On Tuesday 7th March 2023, OMG Unite won GG2 Leadership & Diversity Agency of the Year Award. The award was received by Serhat Ekinci, OMG Unite Managing Director and Emma Kwarteng OMG Unite Projects and Operations Lead.

©Edward Lloyd/Alpha Press & Garavi Gujarat Publications. Copyright © 2023

As quoted by the award’s organisers, “Our winner is part of one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies and specialises in multi-cultural, LGBTQ+ and disability marketing. The agency aims to disrupt the traditional marketing brief and move clients from unconscious exclusion to conscious inclusion which it has done with considerable success with some of country’s biggest brands. OMG Unite is a diversity driven agency with inclusion at its heart. Part of the Omnicom Media Group, the agency works with some Britain’s best known organisations including Sainsbury’s, HSBC, Specsavers, Barclays, the RAF, and the NSPCC. The team at Unite is truly diverse coming from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and their deep insights in marketing have helped grow their client base from just three clients to 90 plus in the time that the agency has existed.”

Ethnicity/Religion/ National Identity

The Census takes place every 10 years and generates a snap-shot of the UK population. The first phase of the 2021 Census was released in the summer of 2022, compiling the most detailed data on the make-up of the UK since 2011.

Knowing the shifts in our population; who they are, where they are and their wellbeing, is vital to shaping an effective and inclusive brand strategy. While the full Census data set won’t be released until mid-2023, a staggered release of individual sets of data has been running from Autumn 2022.

To keep you informed, OMG UNITE have created ‘Census Shifts’, a content series exploring the trends and changes seen over the last three decades in our population (comparing 2001 – 2011 Census data with 2011 – 2021), with a cultural twist.

Following on from our initial two ‘Census Shifts’ (focused on Population & Household Estimates and International Migration), we are pleased to share the third set of insights in the series. Building on the
International Migration data shared in Shift 2, we look to highlight key findings in Ethnicity & Religion and their implications. We also share our thoughts on what these findings mean to our industry and what we can do now to drive inclusivity in comms.

Please note that the language, terminology and segmentation used throughout this blog post is consistent with that of the Census.

With high growth ethnic minority communities representing more than 1 in 4 people, it’s time to reconsider bespoke comms to drive engagement

What’s new

Ethnic minority groups (combined) have increased significantly (+39%) between 2011 to 2021. Together they now account for 26% (1 in 4) of the population in England and Wales.

Only 74% of usual residents in England and Wales identified their ethnicity as White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British. A decrease in both number (-780k) and percentage (down from 80% in 2011).

The wider Asian community (including South Asian, Other Asian groups and people with mixed Asian heritage) saw the largest increase, up from 4.6 million people in 2011 to 6 million (10% of the overall
population) in 2021.

What it means to our industry

The individual ethnic minority groups have all grown significantly in the last 10 years and represent key audiences that brands should not ignore. OMG UNITE’s Diversity Insight Tool (DIT) shows that despite their significant sizes, multicultural communities still feel mainstream advertising is not relevant to them, creating an opportunity to be more representative and relevant to drive growth.

Several groups within the ethic minority community share similarities that allow us to meaningfully reach them together through media.

What we can do now

Use OMG UNITE’s Diversity Audit to understand the gaps and opportunities for different groups. Start to think about a more tailored approach for communities that are most relevant and sizable for your business. By considering creative representation and relevant media environments, there are opportunities that brands can tap into to improve how they connect with diverse communities.

In an increasingly secular world, cultural moments are key opportunities to connect with diverse communities

What’s new

For the first time in a census of England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2%: 27.5 million people) described themselves as Christian. This coincided with an increase in the number of people reporting ‘No religion’ from 25.2% of the population in 2011 to 37.2% in 2021.

While there are more people who identified as not religious, religions observed by ethnic minority groups continued to see strong growth. There was a 42% increase for Muslim (now 3.9m people) and a 26% increase (now 1m people) for Hindu.

What it means to our industry

Religions like Islam and Hinduism are now observed and their traditions celebrated by more people than ever in England and Wales. In London, Muslim accounted for 15.0% of the population and Hindu accounted for 5.1%. When 1 in 7 people that walk on the streets of London are Muslim, it’s also time for brands to think about how they can tap into this huge opportunity.

Cultural and religious moments are becoming bigger opportunities and making their way onto marketing calendars of leading brands. They’re celebrated by many, whether it’s for religious or non-religious reasons. However, OMG UNITE’s Diversity Insight Tool shows that majority of diverse audiences don’t feel that their own celebrations are represented in mainstream media.

What we can do now

Understand what these cultural and religious opportunities would mean for your brands. Apart from Ramadan, Eid and Diwali, there are actually hundreds of events celebrated by different communities. The same way Christmas is the biggest moment with Christian families, each religion also has its own tentpole moments that represent great opportunities from a product perspective. However, these are also the best moments to demonstrate understanding and connect with audiences culturally if done
authentically.

Only 1 in 10 people specify a non-UK identity, but identities can be multi-layered and representation is key

What’s new

Those selecting a non-UK identity only accounted for 9.7% of the overall population (5.8 million
people) – a marginal increase from 8.0% of the population (4.5 million people) in 2011.

Another 2.0% (1.2 million people) selected both UK identify and non-UK identify – an increase from
0.9% (492k ) in 2011.

Among those who selected a non-UK national identity, the most common response were those
describing Polish (1.0%, 593,000) and Romanian (0.8%, 477,000) as their identity. Other common
non-UK identities include Indian (0.6%, 380,000), Irish (0.5%, 300,000), and Italian (0.5%, 287,000).

What it means to our industry

We need to recognise that people have different identities: be it national identity, religious identity, LGBTQ+ identity, etc. and these identities, as proven through OMG UNITE’s Diversity Insight Tool, are multi-faceted and people may consciously or unconsciously code-switch depending on who they are with
and where they are. These are often strong influencing factors on how we live our lives, who we follow and look up to, and the media we consume. There are many trusted creators and media channels that can be considered in our media mix – there is an established media landscape for Asian, African, Caribbean, Jewish, Polish, LGBTQ+ creators and media platforms that can allow us to better connect with these communities authentically.

What we can do now

Consider how we can use trusted voices and partners to connect with our audiences. Make sure specialists, such as OMG UNITE, with fully diverse and inclusive teams, are central to these projects. Even for larger national campaigns, being able to diversify the media mix or include different voices/influencers into the plan would be a good starting point in order to extend reach and drive engagement.

Summary

With high-growth ethnic minority communities now representing over 25% of the population in England and Wales, brands should consider a more tailored approach to their comms to drive reach and engagement.

Despite an increasingly secular population, both cultural and religious moments provide
key opportunities to connect
with diverse communities.

We need to recognise that identities can be multi-layered and representation is key. Dedicated creatives and trusted media environments can provide nuanced comms with stronger engagement.

Source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity

The Census takes place every 10 years and generates a snap-shot of the UK population. The first phase of the 2021 Census was released in the summer of 2022, compiling the most detailed data on the make-up of the UK since 2011.

Knowing the shifts in our population; who they are, where they are and their wellbeing, is vital to shaping an effective and inclusive brand strategy. While the full Census data set won’t be released until mid-2023, a staggered release of individual sets of data will run from Autumn to Winter 2022. To keep you informed, OMG UNITE have created ‘Census Shifts’, a content series exploring the trends and changes seen over the last three decades in our population, with a cultural twist.

Following our first set of ‘Census Shifts’ insights released alongside the initial Census data, we are pleased to share the second set of insights in the series.

The International Migration data of the 2021 Census was released on 2nd November. Whilst country of birth and passport do not equal ethnicity, and many UK-born diverse communities are not included in the stats (ethnicity data is due to be released late November), it is a strong indication on the growth and direction of our society in the UK. We have highlighted three key shifts and the implications they have on how brands approach inclusive marketing moving forwards.

Please note that the language, terminology and segmentation used throughout this blog post is consistent with that of the Census.

The importance of engaging with first-generation residents

What’s new

One in six residents of England and Wales were born outside the UK.

Of the 10 million residents in England and Wales who weren’t born in the UK, 4.2m (42.4%) have arrived since 2011.

What it means to our industry

Covid and Brexit haven’t reversed the migration trend as many had predicted. Apart from being an essential sociocultural consideration for brands, diversity and inclusion can also be a key growth driver
due to the significant size of this audience.

The 4.2m first generation residents that have arrived in the UK in the last 10 years are more likely to follow cultural traditions and media consumption from their countries of birth. Community media channels will play a key role in reaching them.

What we can do now

OMG UNITE’s specialists and proprietary Diversity Insight Tool (DIT) can provide an indepth understanding of these communities, their cultures and how they relate to your brand and products.

Use multicultural media to ensure your campaigns reach these communities equally and at the same frequency as other audiences. As most multicultural media is not included in industry tools, use UNITE’s proprietary platforms, such as the Diverse Community Network Platform, to access 500+ minority owned or led media and content platforms across TV, Radio, Print and Digital as a key enabler to drive growth.

Moving beyond skin colour for truly inclusive comms

What’s new

5.9 million residents (9.9% of the total population) hold a non-UK passport, with Poland being the most commonly held (760,000, 1.3% of all residents).

The number of UK residents holding European passports has increased significantly: particularly from
Eastern European countries e.g. those holding Romanian passports increased by 576% from 2011.

The South Asian community, the largest ethnic group in the UK, continues to increase with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all in the top 10 non-UK countries of birth.

What it means to our industry

Central and Eastern European residents have increased significantly. Although commonly not considered as ethnic minorities due to many being White, it’s important to consider a bespoke communications plan to address cultural differences and potential language barriers. For instance, a recent campaign targeted towards Polish people performed 3x better when the messaging was delivered in their mother tongue vs English.

Despite already being the largest group, the South Asian community in the UK has also grown significantly, and with it the importance for brands to reach this audience. Although there are many cultural differences within this community, they often have shared media consumption i.e. the Pakistani community commonly consume Indian media channels and vice versa.

Authentic diverse communication preferences, consumption habits and language barriers are key considerations for brands, creative and media agencies.

What we can do now

Expand your definition of diversity beyond skin colour when considering inclusive communications.
OMG UNITE can help to distil and understand nuances of different communities and their cultural heritage, as well as help define what inclusivity means specifically for your brand.

Cultural localisation is key

What’s new

All regions across England and Wales have seen an increase in non-UK born residents from 2011 to 2021. The regions with the highest % change are the North West and East Midlands (over 49%+) whilst London has seen the lowest at 19%+.

The capital still has the highest number of non-UK born residents (3.5m) – more than 4 in 10 (40.6%) London residents are non-UK born, and more than 1 in 5 (23.3%) have a non-UK passport.

What it means to our industry

With the concentration of non-UK residents shifting from predominantly urban areas and the make-up of these audiences varying by Local Authority, we need to find ways to make our communications contextually more relevant. For instance, using the same media channels and creative to reach the population in Brent (where 56% of residents are born outside the UK) as well as those in Redcar and Cleveland where 99% of residents hold UK passports) is highly unlikely to drive the required results.

With the 2021 census data now available we can develop a renewed approach to diversify our creative and media activity.

What we can do now

Rethink our approach of running regional and local campaigns. Use tools such as OMG UNITE’s Audience Mapper to drive contextual relevancy based on audience make-up.
Include creative consultancy services to ensure your creative and content is culturally relevant to the area and the media you advertise in.

Summary

With the increase in first-generation residents in the UK, an inclusive approach to advertising is important to drive growth.

Diversity is more than skin deepconsider cultural differences and potential language barriers in your communications strategies.


The Census takes place every 10 years and generates a snap-shot of the UK population. The first phase of the 2021 Census was released last week, compiling the most detailed data on the make-up of the UK since 2011. As a business with consumers at the heart of what we do, knowing the shifts in our population; who they are, where they are and their wellbeing; is vital.

While the full Census data set won’t be released until mid-2023, a staggered release of individual sets of data will begin from Autumn to Winter 2022. To keep you informed, OMG Unite have created ‘Census Shifts’, a content series exploring the trends and changes seen over the last three decades in our population (comparing 2001 – 2011 Census data with 2011- 2021), with a cultural twist.

This blog post covers population and household estimates for England and Wales, at local authority level, cross tabulated by sex and age. From Autumn 2022 onwards 8 different topic summaries will be released periodically:

a. Demography and migration
b. Ethnic group, national identity,
language, and religion
c. Health, disability, and unpaid care
d. Housing
e. Labour market and travel to work
f. Sexual orientation and gender identity
g. Education
h. UK armed forces veterans

Please note that the language, terminology and segmentation used throughout this blog post is consistent with that of the Census.

Population is growing at a declining rate and the forecast growth of non-White ethnic groups will be difficult for brands to ignore

The total population of England and Wales was 59,597,300 in 2021 which is the largest recorded population to date; however, growth has slowed. There was an 8% increase in population size between 2001 (52m) and 2011 (56m) and this has decreased to 6.3% between 2011 and 2021.

Using the 2001 and 2011 data, we can extrapolate the change in population size by ethnic group. Between 2001 and 2011, the White British population saw a 1% decrease in size and Irish saw a decrease of 17%, in size, whereas all other ethnic groups combined increased by 77%.

Based on recent data, we predict that the population growth rate in other ethnic groups seen from the 2001 – 2011 data will continue to increase. In 2021, the Census results show that out of the 3.5m recorded increase in population size, 57.5% is due to net positive migration. Alongside this, over a third of all children born in England and Wales have either one or both parents born outside the UK in recent years, with 34.8% in 2020 being the highest ever number recorded.

In 2021, the Census results show that out of the 3.5m recorded increase in population size, 57.5% is due to net positive migration. Alongside this, over a third of all children born in England and Wales have either one or both parents born outside the UK in recent years, with 34.8%i in 2020 being the highest ever number recorded. This doesn’t include ethnic minority parents born in the UK.

While Brexit has caused negative changes to EU Net immigration in recent years, non-EU net migration is still on the rise.

These statistics show that the non-White British segments are driving population growth. It is therefore incredibly important for brands to acknowledge the UK’s diverse population and ensure they have relevant communications that reach these communities, in the right place, with the right message.

Sex splits remained largely the same with a slight increase for Females

The split between Female and Male individuals within England and Wales has remained broadly the same over the course of the last three decades with a ratio of around 51% to 49%.

When looking at Sex by ethnic group, the splits are largely inline with the general population with 1% higher Female population for those of non-White ethnic groups combined.

We’ll be digging deeper into sexual orientation and gender identity when the data is released later this year.

We are older than ever before but the non-White ethnic group is forecast to be younger than the general population

The longstanding trend of an ageing population in England and Wales continues with 18.6% of the population 65 years+ (11.1m) in 2021, compared to 15.97% (8.3m) in 2001 and 16.45% in 2011 (9.2m).

The 55 – 64 age group shows a similar pattern; having increased from 10.6% (5.5m) of the population in 2001, 11.7% (6.6m) in 2011, to 12.6% (7.5m) in 2021.

The 2011 Census showed that the ageing population is driven by the White ethnic group, making up a much higher percentage of those aged 45+ vs other ethnicities.

In contrast to this, the Multicultural population skews younger than the general population, with declines in both the 55-64 and 65+ age groups from 2001-2011.

The proportion of 20–34-year-olds increased from 27.9% to 30.5% from 2001-2011 and the 35 – 54 age group also experienced a slight increase from 26.1% to 26.7%.

For brands with a target audience of those aged 45 and below, it is key to embed a strategy of “how to win” non-White ethnic groups to futureproof their businesses.

Household estimates

24,782,800 households were recorded in 2021, a 6% increase from 2011 versus an 8% increase from 2001 – 2011.

The region experiencing the greatest increase in household figures between 2011 and 2021 was the East (+8.5%) followed by the South West (+8.1%).

On a local authority level, Kensington and Chelsea saw the largest drop in households (-15%) from 2011-2021, whereas Tower Hamlets has consistently seen the highest increase in households; 19% from 2011-2021 and 29% from 2001-2011.

Regional and local changes

The population size across all regions increased between 2011 and 2021 with the largest increase in the East of England (8.3%).

That said, most regions experienced a slower growth rate vs. 2001 – 2011. For example, the change in population size between 2001 and 2011 in London was 14% compared to only 6% between 2011 and 2021. Regions that were an exception to the rule were the North West and the South West.

The three local authority areas that saw the greatest reduction in population size between 2011 to
2021 were Kensington and Chelsea (-10%), Westminster (-7%) and Ceredigion (-6%). The three local
authority areas experiencing the greatest increase were Tower Hamlets (22%), Dartford (20%) and
City of London (18%).

Conclusion

The UK’s population is changing. What is clear from the first set of data is that targeting
Multicultural groups will be increasingly important for brands. To futureproof their businesses
and to drive growth it is vital for brand owners to build and embed strategies to win this sizeable,
young and ever-growing part of the population.


Disclaimer: Figures may appear slightly different to ONS bulletins due to the rounding
done by Census/ONS on the released datasets
.

Ad blocking terms such as ‘Gay’, ‘Black’ and ‘Muslim’ can be harming your brand’s digital reach, cutting you off from major diversity media outlets and consumer spending.

It may come as a surprise to many not familiar with the advertising industry that words such as ‘Bisexual’, ‘Gay’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Black’ and ‘Jewish’ have traditionally been included on keyword block lists for digital brand-safety.

The original process was implemented to protect a brand’s digital media or content from popping up in controversial and damaging places across the internet, with words such as ‘death’, ‘gun’, ‘heroin’ and ‘rape’ being examples of heavily blocked keywords.

However, when words that simply described different demographic groups and communities – for example ‘Black’, ‘Asian’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Interracial’, ‘Lesbian’ and ‘Gay’ – began to rank higher than the likes of ‘death’, ‘rape’ and ‘heroin’ on brand block lists, we knew there was a gross oversight of discriminatory stereotyping occurring in the media industry. Worse – it was one that was equally as damaging to consumers as the brands themselves.

Could this shot-in-the-dark strategy have been a shot-in-the-foot all along? What started out as a preventative measure used to block adult and harmful content, quickly resulted in the failure of advertisers maximising their reach by missing out on crucial touchpoints in a consumer’s life.

How keyword ad blocking has played a part in inaccurate data and insight

For decades, many tools and records of data used by agencies for diversity media in terms of insight, buying and planning has been wholly inaccurate and misrepresentative of diverse communities. There has been significant bias in the collection of data and ad blocking has played part in this. How can we accurately record the spending behaviours of diverse communities if we are cutting off certain demographic groups from even consuming our adverts?

The sophistication and advancement in technology today leaves no excuse for such exclusion of diverse communities and in a world where the authenticity of B2C interactions matter more than ever before, a re-evaluation of block listed keywords is heavily overdue.

It’s a shocking truth but also a widely known fact that Black consumers endure racial discrimination in the marketplace (also known as consumer racial profiling or consumer racism). From being given poor customer service to being denied services all together, this experience is so widely shared that Black communities and academics have a term for it: ‘Shopping while Black’.

Sadly, the experience has resulted in many individuals avoiding shopping centres and stores in real life and instead taking to the internet for their everyday purchases. But when advertisers block ‘Black people’ from their content and media, it makes you question whether consumer racism isn’t just something that happens at one store in one neighbourhood with one brand.

Marsha Cooke, Senior Vice President of Impact at Vice Media Group, recently called out advertisers for their choices on ‘brand-safe’ keywords when she found phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ and — in one case — ‘Black people’ included on ad block lists. This certain block list was sent to Vice by an advertising agency that represented a large entertainment corporation and “it was sent the very same week that the corporation issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin, co-founders of Check My Ads Institute, amusingly put: “A keyword blocklist is kind of like a brand’s secret diary. It reveals all their collective corporate neuroses: their deepest fears, associations they want to avoid, and the topics they’re uncomfortable with.”

The irony here is that the spending power still lies with the consumer. So if your brand isn’t actively trying to racially profile or discriminate against certain communities, it may be time to review your ad block lists as soon as possible.

On the flip side, if you’re an ad agency and have your client’s best interest at heart, you can follow in Vice’s footsteps and restrict certain words from appearing on brand block lists. In 2019, Vice put out a statement declaring it would no longer accept the following words or phrases that were traditionally found on keyword block lists:

Examples of block list terms used by brands

GayLesbianBisexualLGTBQQueer
TransgenderGenderHIVFeministPregnant
InterracialMiddle EasternArabAsianLatina/o
JewishMuslimIslamicChristianHijab
Global WarmingClimate ChangeRefugeeImmigrantFat

Of course, there’s underlying satire in all of this – that a block list created as a form of ‘brand-safety’ could in fact be the very reason your brand is failing to achieve its maximum potential…

Marsha Cooke highlighted the notion as ‘the brand-safety paradox’. Ask yourself, could your current brand-safety block list be putting your brand in danger? Are your communications invisible to LGBTQ/Black/Muslim and several other audiences online?

How important are diverse communities to your brand?

It’s not a trick question until you question what it means to be a diverse community, or if it’s even possible to be a part of just one. As humans, we are multi-faceted creatures who behave in extremely unique ways, changing our habits and attitudes daily.

Everything from the way you’re seen and perceived, how you dress, what you eat, the things you celebrate and value, people you look up to, your family relationships – these are all factors that form the identity of a consumer and need to be considered when creating the content and media that you will consume.

For example, the actions and behaviours of one Gay individual will differ enormously from another Gay individual. Almost all diverse communities will overlap with another and another and another, and as time goes on it’ll be harder to place people in a box. So, when it comes down to keyword ad blocking, you could be cutting off your ideal consumer by adding a generic term like ‘Gay’ to your block list.

A lot of brands try to be ‘down with the kids’ and want Gen Z as their target audience, but add terms like ‘LGBTQ’, ‘Muslim’ or ‘Black’ to your block list, and you are immediately missing out on reaching masses of Gen Z consumers.

Further to this, allyship has become an incremental part of today’s culture, meaning consumers can be Heterosexual-White and still not buy from your brand if they feel like your advertising isn’t inclusive of say, Transgender-Black consumers.

You don’t need to be LGBTQ+ to attend Pride, or Black to attend Carnival. Cultures and interests crossover all the time and there’s nothing stopping someone who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ+ from consuming queer fashion, picking up a copy of Gay Times, or binging the new season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Sadly, the short-sightedness of brands using such broad terms for keyword ad blocking has cut off masses of brand-safe content and media from reaching some of the fastest growing demographic groups in the world.

It doesn’t make sense for a brand in 2021 to exclude communities like LGBTQ+, whose consumer spend in the UK alone is valued at £6billion. Additionally, ethnic-minority groups have a spending power of £300billion in the UK, but only 1 in 5 companies reach out to them as consumers.

That’s why we help our clients diversify their media, content and marketing to be intrinsically inclusive and representative of communities, uniting brands with consumers authentically through strong contextual relevance.

By combining our culturally lived experiences and industry-wide expertise, it’s our job to maximise the reach of each client campaign, helping you build an authentic brand story along the way. Reputation is far too costly in today’s ‘cancel-culture’ where brands need to get it right on the first go.

Find out how we helped Amazon’s Audible retell one of Queer history’s forgotten love stories through trailblazing influencers and trusted community spaces.

Audible Originals’ 18th century podcast – Hell Cats – deserves to be heard by anybody interested in Queer history or the lives of LGBTQ+ icons. So, when we partnered up with them in November 2020, we knew we had to position the period drama in a way that would reach the millions of individuals it was made for.

Did you know the rise of audiobooks and podcasting has resulted in over 15 million listeners in the UK alone?

Thanks to the brilliance of Carina Rodney (Writer), Kate Saxon (Director) and the diverse cast of 52 voice actors, we were confident the podcast would have no trouble enthralling the huge pool of audiophiles, but first, our job was to make sure they knew about it.

Today, we discuss our awareness strategy and approach when working with Amazon’s audio and podcast service, Audible, on the promo of their original series – Hell Cats.

Decisive partnerships and occupying online space

One of the obvious ways of promoting a new show or podcast is through adverts. Though effective, the sell is hard and obvious, and nobody likes being sold something they didn’t sign up for. So, the strategy here was to partner up with relevant Queer media brands and occupy their online platforms naturally.

At a time where the nation was under lockdown, individuals were turning to digital spaces more than ever before, especially the LGBTQ+ community. One of these safe spaces came in the form of leading Queer publication, PinkNews.

OMG UNITE devised a partnership with PinkNews whereby a series of editorial pieces about Hell Cats would be published on their website and shared across social channels. Four advertorials were published between November – December, exploring the podcast series in-depth and positioning it as an unmissable tale for the LGBTQ+ community and those interested in forgotten Queer icons.

These editorials seamlessly fit into the interests of PinkNews audiences, making them the perfect adverts for the series described as “a gripping tour de force of audio drama” – PinkNews.

For the community, by the community, through the community

What made this project even more superior was authenticity within the cast. Erin Doherty, Michelle Fox, Fisayo Akinade and Jonathan Bailey all belonged to the LGBTQ+ community, making the show a celebration of Queer talent as well as Queer history. In other words, Audible’s Hell Cats was made for the LGBTQ+ community by the LGBTQ+ community. So, it was only right that it was transported through the LGTBQ+ community as well.

As mentioned earlier, this was all about creating an authentic dialogue that avenues the podcast to the listener. We secured the right platform – PinkNews, but what if we could amplify this reach even further?

The next step was to actively seek out influencer talent known for their positive and inspirational presences within the LGBTQ+ community. Our strategy here was to engage these leading figures in creating their own personal story content directly linked to the themes of Hell Cats for further awareness of the series.

Working with Recipe, we sought out queer influencers, representing the various intersections of LGBTQ+ identities, who were familiar voices on the PinkNews platform and who could speak to their audiences authentically on the subject of trailblazing and queer icons. The chosen talent included five queer women and non-binary people: Chelcee Grimes, Charlie Craggs, Jamie Windust, Liv Little and Char Ellesse.

Non-binary Writer and Model, Jamie Windust, spoke about how although Hell Cats is a story “full of gender discussions, drama, sex, pirates” taking place in the 18th century, it is still relevant to trailblazers today.

Char Ellesse further emphasised the notion when she stated: “As much as they are pirates, the heart of the story is about trailblazing women. I feel like we would probably run in the same circles if they were about now.”

Having the influencers share their personal stories and alignment with Hell Cats, not only strengthened reach, but it also demonstrated how the themes of Hell Cats were still vastly relevant and relatable to 21st century LGBTQ+ members.

The result of authentic allyship and collaboration in media

What was the challenge?

Hell Cats is a fast-paced tale of 18th century girl-power, cutthroat adventure and an enduring love affair inspired by the true story of Anne Bonny and Mary Read. These characters were the most notorious female pirates of all time and this story was very niche at the outset. We needed to drive enthusiasm and engagement with a new genre-defying series.

How did we solve it?

By collaborating with PinkNews, Hell Cats’ promo was able to leverage the Queer publication’s website and social media channels to drive engagement and enhance the conversation online. Similarly, we were able to increase awareness and build trust with authentic influencer figures and talent, successfully positioning the podcast as an unmissable part of Queer culture.

What were the results?

Hell Cats has been extremely well received (4.8/5 rating) and the awareness campaign with Audible was a resounding success. We were able to build a rich narrative for the show amongst PinkNews audiences and brought forgotten Queer history to life. The combined activity came to 40% above the upper end of PinkNews’ performance estimates.

We were then able to create additional related content as promo for Hell Cats through our influencer network which included the following influencers:

INFLUENCER NAME:

Charlie Craggs (She/Her)

INFLUENCER Profile:

Charlie Craggs is an award-winning Transgender activist, author and presenter. She has been described as “the voice of a community” by Vogue and was number one of the New Radicals list (2016). Charlie Craggs is a significant member of the LGBTQA+ community and has been donned one of the most influential LGBT people in the UK (Rainbow List).

INFLUENCER NAME:

Liv Little (She/Her)

INFLUENCER Profile:

Liv Little is the founder of gal-dem magazine – an online and print media company run by women and non-binary people of colour. She founded the magazine when she was still at university, in hope of creating a safe space and loud voice for her community. Liv is an award-winning writer, consultant, creative director and curator and has been listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women.

INFLUENCER NAME:

Jamie Windust (They/Them)

INFLUENCER Profile:

Jamie is a public figure and contributing Editor for Gay Times. They are also a presenter and model as well as award-winning writer and author of ‘In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life’. In the past, Jamie has written for The Independent, British GQ, Cosmopolitan and more, and has been named as one of London’s most influential people (Evening Standard: Story Telling).

INFLUENCER NAME:

Char Ellesse (She/Her)

INFLUENCER Profile:

Char Ellesse is a model and content creator but above all she is the founder and director of Girls Will Be Boys – an online Black & Queer owned storytelling platform. Char is determined to redefine gender norms and break down barriers that put people in binary boxes. She is famously known for her short film ‘OMG She’s Bald’ where women and non-binary people discussed ‘losing their locks’ and finding sexual empowerment.

Islamophobia Awareness Month highlights the dangerous and threatening hate crimes towards the religion of Islam and Muslim communities, but it also uses the month as an opportunity to showcase the positive contributions of British Muslims to society.

Since 9/11, in the UK and many other parts of the world, there has been a growing fear, hatred and prejudice against the religion of Islam and/or Muslims. Hate crimes increased and many people felt it was difficult to speak up about lived experiences of racism, including our Head of Content and Partnerships, Sangeetha Mahadevan.

The UK is full of people from all walks of life, from different creeds and cultures. It is important to acknowledge the many different religions and faiths that co-exist. World peace may be a long way off, but each day we can take another step-in learning about, understanding and accepting other people and the fabric which makes up their lives; as for a substantial proportion of people, their faith is paramount to their identity.

We spoke to two of our team members, Foreda Begum and Ayeesha Starkey, on how they define Islamophobia and how people can shake their biases and dispel widely spread stereotypes and myths of Muslims.

Tackling Islamophobia during #IAM2021 and beyond

How would you define Islamophobia?

Ayeesha Starkey: Discrimination against anyone who follows and/or believes in Islam – this is due to the irrational fear that any Muslim you may meet might be a part of an Islamic extremist group or is stereotyped into that category due to the proliferation of whitewashed media.

Foreda Begum: I find it difficult to define because it looks so different to different Muslims; when it is felt, it often cannot be understood by others beyond the Muslim community. But I think in the simplest terms, Islamophobia is not just restricted to the faith, but heavily intertwined by race as racism is often the heaviest motivator for someone to be Islamophobic.

Why is Islamophobia Awareness Month important?

Ayeesha Starkey: To bring to light that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and not side-lined.

Foreda Begum: To be honest, I didn’t even know it was even a thing! For non-Muslim/POC communities to understand what it is, there needs to be a day or month to commemorate it because it seems as though this is the only time we are given the mic to speak about the experience. This calendar month is important as it gives us an opportunity to own our narrative and experiences, which in turn will help wider communities to understand, but only if they’re truly listening and open to taking in this information.

Muslim boy learning how to make Dua to Allah

Have you ever experienced prejudice, hostility, hatred, exclusion, restriction, or discrimination because of being Muslim?

Ayeesha Starkey: Yes. To begin with, my name is very religious so even before someone meets me there might be that prejudgment that I am Muslim. Whilst in a professional environment, that assumption is then translated into microaggressions along with the mocking of how “all Arabs and Muslims are just terrorists and secret spies”. With those types of comments, it diminishes all culture, art, music and academy that the community offers. Rising above these stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims is a topic that should be educated and discussed to a point of understanding. At OMG UNITE, I and others in my team, feel respected no matter what our religious or cultural background is – something a lot of have not had the luxury of experiencing in the past.

Foreda Begum: Sadly, I think it’s kind of a rite of passage as a Muslim but as I said everyone experiences it in different ways. Luckily, I grew up in East London where everyone pretty much looked like me, so I was protected by that. I experienced it on the off chance when my family and I went to Green Street to shop on game day; (when West Ham stadium used to be there) we had the occasional slur like ‘rag head’, ‘terrorist’, or ‘Batwoman’ (which I thought, props for creativity!) But you just ignore it.

How did it make you feel?

Ayeesha Starkey: It made me proud of being part of a community that is based upon peace, serenity and doing good for the sake of others.

Foreda Begum: I think I only truly felt it when entering the world of work – it was the first time I was the only Muslim present and at the time, there was no diversity bandwagon. These have been more insidious experiences because it’s hard to explain – being othered, or the completely bizarre interactions when you feel you must make your peers feel better when they have said something offensive by saying, ‘don’t worry, it’s not that bad’. Microaggressions go unnoticed and I know many Muslims across industries just take it on the chin because it’s just a daily occurrence. Companies can hire Muslims but if they don’t understand the community or make them feel comfortable, they contribute to the problem. Being in OMG UNITE was the first time I could truly breathe because I could be myself.

What can others do to stop Islamophobia?

Ayeesha Starkey: Listen and learn from people that have experienced discrimination.

Foreda Begum: Stop relying on unconscious bias training as any barometer to where you stand – it is a starting point but not a tool to give yourself a pat on the back. Understanding Islamophobia is not just a foreign concept EDL die-hards practice, but something that you can contribute to, without consciously knowing or being aware of. Also, in simple terms, make Muslim friends, and no, I do not just mean the only Muslim in your team but make an active effort to broaden your social circles – you will soon see we are not a monolith; this can possibly and hopefully eradicate the biases you may have.

Do you think the media has positive portrayals of Muslims? What can they do better?

Ayeesha Starkey: Not as much as there should be, however the integration of Muslims within film, music etc. is slowly moving away from the physical tropes that you would usually associate a Muslim with and more towards the personality and experience of the individual. A way that we could improve positive portrayals, is by focusing on the individualistic aspect and setting aside religion/beliefs.

Foreda Begum: The effort is there, but the portrayals of Muslims will only change when Muslims are hired to be behind the camera, are in the strategy/planning meetings and genuinely controlling the narrative. Otherwise, it’s always a half-baked job where non-Muslims are applauded for something that didn’t include Muslims until shoot day. For example, a tired but hilarious trope all over Netflix these days is the Hijabi girl who takes off her scarf when she falls in love with her forbidden white boyfriend. It completely eradicates the sacredness of the Hijab and if the people creating these shows truly took the time to understand the reasons why we wear one, these portrayals would seem ridiculous to them too.

Why is it important to educate people about Islamophobia?

Ayeesha Starkey: To reduce and notice when discrimination, hatred or harm is being caused just because someone is a Muslim. 

Foreda Begum: The onus should not be on Muslims to educate people about it, as you can imagine, we are tired of proving it even exists. People need to take the initiative and teach themselves. There are plenty of excellent resources to learn from – Omar Suleiman, Amaliah, Aamer Rahman, MEND, Cage, Creed and Culture are just a few who are pure excellence.

Useful resources on Islamophobia

To find out more about Islamophobia Awareness Month, read more below:

MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development)  
 
Runnymeade Trust 

British Muslims – Facts and Figures 

History of Muslims in Britain

Serhat Ekinci, Managing Director of OMG UNITE, has been shortlisted at the Media Week Awards for Media Leader of the Year. Read the exclusive Q+A interview here.

As Maisie McCabe, UK Editor for Campaign, nicely summarised: “The Media Week Awards are the most prestigious celebration of commercial media in the UK.”

So when we found out our very own, Serhat Ekinci, was amongst a shortlist of 7 nominees for Media Leader of the Year 2021, we immediately tracked him down for a quickfire Q+A. Here’s how it went…

Serhat, firstly congratulations on making the shortlist for 2021’s Media Leader of the Year! Can you tell us where you were and how you felt when you heard the news?

Serhat: Well I was in a client meeting and suddenly I started getting messages from colleagues and friends congratulating me on the shortlist which put a nice smile on my face. To be perfectly honest, I was skeptical of being shortlisted for the award as I’m not the usual type you see on a list like this, but I guess I was wrong and things might be changing after all.

That’s amazing. If you had to describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?

Serhat: Ambitious, eclectic, determined

If your peers, friends and family had to describe you in 3 words what would they be?

Serhat: Oversharer, fixer, resilient

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Serhat: The extrovert part of me probably weighs heavier now, though I feel that I’m a massive introvert inside just pretending to be an extrovert on the outside!

What’s your motto in life?

Serhat: It’s probably a bit cliché but for me it has to be “where there is a will, there is a way”. It describes my way of life well. I have faced many struggles and have achieved things that people kept telling me I couldn’t…I really do believe that regardless of what you want to achieve or how hard it is, if you put your head and heart into it, nothing is impossible. The proverb is a gentle yet powerful reminder to keep on going, even when the path doesn’t seem simple.

That’s very true and a great outlook to have. What are your interests outside of work?

Serhat: I’ve been to 40+ countries in the last 10 years alone, so I’d have to say travelling. Specifically, the kind where you get to explore and learn about different cultures, their lifestyle, and the food! I’m a big foodie and love trying new things, so that type of travel and exploration would definitely be up there on my list. I’m also a massive DIYer and enjoy fixing things around the house. But above everything, my family is my biggest joy, and I love spending most of my time outside of work with them.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Serhat: Buy an island and bring all the people I love to live together on it. I’d keep only what I need for the rest of my life and donate the rest across charitable causes.

What is your desert-island luxury item?

Serhat: I’m tempted to say coffee but I’d probably die of dehydration, so I’ll have to go with drinking water.

What was your first job?

Serhat: A trainee car mechanic at the age of 9 where I fixed car windows and locks. I did it for 5 years during summer holidays and weekends and I loved every bit of it!

If you weren’t in the role you are today, where do you think you’d be?

Serhat: I have an obsession with insight and research especially surrounding people and their behaviours, so I’d probably see myself in market research. But if it wasn’t a desk job, I’d probably be restoring classic cars.

Nice! Let’s talk about the brand – OMG UNITE. Tell us a bit about why you joined the agency in 2016?

Serhat: Well, I worked in a lot of big agencies and subsequently I worked across well established, well-known brands. One of the things that I found frustrating was that everyone talked about diversity and inclusion from an internal people and culture perspective, but there wasn’t much on actual client outputs and whether they represented those from different backgrounds.

It seemed to me that unless clients had a product that was specifically made for a diverse community, they wouldn’t really think to include them in their strategy or audience otherwise. And the few that did, felt ancient and more suited for my aunties and uncles than me.

It’s almost impossible to feel included when the work you do isn’t representative of who you truly are, despite being a user or a part of that target audience. So when an opportunity came up at OMG to do things differently, I jumped on it and never looked back!

Well we’re so glad you did! If you had to summarise OMG UNITE in a few sentences, what would you say?

Serhat: OMG UNITE is “informed by data, driven by culture, inclusive in nature”. We diversify our clients’ marketing and media to be representative and inclusive of marginalised communities, their lives and consumption. In a nutshell, we want more, if not all, people to feel seen and heard at various touchpoints in their life, e.g. through the media and content they consume.

We’ve got to start asking you harder questions. Who’s your least favourite client?

Serhat: Hard to choose 🙂

Okay fine, you can skip that one. What makes you the perfect candidate for the Media Leader title?

Serhat: We’ve gone against the norm of doing things and created a business to serve an unmet industry need, proving that it works and is highly successful when executed with authenticity.

I moved to the UK in 2006 not knowing a word of English and without a degree. My background and upbringing is very different to most at my level and I want to see more people like me being given the chance to make a difference – but it comes down to that very phrase again – where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I have my drive and determination to thank for this shortlisting.

Having said that, for me, that’s not necessarily what makes a perfect leader. It makes a great go-getter and hard-worker, but to be a great leader, you need to inspire and motivate change for the better. So I’m not a perfect candidate for this award because of my differences and my success despite my struggles. I’d say I make a fine candidate because of what I’ve done to make everyone else’s differences more visible to the industry.

Absolutely, and we couldn’t agree more. Tell us about a campaign you’re really proud of.

Serhat: It has to be Childline’s #UnderstandMe campaign, especially our partnership with SB.TV. That was the most challenging yet rewarding campaign ever. We pushed boundaries on every level – everything from the range of artists and platforms used, the creative content produced and the timeline to delivery, to the success it brought to all parties involved.

Most brands would not do what we recommended back then, including the NSPCC, but they did, and it just goes to show what you can do when you really want to do the right thing with the right people behind it.

I still listen to the 5 tracks created for the campaign and encourage anyone who wants to, to have a listen.

Grime artist, Eyez, raps about Islamophobia for SBTV in partnership with NSPCC’s #UnderstandMe campaign

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Serhat: I stopped thinking about these plans a long time ago. Instead, I just give my best to everything I do in the present. I create and grab opportunities that I have now and see where they take me. That’s why my career has never been linear in one profession. Life is much more dynamic than ever before, so we need to be too.

Any advice to young talent just starting out in the media industry?

Serhat: Be bold and proactive. The best opportunities and learnings I’ve had come from jumping on things that no one else wanted to do. The beauty of media is that it’s about people and knowledge can be found anywhere and from anyone regardless of their level or experience.

Thank you so much for your time Serhat, some really powerful and inspiring stuff here. Take care and all the best for October 21st

Serhat is joined by Nadine Young, Natalie Cummins, Kate Rowlinson, Rob Pierre, Dominic Carter and Julian Lloyd Evans, and the category winner is influenced by public vote. 

The event will take place at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, Park Lane on Thursday 21st October.

Join us as we discuss the importance of Black history and how brands can create impactful campaigns that go beyond the cultural calendar event with special insight from Emma Kwarteng and Idowu Oyebola.

The month is a chance to reflect on Black history, commemorate figures past and present and learn about the beauty that is Black Culture. However, let’s not forget, we should be doing this all year round, not just during one month in the calendar.

Black culture is a rich tapestry weaved together by multiple countries and continents, languages, cuisines, customs and traditions, music and art and so much soul. ‘People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries.’ Black History Month is a celebration of the achievements, the contributions and the profound impact Black people have on culture and society.

Black History Month 2021: #ProudToBe

Two of our colleagues, Emma Kwarteng, Project and Operations Lead and Idowu Oyebola, Content Executive, share the significance of Black History Month and why it’s important for brands to not only celebrate the month but learn how to create a legacy impact with their campaigns.

Idowu Oyebola and Emma Kwarteng headshots on a #ProudToBeBlack banner
Idowu Oyebola and Emma Kwarteng #ProudToBeBlack

This year’s BHM theme is #ProudToBe…what makes you proud to be Black?

Emma: I am proud to be Black because we are strong, we are talented, we are beautiful.

Idowu: I’m proud to be Black because of the odds being stacked against Black people for so long, even to this day, yet still showing the resilience to continue to battle and live each day.

Why is Black History Month so important?

Emma: Black History Month is important because it gives us a chance to dedicate time to explore Black history. Although it shouldn’t be a once-a-year thing, sometimes important matters such as this are forgotten due to the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Our history defines us and who we are today it is so important to learn the positives and the negatives regarding it. It is key for the children of the future to build upon their learnings from now.

Idowu: Black History Month is important as it shines a light on matters pertaining to the Black community that are overlooked during regular times. Society over time has forgotten to speak about or include many important stories from history surrounding Black history and culture that would be so useful for everyone to know. This would aid in further connecting society and allowing everyone to understand where we’ve come from and where we need to go, together. 

What do you love most about Black culture?

Emma: I love the fact that no matter where we are in the world, we bring our culture with us unapologetically. I was born in Britain however I was raised as Ghanaian, which I love as that is my identity. It’s important to maintain and carry culture forward especially for future generations, that’s why I make an active effort to instil our culture in my son.

Idowu: How open and accepting Black people are of everyone despite this not often being reciprocated.

How to create impactful Black History campaigns

5 ways brands can create exceptional Black History Month campaigns that go beyond the calendar month
5 ways brands can create a legacy impact with Black History activations

Emma: Brands can create impactful BHM campaigns by:

  1. Overtly supporting communities where they need it, for example, contributing to helping young boys avoid getting into gangs or the wrong crowd. This could be something as simple as providing alternative safe spaces or activities.
  2. Going to local schools and colleges to raise awareness about careers within the industry and shining light on exceptional Black talent in the process to inspire.
  3. Actively partnering with smaller community media partners to support their growth throughout the year, and using BHM as more of a time to showcase, rather than begin.
  4. Understanding that the community will increase authenticity within the workplace, particularly within creative and media executions.
  5. Ensuring that talented Black people within corporations are given the opportunity to progress just as much as the next person.

Idowu: Brands can create a legacy impact campaign by doing more than just re-telling the same stories of Black history that we hear over and over again each year. Instead, they can aim to actually go into communities and listen to the stories of what Black history looks like and means to Black people. Taking this and partnering with them in order to affect long-lasting change in the lives and communities of Black people across the country. Highlighting Black businesses and Black business owners, bringing them to the forefront of conversations that ordinarily, they would be overlooked in. Brands have the power to contribute to the future of Black history by shining light on present Black creatives and talent today. Sometimes it’s not about looking back, but looking forward.

How can the industry avoid tokenism when it comes to Black History Month campaigns?

Emma: Brands can avoid tokenism when it comes to Black History Month campaigns by doing the 5 things listed above, with consistency. Since what happened to George Floyd, more and more brands are using Black and Mixed-Race people within their creatives, amongst their campaigns and on their websites. It was quite an insult as it took something as tragic as that for brands to open their eyes about representing the entire UK population in their executions.

Idowu: The main thing I believe that brands can do to avoid tokenism when creating campaigns around this period, especially when using influencers, is using people who have expert knowledge in the areas being spoken about to further enhance the authenticity and genuine sentiment instead out of obligation due to the period of BHM.

What is Black Joy?

We talk a lot of about Black History without talking about Black Joy, so what is it? New York Writer and Founder of the Black Joy Project, Kleaver Cruz, explains that “Black Joy is an act of resistance” and that “when we acknowledge that we exist in an anti-black world that is set up to ensure we do not live, to choose life and to choose to enjoy any aspect of that life is a radical act.”

Two Black females smiling with joy on a sandy beach embracing each other
What does Black Joy mean to you?

Cruz adds: “Amplifying Black Joy is not about dismissing or creating an ‘alternative’ Black narrative that ignores the realities of our collective pain; rather, it is about holding the pain and injustices we experience as Black folks around the world in tension with the joy we experience in pain’s midst. It’s about using that joy as an entry into understanding the oppressive forces we navigate through as a means to imagine and create a world free of them.”

Our very own Emma and Idowu answer the question below.

What does Black Joy mean to you?

Emma: Black Joy for me personally is just being confident and happy within myself despite trying to overcome the obstacles that constantly come up due to the colour of our skin. It’s about actively surrounding myself with what I feel comfortable with and looking after my physical and mental health above all else.

Idowu: Black Joy to me is simply joy. Being able to experience joy without the weight of worrying about my appearance or the perceptions and/or stereotype surrounding it. All of that partnered with championing and sharing Black history with my peers, whether they are Black or not, and drawing everyone closer because of it.

Black talent spotlight

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today – before you leave – do you have any Black creatives or professionals you’d like to bring to people’s attention right now?

Emma: I highly recommend the brand I Am Enough Productions. They make amazing pieces for children emphasising the beauty of us as Black people – absolute genius! We grew up being ashamed of our natural hair and had the idea that the Western look was more attractive.  People are now embracing natural beauty and long may it continue!

Idowu: A Black artist I’d like to recommend is Bellah – an upcoming R’n’B artist with a beautiful sound and meaning behind each song she releases. You won’t be disappointed.

Check out the sounds of Bellah and more in our specially curated playlist Black History Month playlist. It features a variety of tunes with everything from Jazz, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, to Hip Hop, Afrobeats and Bashment. Listen to the playlist in your web browser using the Spotify player below, or follow the link to open your Spotify app.

Black Joy playlist curated by OMG UNITE

Join us on World Mental Health Day 2021 as we discuss this year’s theme: Mental Health in an Unequal World with the team at OMG UNITE.

Mental Health is an extremely important topic to the OMG UNITE team. As a diversity-driven agency, we are aware of how the discussion around mental health can exclude the voices of those from diverse communities.

At OMG UNITE, our team is shaped by a mixture of cultures, heritage, genders and sexualities. We are third culture kids, navigating multiple identities. For some of us, and in marginalized communities, mental health is a taboo subject. The stigma it carries in some cultural groups can create a major barrier in receiving the right diagnosis and care.

Today marks #WorldMentalHealthDay. This year’s theme is Mental Health in an Unequal World. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year, however the prevalence of different mental health problems varies by ethnicity.

Did you know that women from a South Asian background experience the highest rates of any common mental disorder, or that Black men are “three times more likely than White men to screen positive for PTSD”?

The Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns only exacerbated feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. ‘Emerging evidence highlights the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown on mental health and inequalities.’

The charity Mind, conducted a survey of over 14,000 adults revealing that existing inequalities in housing, employment, finances and other issues, meant that there had been a greater impact on the mental health of people from different Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) groups than white people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Furthermore, although being LGBTIQ+ does not cause mental health problems, the LGBTIQ+ community is at risk of mental health problems due to the difficult experiences of coming out, experiencing stigma and discrimination, resulting in self-isolation and mental health issues arising.

Through our research we found that Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) LGBTQ+ people may also face additional barriers when accessing support, with over 62% of people more likely to experience depression and 51% experiencing discrimination due to their ethnicity.

OMG UNITE talk Mental Health

Going forward, we are committed to creating a deeper understanding of how intersections can contribute to mental health issues through our articles, blogs and social posts.

For now, read our team’s contributions on their personal mental health anecdotes, experiences, and tips to help you get through the day.

Benjamin Boura

Ben, Projects & Operations Executive

My advice is to get rid of toxic people in your life – if they make it worse and have nothing positive to bring, it’s probably best to count them out for your own well-being. Exercise is also extremely important for your mental health.

I am not a sport freak at all, but exercise does not mean running a marathon or doing crazy athletic things, it can just mean going for a lovely walk or bike ride around the city. I installed an app on my phone forcing me to do a minimum of 4,000 steps a day – roughly 30 minutes. This psychologically forces you to get out of your house at least once a day.

My other therapy, and as cliché as this may sound, is music, and especially in my case music from my favourite artist – Mariah Carey. Her voice and music are so soothing and appeasing, and she always has lyrics to make you feel like everything is going to be okay and that, whatever you are going through, you are not alone and that these feelings and emotions are valid. Her songs for ‘Hero’, or ‘Anytime You Need A Friend’ have provided with me great relief and comfort.

More generally, I think it’s important to sometimes forget about the dark world news that brings your mood down and try to focus on yourself and what makes you happy for your own personal well-being. This in turn will reflect on your interactions with other people and what comes your way in life. It’s all about having the right mindset but for sure it is not always easy to find this right mindset.

We also must learn to not be afraid to talk about it and express our feelings. Keeping everything inside will just create a ticking time bomb… And yes sentences such as “things will get better” can sound dumb when you are feeling at your lowest, but you have to always believe that it is if you are to get out of this and thrive and succeed.


Nikki Sehgal

Nikki, Senior Content & Creative Executive

Shout out to all of the people battling illnesses we know nothing about, to all of the people who are suffering in silence, too afraid and too ashamed to speak up. Over the years I’ve had many internal battles with my own mental health. For a long time I kept it to myself but I realised the only way through it is to open up and seek help. 

Mental Health problems manifest in many different shapes and forms. Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there. Mental Health is so important. I cannot stress this enough. 

For all of the people that have never experienced mental health issues or those that do not understand how to deal with people who are experiencing mental health problems, my advice to you is just listen and observe and try and understand. Don’t judge. Sometimes just being there and being silent is what’s needed and can have such a positive impact.

What binds us together is stronger than what separates us and our differences are fewer than our similarities. We can all learn from others’ experiences and stories, and oftentimes just taking an interest in someone else’s story can make them feel like they belong, make them feel like they have a place in this world and their story and experience matters.

Look beyond the exterior. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”


Shanel Masih

Shanel, Senior Creative & Content Executive

It’s always difficult opening up about mental health when the people you think you can trust about your deepest vulnerabilities don’t ‘believe’ in it, or don’t give it the acknowledgment it deserves, or think a regular trip to your place of worship every week will somehow alter the chemical imbalances within your brain. 

I’ve had a lonely ride with mental health as a result of this. Somehow, we are shamed and made to feel embarrassed or lacking. And God forbid anyone in the neighbourhood finds out. It’s a toxic irony that seeps deep into South Asian communities, where parents or close ones are often more worried about what people will think than your actual health and wellbeing. Seeing how others in my family were treated or talked about once people knew they dealt with mental health problems cemented my decision to never share my own problems growing up.

But something that has helped me and hopefully can help anyone reading this, is the quote: “you grow through what you go through” and I preach it as if I wrote it myself because I really wish I did (but Tyrese Gibson is the true mastermind behind it).

Going through my experiences has helped me grow into the person I needed when I was younger. And now I can be that person for my little sister. I talk about mental health with her openly and ensure she knows that she never has to go through anything alone.

My experience showed me that pain is useful – it reminds us that we’re alive and have the ability to feel. It made me think how there’s gain in loss – through it we are able to learn how to heal. 

You and me, we’re art. We just didn’t know we were also the artists. And as long as we’re around, we can carve and sculpt our futures the best way we know how. It may get messy along the way, but soon enough, you’ll take a step back and see the refinements in your hard work. Just remember, you have to keep going, to keep growing


Serhat Ekinci

Serhat, Managing Director

Find the time to do nothing and I mean literally nothing except listening to oneself. Focus on all the positives achieved in the past week. Open up to your loved ones – acknowledging our challenges is the first and most important step to overcoming them.

Feel-good songs to listen to on World Mental Health Day

Music is a healer, there’s no doubt about it. This World Mental Health Day, we asked the team what tracks are getting them out of bed, lifting their moods and generally making them feel good when the world gets a bit heavy.

Here are our top 10 songs you can listen to this World Mental Health Day and any other day you may need a little acoustic boost:

  1. Vibranium – Chunkz, Neji
  2. Energy – Pa Salieu, Mahalia
  3. Following the Sun – SUPER-Hi, Neeka
  4. Winners – Smoko Ono, Yxng Bane, Chance the Rapper, Joey Purp
  5. I Smile – Kirk Franklin
  6. Sunday Best – Surfaces
  7. Everything Nice – Popcaan
  8. Know Your Worth – Khalid, Disclosure
  9. A-O-K – Tai Verdes
  10. Everything is Everything – Ms. Lauryn Hill

Listen to the full playlist here.