Ireland’s advertisers join in worldwide push for more diverse workforce

Major global census first step in bid to improve industry’s track record

The Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI) has joined in a worldwide push to improve diversity and inclusion in the marketing industry, amid concerns that progress on the issue ebbed away during the pandemic.

The group, which represents many of the biggest brands with a presence in the State, intends to shortly launch an industry-wide census in a bid to provide hard data on the people who are working in the marketing profession as part of a World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) initiative to improve its track record on diversity.

The Republic is one of 22 countries participating in the study, which will then be used as the basis to take action where necessary.

Greater emphasis

"During lockdown, while some companies focused on survival, diversity and inclusion took a back seat," said AAI chief executive Barry Dooley.


“We owe it to employees to put greater emphasis on this, as the breadth of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences is what enables success and drives growth.”

The AAI said it would conduct a survey every year in association with the WFA to monitor diversity and inclusion in the sector on a continual basis, with the first questionnaire going live later this month. The first findings are expected in October.

Although elements of the market had conducted similar research in the past, there had been “no combined exercise” for the advertising and marketing industry as a whole, the organisation said.

“It will give Ireland a benchmark to work from, and, more importantly, empower us to develop a strategy and roadmap to ensure the entire marketing and advertising sector can address any topics that the census might bring up,” said Mr Dooley.

Sense of belonging

The research will assess where the global industry stands in relation to diversity by investigating the composition of the workforce. It will also look at marketing professionals’ perception of diversity and inclusion, including their sense of belonging and perception of progress.

The WFA said it believed the strains and pressures of the pandemic had made it harder for many organisations to prioritise their diversity and inclusion efforts. Research has found that many women, in particular, have considered leaving the profession.

"For all the talk of 'we are in this together', the pandemic has shown this to be simply untrue," said WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke.

“Inequalities have been exacerbated by recent hardships. Anecdotal evidence suggests the industry is going backwards on diversity and inclusion. It is imperative we get a first-ever industry baseline so that we can draw a line in the sand and move forward together.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics