By Saad Saraf, CEO of Media Reach Advertising (mediareach.co.uk)
I went to Iraq for the opportunity of winning a communications contract. I knew there had been uproar that American companies had won majority of the construction contracts in Iraq following the war. Out of those that lost out, I did wonder, how many of them stopped to realise the real reason for this.
What I observed was that the American government had recognised the need to have key personal that were representative of the Iraqi market. They sent over American Iraqis, who understood not only the work that needed to be carried out but also the culture.
They realised the need and the advantage of having representatives with localised understanding in a global market place and have benefited from the strength of having a diverse workforce.
The same cannot be said for creative industries in the UK. The Creative Industries are a significant contributor to the UK economy - accounting for 7.9% of GDP, and growing significantly faster than the economy as a whole.
UK creative industries deservedly enjoy a global reputation for excellence, creativity and innovation. British design, advertising, music and interactive leisure software companies are considered to be world-class. The question is, will it last?
Many people have spoken about how broadcasting is “hideously white, male and middle class”. This statement is also true for other sectors that fall under the creative industries banner.
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s report on Ethnic Diversity in the UK revealed, unsurprisingly, that ethnic minorities make up 4% of the advertising workforce – with most being positions of support services, such as IT and finance.
The UK creative industries workforce does not reflect the Ethnic diversity of the market they are targeting, largely due to the lack of realisation of the benefits diversity brings. There have been half-hearted attempts relating to recruiting a more ethnically diverse workforce, which can be summed up as reactive, knee-jerk reactions.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the UK creative industries are facing a challenge from overseas. Countries such as America, India and China are continuing to enter this market and are meeting the needs of British consumers & businesses which UK based companies are overlooking. There needs to be a more strategic approach, which is not even existent on a government level.
So what should creative industries do to remain world class?
• WAKE UP
• Embrace multiculturalism by recruiting from a wider talent pool
• Engage, harness and train talent in the UK from Ethnic communities be that Indian or Polish
• Enjoy multiculturalism and highlight key role models from ethnic backgrounds
Today Bollywood is a multi-billion-pound industry outstripping Hollywood in ticket sales. Bollywood realised the marketing potential for their movies to both the British Asians and the wider UK community and stepped up their activity here in the UK.
That’s not all, they have taken British born talent like, Upen Patel from Wembley and made him one of the top Bollywood stars and a household name in most Asian homes in the UK. Why then, can we not do the same? Why can’t we embrace, engage and enjoy the great pool of talent we have here, to achieve success both locally and globally!
And for those of you who are wondering what happened to the contract that my company went for in Iraq. Well I can tell you that, yes we won the account for our knowledge and experience but also for the fact that as a British Iraqi I had cultural understanding.
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