This week we take a look at diversity and representation. A problematic stunt lands the home office in hot water and a group effectively responds, while Channel 4 tackles complaints head on in a striking spot. There is also advice for our industry during the hiring process.
Following the controversy surrounding the #KnifeFree initiative, a group of young people have found a creative way to make their voices heard. The group called Word on the Curb (a youth culture content agency) created suggestion-filled boxes featuring Londoners’ ideas of some practical ways to combat the knife crime epidemic and printed these on thousands of chicken boxes. They plan to hand these out to the Home Office this week. Hayel Wartemberg, co-founder of Word On The Curb: “The #KnifeFree campaign has taken its most insidious step of racially stereotyping, undermining and patronising Londoners – young and old – with regard to issues surrounding knife crime. Whilst we believe the intention behind the campaign was without malice – what it has come to represent is how out of touch the decision-makers are at the home office, the lack of diversity in their team and also the unconscious bias that demeans and criminalises young people – particularly those of colour in our country,” he continued. By approaching the Home Office with these boxes, Wartemberg says they will be providing the government with “real, authentic insight” into how Londoners feel about serious youth violence. “We have always believed in consultancy/insight-led campaigns, particularly with regards to issues of national concern, and we believe the tone-deaf nature of this particular campaign displays a lack of consulting with Londoners,” he explained.
To celebrate the diversity of its talent, Channel 4 has produced a spot in which its stars read out genuine complaints sent to the broadcaster, ending with the message “Complaints welcome”. Sharon Horgan of Catastrophe announces, “This just confirms my suspicion that women aren’t funny” to a room full of old white men who erupt in laughter, then are firmly shushed by Horgan. Big Narstie appears against a vast black background, dressed all in black, and reads the real complaint “too black”. A 48 sheet advertising The Handmaid’s Tale is shown with the graffiti, “Feminist Propaganda”. Gold medal swimmer Ellie Simmonds delivers an objection to Paralympians, “They’re not real athletes.”
It’s also important to take action where possible – and the workplace is key for this. The advertising industry has issues with diversity, but nobody is starting their hiring process by saying, “Today I’m going to make some biased hiring decisions.” Genevieve Robles offers some advice on how to tackle the homogeneity, as some groups are significantly underrepresented.