The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Make Space Or We Die Alone …

One of the best things I’ve done [so far] in the UK is see my R/GA planning mob work with the brilliant Brixton Finishing School.

They all graduate today so this post not only makes me – for once – super timely, but also super proud of them all.

Anyway, over the past few weeks they’ve been working with the students on the importance of putting creativity at the heart of strategy.

Well a couple of weeks ago it was my turn and it was massively emotional for me.

Not just because of their passion for creativity.

Not just because they embraced an old fucker with open arms.

But because of the openness of the conversation we had that touched on issues often swept under the carpet but are raw and real … especially if you’re a person of colour.

I was honoured to be there, we should be honoured they still want to work in adland given we – as an industry – are doing our level best to make them feel alienated, isolated or a token gesture.

It’s not hard to change this.

As I wrote about the need to embrace more female leadership, it’s just about making space.

The great irony is that the industry loves to talk about diversity, but not only do they fail to realise it’s about background not just heritage, it’s about how you let them behave. Basically if you make anyone feel penalised or negatively judged for simply being their authentic self, then you are acting in a way that is literally the opposite of diversity.

Sadly, many companies still don’t get this.

They better start or the people who are the one chance we have left to make this industry have a decent future, will finally have enough and take their potential and talent elsewhere.

Frankly, I would not blame them.

[Thanks Maya, Bree, Chelsea and Lani for the impact you still make on me]

18 Comments so far
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Comment by Jemma King

Your ability to venture into territories of sensitivity to enable debate, understanding and change has long been one of your superpowers. Congratulations to all the graduates. I hope they find an industry ready to act not just hide behind words.

Comment by Lee Hill

Well said Robert. I believe the biggest issue facing true acceptance of diversity is that most people who hold senior positions in companies live and work in a bubble.
This situation means they judge everyone by their standards and expectations, discounting anyone who doesn’t fit in to it or aspire to it.
Either they are choosing to ignore they are the anomaly or they shun diversity to protect their ego and social standing. Either way, it is active prejudice.

Comment by George

Yep. People don’t want to hear that but that’s exactly it.

Comment by Rob

‘Make space’ is the simplest and most effective lesson companies could adopt. Well said Robert and thank you for putting yourself in the firing line when others hide behind corporate diversity statements and targets.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Oh it’s not just me Mary – and frankly, I’m not doing nearly enough – but I do feel strongly about this issue and I am angry that we are in danger of going the way of America where the focus is about using the right words rather than wanting to actually solve the problem.

Comment by Rob

More than most and you’re doing something about it not trying to get PR from some bland statement.

Comment by DH

Nice one Rob. Good luck to all the grads.

Comment by Bazza

Sometimes you’re not so shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by Rob


Comment by john


Comment by DH

you might be a woke fuck but at least youre not doing it because you live in portland and want to be a hipster woke fuck,

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks for confronting this issue with honesty. Talking about the need for diversity has been de rigeur in adland over the last year however not much has been done about it. What’s infuriating is seeing a prominent creative director and MD of a hot independent agency address this very publically but by the look of their recent staff photo, they have a LONG way to go in diversity. The hypocrisy (or obliviousness) is mind boggling.

Comment by Lili

The language and nuance you express in this post shows you actually get it. It doesn’t need manifestos or conferences, it just needs honesty and action. Good on you Rob.

Comment by DH

Totally agree with everything. The advertising industry fails miserably at diversity. The only thing (sorely missing) I’d add into the mix is ageism. In Australia the ad press regularly run editorial on “30 under 30” and “40 under 40” etc. They also recently ran “15 under 50” which says it all. The irony! The ad industry is one of the worst for placing value on experience, instead conveniently (for transparently cost based reasons) hiring cheap young talent.

Comment by Billy Plummer

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