Talking diversity within advertising agencies

To give students further insight into the topic of equality and diversity within advertising agencies, our School of Visual Communication put together and ran ‘Forward Convention’ - a networking event with talks from industry professionals and brands that was held within our Parkside building.

We caught up with MA Future Media student Aqsa Hussain and BA (Hons) Digital Marketing student Yusuf Uddin, who attended the event as part of their studies, to get an insight into what they learnt from the convention.

Can you give us a brief overview of what the event entailed and what it was about? 

Yusuf: The event was made up of a series of presentations from industry professionals with the main topic for the day being diversity. It started with a talk from Dr Jonathan A.J. Wilson, who spoke about his experiences in life and marketing, as well as advice for personal branding. There were also over ten advertising and marketing agencies present; all of whom generously gave up their morning to share experience and offer mentorship to us. These included Brew, Giants & Titans, 383 Digital Product, Freestyle, Futurimpose, Cake, Pull The Pin, Grin and SHC Digital, Dragonfly Black.

The talks gave a view into the future of marketing and the values the people behind the companies held. The day was concluded with a networking event which allowed for us to freely converse with the professionals, build networks and ask more questions.

Were there any speakers or brands that you enjoyed listening to the most and why? 

Aqsa: I enjoyed the talk from Dr Wilson, as it covered the topic of diversity and inclusion well. I particularly liked hearing​ about his own experience with the lack of diversity in the workplace, for example, being the only person of colour in the room and not being taken seriously by others.

When asked how to overcome the fear of applying for a job that you really want but the workplace lacks diversity, I liked Dr Wilson’s answer, which encouraged us to go for whatever you want and don't let anything hold you back, enforcing that we could be the catalyst for change. 

Yusuf: I loved Futurimpose, I think they're an amazing example of an agency that understands diversity, as well as the value in keeping up with trends and modernity. They have amazing visual style, and their presentation was extremely enjoyable to watch. 

The theme of the convention was Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion – do you feel like you gained more of an insight into this topic? If so, how? 

Aqsa: Yes, this is a topic that I have a particular interest in, so it was nice to hear many different takes and views on the subject, and I was able to gain insight from the industry such as the steps being taken to ensure workplaces are more diverse, what employers are looking for and more.

I have learned how staying true to yourself and your own values can be very helpful and can help you stand out. The talk from Futurimpose was particularly helpful in conveying this message. 

The panel Q and A had an emphasis on personal skills, passion, and education, and also covered skills that would be valuable attributes to employers, which was incredibly useful.

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Did the event help with your studies?

Aqsa: The convention couldn’t have been more helpful for me as I am an MA Future Media student and am currently working on my final major project, in which my chosen topic is diversity within marketing and advertising agencies. I learned a lot of valuable things that I can apply to my final major project.

Yusuf: Definitely, it has helped to guide the direction for my final major project through collaborating with an industry professional from the event.

Do you think the convention has improved your employability, and if so, how?

Aqsa: Yes, I was able to gain some insight into what employers look for in terms of employing new talent and this can be helpful when applying for jobs. The networking opportunity was also very helpful as it allowed me to build connections with employers.

Yusuf: Through networking with professionals at the conference, I've already seen a benefit towards my employability. However, the main take away for me relates to understanding what kind of place I would like to work at.

Would you encourage other students to attend similar events in the future?

Aqsa: Absolutely, this was a great experience and was very helpful, so I would encourage other students to attend similar events if they have the chance to as it can be very useful towards both your studies and your future path to getting a job.

Yusuf: I would definitely advise other students to attend events like these as they give you a wider idea of what life outside of the University is like. Being able to talk to and connect with industry professionals is an amazing way to build your networks and envision where you want to be in the future.

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