How a UK Initiative Is Turning Companies Into Marketing DEI Champions

Direct Line Group, British Gas and more on boosting inclusivity with the All in Action Plan

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In June 2021, the All In Action Plan set out its first three areas of focus to help the U.K. advertising industry to achieve greater inclusivity. Those followed a census that gathered data from more than 16,000 advertising and marketing professionals from across the country. That data will be used to benchmark future progress, with the second census due to take place in March.

The initiative is being led by the Advertising Association, IPA, ISBA and Kantar, who have recruited over 60 champions from the first wave. Another 28 will be involved in the second wave, including brands such as British Gas and soft drink maker Britvic, as well as agencies from Havas Group, MullenLowe Group and The&Partnership.

All In Champions are companies that have adopted the action plan. The first wave of All In Champions included Google, Channel 4 Television, Smart Energy, insurance company Direct Line, supermarket chain Tesco, optometrist brand Specsavers and several agencies.

The second census will take place on March 15, with the results released on May 11 tracking progress made in the last two years and sharing further recommendations to help advertisers develop a more inclusive culture.

You have to stand up and be counted on this stuff. Because that’s what people are looking for when thinking about who they want to work for.

Jill Dougan, director of small business, British Gas

“It’s really important for us as an industry to be able to sort of continue that and help shape the future,” one of the ambassadors, Suman Karki, marketing chapter lead for Direct Line Group (DLG), told Adweek. “It absolutely matches DLG’s ambition, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

Karki, who led the submission for DLG during the first census, added that being involved in the process gave companies “a competitive advantage” for the future. Completing the census, she explained, allowed the company to take stock of its approach to understand how well it was driving inclusivity.

She added that receiving the results was not the end of the company’s work either, describing it as an ongoing “journey” to review of what participating companies have already achieved and help them plan their next steps.

“And we can also help each other. There’ll be initiatives that we do, there’ll be initiatives that other brands do, and we can see what’s working and what’s not,” she said. “This is about working together as an industry to drive change and do the right thing.”

The nine actions that have been recommended are:

1-6. Improve the experience and representation of:

  • Black talent by adopting the BRiM Framework
  • Disabled talent by auditing and updating company websites to ensure accessibility
  • Talent from working-class backgrounds by adopting the social mobility toolkit
  • Women through the Flexible First checklist
  • Asian talent by using the guide developed by the All In Asian Working Group
  • Older talent by implementing our Shared Experiences policy

7. Support the mental health of our colleagues. Donate and signpost to advertising charity NABS.

8. Improve the experience of our LGTBQ+ talent. Welcome the use of gender pronouns in your organization.

9. Improve the experience of disabled talent in the workplace. Use the BDF Accessible Premises checklist.

“We want diversity of thought and diversity of background because we need to represent the British consumer. We’ve got millions of customers at British Gas, and if we don’t have diverse agencies or a diverse organization ourselves, we are not going to do a good enough job of actually speaking to those customers and understanding their needs,” she continued.

Jill Dougan, director of small business for British Gas, explained that the organization had become a champion because of its existing DEI commitments while also aiming to “attract the brightest and the best” talent to work within its agency partners too.

There’ll be initiatives that we do, there’ll be initiatives that other brands do, and we can see what’s working and what’s not.

Suman Karki, marketing chapter lead, Direct Line Group

Dougan added that this was also an initiative that showed action within the advertising sector after years of discussing DEI as an issue to tackle while offering the industry a method to “mark” itself on its progress.

“If you look at the stats, we’re not where we need to be by any means,” she added of the sector. “You have to stand up and be counted on this stuff. Because that’s what people are looking for when thinking about who they want to work for.”

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