A moment to both reflect and take action
Updated: Aug 28
The protests against police brutality and racial discrimination in the United States are starting important conversations worldwide, and forcing Australians to look at those very real, very sobering issues here in our own country.
Source: Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash (Parliament of Victoria, Spring St, East Melbourne VIC, Australia)
It feels like this is a moment where nobody can be silent. And as people who hold the keys to outward facing personas of large culture shaping brands, it can be tempting to have your brand take a stand.
Brands are a part of culture and have the power to shape and change it. Overseas we’ve seen a lot of brands using their platforms to talk about what’s going on right now. Nike, which has previously called out racial injustice, released a video with the statement ‘don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America’. LEGO went further than a lot of brands and took action, they have pledged to donate $4 million to "organisations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality" and have pulled marketing to law-enforcement sets, including police LEGO sets.
Ben & Jerry’s showed their ongoing support to the cause by re-sharing a post they made in 2016 that outlined their stance, and educated their consumers on systematic and institutionalised racism.
However, it’s all too easy for us as marketers to create messages of solidarity on the outside, without taking stock of how we can also be part of the problem on the inside.
As an agency we still have lots to learn, understand and action. BWM Dentsu Group are proud supporters of Reconciliation Australia and are part of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). RAP organisations across Australia are turning good intentions into positive actions, helping to build higher trust, lower prejudice, and increase pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
Some of our RAP initiatives include:
1. Building relationships with state-based reconciliation councils and Reconciliation Australia, and offering our support in the promotion of RAP’s to the broader creative sector.
2. Building a partnership with a local NSW & VIC Universities with a focus on utilising skills and resources to support and mentor Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Youth and Students.
3. Increasing commercial spend with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses.
We look to further renew and update our plan in 2021 and work closely with clients so they can instate their own company RAP plans in the future.
Further to this, we have compiled a short list of things that ourselves, other agencies and marketers can do to support their Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour colleagues and communities.
1. Support your Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour staff – Provide information on free mental health services and give them the space they need right now.
2. Train your staff on anti-bias and on how to be an ally
3. Representation Matters – Hire Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour talent, and use their talent. Don’t just hire them for insights, or in ceremonial positions.
4. Support staff wanting to join the movement – Ensure staff know that they can go out and support the causes that matter to them and give them the time and freedom to do so; not just those affected, but those wanting to join as allies.
5. Put your money where your mouth is – Match employee donations to the numerous causes supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
6. Be there for the right reason, not the topical one – A lot of agencies do pro-bono work to amplify causes, and brands support charities or donate resources. Let’s not do this for awards or clout; let’s do this to better our communities and people and amplify the causes that matter to us.
7. Diversify your internships – Make sure you are actively providing internship opportunities to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour students and talent.
8. Diversify your casting – As agencies and marketers we are in a position to showcase diverse talent on screens, events, partnerships and more. Don’t default to just white talent. Cast authentically and thoughtfully, and show faces not represented in advertising.
9. Hold each other accountable – Agencies and clients alike should hold each other accountable, and not allow discrimination from each other.
10. Be thoughtful with partnerships – Don’t use suppliers, buy media from, or partner with organisations that don’t align with your values.
11. Don’t use this as an ad opportunity, take action. Do it 365 days a year.
We challenge ourselves, our clients, and all Aussie businesses to take note, and create actionable and transparent plans to do better.
Omar Fawahl and Sylvia Jahn