Diversity is a huge benefit to any team, so it was a shock to see our all white creative

This week I had to deal with a very delicate subject that involved a matter that it is dear to my heart – diversity in the workplace.

The world is made up of very different people of numerous genders, races, colours, sexual persuasions and just about every other characteristic. And in a multicultural society such as our own, I strongly believe that to build the very best team you can benefit from having people from all walks of life – not least because your customer base is likely to have a similar make-up.

As a result, our company’s diversity champion came to me about supporting an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) event by taking an advert in their programme. My company had already decided we were attending the event, and the advert came ‘free’.

With costs tight, there was little inclination to develop a new creative from scratch, not least given that we are in the midst of a global campaign following a particular approach. Therefore the obvious answer was to adapt an existing advert with new copy, and thus confirming the company’s commitment to diversity and how pleased we were to be involved in this particular event.

However, there was a problem with the creatives that made up the portfolio of global press ads we could use – none of them could be described in any way, shape or form to promote diversity in the workplace. It was then that I realised that despite a strong commitment to such an approach within the company, our advertising told a very different story – all of our models were white, well-groomed types, with a standard boy-meets-girl type of approach. I was aghast.

After discussions with my global colleagues it transpired that every nation had a different need – while the UK is very liberal, our Russian office is anything but, and our South American colleagues are similar to the Russians. As a result, they had adopted a ‘lowest common denominator’ style to keep most people happy.

None of which helped me in my predicament. Being faced with the lesser of many evils – photoshopping the image, running with an advert that could get me on the front page of Private Eye, not taking the free advert opportunity – I decided that it would be best to re-run an old advert from a campaign a couple of years ago, which had an image that would not look out of place. I also decided to speed-up my demands for the next campaign – to be closer to our corporate vision.