Diversity is a critical issue in the advertising industry and as M&C Saatchi has become pulled into the debate, myself and founders Bill Muirhead, Maurice Saatchi and Jeremy Sinclair couldn't let the discussion pass without making our position clear: diversity is not a box-ticking exercise.
It is vital for our success and we as a business would be severely diminished without it.
Let me be blunt. The comment by our UK advertising agency creative director Justin Tindall in Campaign magazine that he is “bored of diversity being prioritised over talent” in the advertising industry was wrong.
Any suggestion that diversity within a business or piece of work has happened to tick boxes or display political correctness is wrong. Any belief that people from more diverse backgrounds hold their positions because of their backgrounds is wrong. Any sentiment that suggests diversity is a tedium or distraction is wrong.
Anyone who does not believe that diversity is at the heart of great creativity is out of touch.
But while this comment fell below the standards held at the agency, it does not mean he should be fired, no matter what people on Twitter say. If Justin was bored of diversity or it was thought that his views could have a negative impact within our business and stop us from promoting diversity throughout our business then quite simply, yes, he would have been fired.
But he, like all of us have done at some point in our working lives, made a mistake. He has apologised both publicly and privately for his comment, and while what he said was not the point he was trying to make, he knows he caused offence, which is why he apologised.
He wanted to make a comment on the advertising industry's response to issues such as diversity being inadequate and superficial. Diversity is as much about the education of ignorant or out of date views as it is about representation and Justin has made it clear he wants to be part of the solution, not the problem in the industry.
When I say that diversity is vital for our success, do not mistake it to mean that it is something to be used as currency at our agencies to win business or praise for our work. It isn't. Diversity is critical to our success because brilliant ideas and the boldest creativity come from similarly diverse groups of people.
It is critical to our success because the audiences we serve are made up of myriad ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and individual identities, and takes a similarly diverse group of talents to find solutions to business problems that work. It is that simple.
Our mantra for decades has been “Brutal Simplicity of Thought”. Without a diversity of mindsets and a diversity of people in a room to generate those thoughts, our core proposition cannot be realised.
We are determined to make a positive difference. We are on a journey and while we have a long way to go, we are proud of the progress we have made as a group and look forward to seeing this accelerate each day.