way. Now, more than ever, we must invest in the next wave of talent before we lose it. Then, in a couple of years’ time, when you’re looking at your department or at the work your agency is creating, we can all be proud that things have moved forward, not backwards.

This article was originally published in CreativeBrief