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.

Read more about HSBC’s Pride campaign and how the global organisation was able to remain authentic in a new age of media activism.

HSBC have been great allies of the LGBTQ+ community for years now, but in a new age of diverse and inclusive media activism, how could we help HSBC remain authentic and engaging as opposed to performative and tokenistic?

Today, we discuss our strategy and approach when working with multinational banking and finance giants, HSBC, on their 2020 Pride campaign.

Keeping diverse and inclusive media authentic

Our method was simple – to be as authentic as possible, by bringing real stories and emotions to the forefront of the brand’s most accessible touchpoint during a national lockdown – their social media channels.

The business goal for this brief was to engage and educate HSBC audiences on the concept of ‘passing’ and its effects on individuals as a means of publicising HSBC’s approach to diversity and inclusion. For those not aware, passing is a notion that describes passing off as someone on the exterior that doesn’t truly match with a person’s true internal identity, for example many gay individuals feel they need to ‘pass’ as straight to fit in or be safe, so they’ll perform in a way that is traditionally ‘masculine’.

We wanted it to be clear that HSBC stands with the LGBTQ+ community through all these experiences. Better yet, it advocates for the community and wants to help share these stories. The brand has always been incredibly open and transparent in their stance on diversity and inclusion, but at a time where the entire world was more uncertain than ever, we needed to take it one step deeper to really speak to the community and make the campaign contextually relevant to current times.

Contextual relevance is key to every campaign’s success

The impact of COVID-19 had forced the whole nation into a 2020 summer of lockdown between March and June. The impact of the virus was hugely widespread, however individuals from marginalised or disadvantaged groups such as the LGBTQ+ communities – who already experience poorer outcomes in healthcare – may have disproportionally been more affected by the current situation.

It was also important for us to consider the impact around intersectionality within the different LGBTQ+ communities. For example, being LGBTQ+ as well as belonging to other minority identities such as Disabled, Black and Asian just to name a few. These individuals had a greater likelihood of being affected by coronavirus in the UK because they were generally in need of greater support.

Due to the already existing instability of the support systems that LGBTQ+ individuals faced, they were more likely to be a) socially isolated and b) homeless. 24% of homeless people aged 16-24 are LGBTQ+, and 18% of LGBTQ+ people have been homeless at some point in their lives.

According to Age UK: “Research shows that (older) LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable to loneliness as they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have lower levels of contact with relatives.”

Further to this, LGBTQ+ communities sadly lack traditional and mainstream support networks. They are more likely to have what is called a chosen family – a selected group of close friends and members of the community that replace immediate family relations, often due to family rejection.

What’s worse, is that many young people will have found themselves having to self-isolate in a household with LGBTQ-phobic parents and family members. There is research to show that LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately more likely to have poor mental health and a 2018 study found that 52% of LGBTQ+ people had experienced depression in the year preceding the survey.

Sharing a narrative and making it accessible

When you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand you – in this case people who don’t accept your sexuality or people who you haven’t ‘come out’ to yet – the most common thing to do is to turn to online spaces. This was bound to be the case even more so during the national lockdown where physical interaction and social spaces in the real world were closed until further notice.

All these factors made up the foundations led us to create a powerful series of passing films, sparking a conversation through the sharing of personal narratives and showing solidarity in online spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the context of lockdown.

We took advantage of our extensive diversity media network and selected a range of queer influencers as well as real HSBC employees to tell their own personal story of passing. To inspire, engage and represent unheard voices within the community who were struggling at the time. This was HSBC’s way of letting them know, they weren’t alone and there was a virtual community they would always be a part of.

This enabled their followers and audiences, who had similarly experienced passing in their lives, to share their stories online too, creating a beautiful, sincere and authentic exchange of conversation. For HSBC, this awareness proved that there was solidarity online for those who needed it and cemented their allyship with the LGBTQ+ community even further.

Overall, the campaign exceeded our expectations from a stats and delivery perspective as well as engagement and positive dialogue across socials. There was much anecdotal feedback which suggested the campaign resonated with the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

HSBC diverse and inclusive pride campaign details

We worked with influencers Jake Graf and Luke Jefferson Day; a transman and pan-sexual man respectively. We wanted each piece to be as authentic and intimate as possible, so although we provided editorial direction and oversaw the logistical process, both Jake and Luke chose which story they wanted to share and delivered their content in the medium they were most comfortable with.

INFLUENCER NAME:

Jake Graf

INFLUENCER Profile:

Jake Graf is an English Actor, Filmmaker and Transgender Rights Activist. He is a leading figure in the LGBTQ+ community and is widely known for his active support. Jake is a go-to person when looking for a positive LGBTQ+ role model and has been shining a light on Queer and Trans experiences to a wider, more mainstream audience. He has recently worked with River Island and VO5 and was extremely interested in telling his story  about passing as a woman, then as a CIS man.

INFLUENCER NAME:

Luke Jefferson Day

INFLUENCER Profile:

Luke is GQ Style’s Editor and a known face both in the LGBTQ+ community and the fashion industry. Luke has shared personal stories on his Instagram feed on his experience as a gay man before and has more recently opened up about his pansexuality. After having to pass in the Gay community for years, Luke felt it was time to share his personal story and inspire others with his motto: ‘harness your uniqueness’. This remains one of his most liked and engaged with post to date.

An additional two videos were created by HSBC Global. They were shared and promoted across social media accounts within our wide network of LGBTQ+ influencers.

HSBC on the story of their colleague, Nathaniel:

“Our lives are full of places where we feel we can’t, or shouldn’t, express our authentic selves. Barber shops can be an example of where gay, bi and trans men feel they need to pass as straight. In a year where many of us can’t be as ‘out’ as we’d like to be, it’s as important as ever that our diverse identities are still seen, heard and celebrated.”

Watch Nathaniel’s story here:

HSBC on the story of their colleague, Florence:

“A lot of people in the LGBT+ community feel they need to ‘pass’ as straight. But at a time when we can’t come together as normal, we need visibility more than ever. So whether you’re coming out to colleagues, or sashaying in your living room, we support your journey and wish you a happy Pride being exactly who you are.”

Watch Florence’s story here:

Josh Chi who heads up Media & Strategy at OMG UNITE shares his personal thoughts on the #StopAsianHate movement and how we can help.

Josh Chi has occupied the role of Head of Media & Strategy at OMG UNITE for over 7 years now, but the time he has been an advocate for racial equality spans back further.

He says: “As an East Asian from Taiwan who has been living in the UK for more than 10 years, there are many stories from fellow Asians on the aggressions that they have faced. The situation in the UK may be different from the US, and we know people from other cultural and religious backgrounds are often facing similar or worse aggressions, even in a very multicultural London but these are all something to be addressed.”

“Those who know me will probably know that I am someone who doesn’t always express my view loudly, however this is a time when I do feel like my background might help bring a perspective to yet another ongoing issue – and hopefully make a difference.”

“In a recent gal-dem article, Siam Hatzaw summarised Anti-Asian racism as its own particular brand of bigotry. The situation has become even worse since Covid-19 with Asians being scapegoated for the pandemic, especially with narratives like ‘Kung Flu’ or ‘China virus’ – the latter coming from the former US President Donald Trump.”

Police data has indicated a 300% increase in hate crime reports from East and South East Asians in the first quarter of 2020 and that doesn’t even include the many microaggressions that some people face on a daily basis.

One of Chi’s roles at OMG UNITE includes dissecting client briefs to advise on topics relating to ethnicity, religion, gender, LGBTQ+, disability and many other intersections of demographic groups. He has worked on many social change and communication projects led by charities and brands including the Government, to address discrimination and inequality.

This work-life overlap has helped “make me more aware of the issue that we are facing” says Josh.  

As an organisation that not only values but celebrates differences within the workforce, we collaborated with Josh Chi to see how our industry can help #StopAsianHate and how we can push further awareness.

How, as media industry leaders, can we help #StopAsianHate?

The most important thing anyone can do, regardless of industry category, is raise awareness. There are still people who are sadly ignorant to the fact that this type of racial inequality exists.

It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again – it is not enough to not be racist, we must be anti-racist. And for that to happen, we must actively demonstrate our support for those most vulnerable when it comes to any kind of discrimination, be it race, religion, sexuality or so on.

Josh Chi says: “For people in our industry who work in creative and comms, there are more way for us to facilitate long term and positive change. These are relevant, not just for stopping Asian hate, but for stopping hate in general.”

He continues to outline 3 things all workplaces can begin to implement with reference to the media and advertising industry.

1. Celebrate difference in your team

By now we would really hope that every workplace has a D&I (diversity and inclusion) department, team or specialist. If you work at a place that doesn’t, it may be time to suggest one. 

From those of us who thrive off diversity in the workplace, we promise it’s truly one of the best things you can give your organisation. By ensuring diversity in your team, you can ensure a wide range of differing perspectives.

Not only will your team learn and grow as individuals, but in the media and advertising industry, you can use these perspectives and lived experiences as cultural lenses for client briefs. This leads nicely onto point two.

2. Challenge stereotypes in your work

Josh Chi says: “The creative work that our industry produces can set the tone for society”. And he’s absolutely right. The advertising world plays a much bigger role than selling product to a consumer – it sets boundaries on perception and suggests what’s acceptable and what’s not. Moreover, it can either make you feel seen and heard, or completely invisible.

That’s why it’s so important to get it right. That’s why it’s so important for media to go live with inclusion at the heart of it. That’s why we believe in what we do at OMG UNITE.

Josh adds: “We can help influence what is cool and what is not. Ensuring positive representation and challenging negative stereotypes in our creative is a good start. It helps normalise differences and can even help drive social cohesion.”

“To understand how this might work, try to imagine how Henry Golding may have changed the dating life of some East Asian men by being the lead character in Hollywood and British love stories, like Last Christmas or Monsoon.”

To reiterate Chi’s point, we need to see people like us in adverts, on billboards, on our TV screens for us to truly feel a sense of belonging rather than feeling like the ‘other’ box you tick on a list at the doctors.

But even then, it’s not enough. We need to see people like us portrayed respectively and not stereotypically. As an outlet that so many different demographic groups encounter, the media and advertising industry must do more to ensure societies such as the East Asian community feel empowered and inspired whenever encountering a piece of creative. This is where those in-house cultural lenses come back into play.

Side note: how great was it to see an entire Asian cast take over the world in mainstream media spaces? Read our case study on how we helped Warner Brothers engage with East Asian audiences in the UK to drive more cinema sales for Crazy Rich Asians.

3. Show empathy and support

There are a couple of ways you can do this within your organisation or agency to ensure each member of your team feels respected at work.

The first is simply knowing how to support your colleagues, especially those who may be less outspoken about the issues they may be facing. Reinforce a ‘no bullying, no racism’ policy and that includes any racist humour or ‘ethnic banter’.

The second is speaking up for those who feel they can’t. If you witness racism or bullying in the workplace – anything from verbal micro aggressions to hostile mistreatment – can you step in and express that what was said or done is completely unacceptable? Alternatively, ask the person who has just experienced aggression 3 simple words: “are you okay?”

The third is to ensure there is diversity in your leadership team so that individuals feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help or support. This interlaces with point 1, and not only celebrating diversity within your organisation but helping develop and grow that diverse talent towards leadership roles.

It is often always the case that it is easier to open up and speak to someone who we feel we can identify with and can empathise with us. And in a similar vein, this links back to point 2 of seeing our cultures and races portrayed within mainstream media to feel and be more visible.

We’d like to end this piece in Josh’s words:

“In order to get everyone to understand the issue, we need more people (and not just Asians) talking about it. A quick Google search will show that there are some celebrities talking about it but more of the Asian ones.

Kudos to will.i.am for urging viewers to stop Asian hate in The Voice UK, but we need more from all backgrounds to do the same as well. One step at a time and one issue at a time, we can all learn to be better human beings.

And for those who are considering sharing their thoughts to help drive awareness. Never think that your voice may be just another similar article or social post. To stop hate, we need as many people as possible to support in their own ways. Even if you don’t think you can change the world, you will change someone’s world by doing the right things.”

Once a month, the team at OMG UNITE come together to talk all things, inspirational, innovative and inclusive. We call this our ‘Creative Chinwag’, hosted by yours truly. Within the session, members of the team present their favourite campaigns or partnerships that promote diversity, inclusion and belonging.

In no particular order, here are 7 of our favourite diversity and inclusion campaigns that we think have really hit the mark.

1. Havas London X Vanish and British Fashion Council

Media sourced from: Campaign Live https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/vanish-generation-rewear-havas-london/1714111

This campaign brought in designers from diverse backgrounds to share their thoughts on climate change and landfill sights. Each of the designers are taking steps to create pieces that are either recycled or created using sustainable material.

This three-part series, created by Havas London and directed by Richard Bullock at Hungry Man, aims to inspire consumers into adopting environmentally conscious behaviours in the buying, wearing, caring, and disposing of clothes.

2. Facebook Portal 2021

Facebook’s ‘Share something real on Portal’ advert

Facebook’s new portal device has encouraged people to reconnect through video call and rediscovering inclusive design. This advert was brought attention to the team as it is completely silent yet very effective.

A simple conversation between two sisters in BSL sign language allows a space for people who are hearing impaired to share the moment, it also encourages other tv campaigns to do the same. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done with raising awareness for disabled communities in our content and products.

3. Lush X Growing peace through almond oil

Copyright: Lush Growing Peace campaign 2021

Since 1967, Palestine’s water supplies have been controlled by Israel. With limited water supplies, many almond farmers struggle to sustain their livelihoods. Canaan, a project in Palestine, is finding solutions: Growing peace through almond oil.

This has enabled Palestinian farmers to earn a sustainable livelihood and the communities caught in conflict to connect with the outside world. Lush has collaborated with Canaan to help ethically source the almond oil and create economic freedom and land gain to Palestinian farmers. The impact of the campaign has motivated people to think about how brands are making life-changing decisions to help ethically produce their products. Lush’s video and social media campaign shows that they are not afraid of being transparent and both highlights and encourages the need for digital changemaking.

4. AZ Mag x Pinterest x Pride

Media sourced from: www.pinterest.co.uk/AZmaguk/az-x-pinterest-celebrate-pride/

AZ Mag and Pinterest collaborated for a digital social media campaign that highlighted QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Colour) in the UK and their work. This was centred around Pride but is an ode to supporting LGBTQ+ people of colour in the community generally.

The campaign was deemed successful on social media and digital platforms and highlighted the importance of bringing in perspectives from black LGBTQ+ communities.

5. Asos x Exist Loudly

Media sourced from: https://www.asos.com/women/fashion-feed/2021_06_19-sat/exist-loudly-tanya-compas-collusion/ Shoot team: elu.sade @bluespit @ehenebeng.artistry @yanaboth_beauty @kellonkutz @elu.sade @edenbmorse @deji.tiwo @deshy202 @seankdm @donalsweeney EXIST LOUDLY CREW: @_editmyfengshui_ @tanaka.fuego @omgitzshayy @9ahyo @7oses @ana1r1n @amiravelli

ASOS x Exist Loudly COLLUSION (available exclusively on ASOS) has teamed up with Black LGBTQ+ youth organisation, Exist Loudly to launch a time-limited clothing collection. Featuring iconic COLLUSION staples such as oversized t-shirts updated in Progress Pride flag colours, the collection shows support for underrepresented members of the LGBTQ+ community.

ASOS will be donating £38,000 to Exist Loudly to help the organisation deliver a 12-week masterclass programme led by established advocates and creatives, to foster queer Black communities and empower young creative talent.

6. Thinx Plus Size Campaign

Media sourced from: https://www.behance.net/gallery/122280411/THINX-Plus-Size-Launch-Campaign/modules/695376641/

Sustainable period underwear brand, Thinx, is asking for self-portraits to mark its launch of extended plus-sizes across all product styles. The campaign that was created in-house includes images by photographer Lydia Hudgens of plus-size models photographing themselves.

The goal was to allow plus-size people to feel in control of their bodies, stated Crystal Zerrenner, Chief Growth Officer at Thinx. The campaign ran on Thinx’s website and social media channels. In addition to the photos, Thinx will also run user generated content and behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot on TikTok.

7. Grenfell United FC X Kitlocker

Media sourced from:  Sebastian Barros https://www.kitlocker.com/products/grenfell-athletic-home-jersey-21-22-p

Grenfell United was formed to look after each member of the community, support the wider community and campaign for justice and change. Using something like Football – a sport that takes pride in belonging to a community – was an excellent choice for this campaign’s collaboration and helped with wider awareness of the cause.

Since the formation, footballers from Chelsea FC and other clubs have worked with the team to help start the brand’s kit and exposure. They are now sponsored by Cadbury’s. Their posters and digital media presence are seen across London, activating a story for millions to see.

Closing thoughts

There you have it – 7 fantastic examples of how brands can practise D&I awareness authentically. Whether that’s through decisive brand collaboration, campaigning for injustices in minority communities or simply providing a seat at your table for creatives and professionals from diverse backgrounds, you can apply the same principles and adapt accordingly.

To say that creating inclusive and diverse campaigns are ‘challenging’ in today’s world, is a mere dismissal of bringing a global majority of voices to the table. This article demonstrates that there are plenty of opportunities to work innovative ideas alongside a bigger purpose. Whether the content is fighting for racial justice, LGBTQ+ voices or global warming, you can make a change. But remember, for diverse and inclusive marketing to really communicate with your audiences, your content and campaigns should not be muddled with a tokenistic approach – ensure you are truly engaging with your communities and providing opportunities that make a difference.