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Advertising agency clients don’t want all-white teams telling them how to run global campaigns

The days when white, male, middle-class teams of ad men would run marketing campaigns are now firmly the domain of the 1960s-set TV show Mad Men, according to U.K. advertising industry heads.

The U.K.'s Advertising Association (AA) has this week launched a campaign showing its cultural diversity, highlighting ad industry workers from parts of Europe as well as Egypt, Korea and Sri Lanka, urging Brexit decision-makers to let employees move freely between the U.K. and the European Union (EU).

The campaign launches alongside its "Advertising Pays" report, showing the "pivotal role" of workers from around the world in the U.K., and revealing that 37 percent of the international talent moving to London's advertising and marketing industry in the last 12 months was from the EU, based on analysis it did with LinkedIn.

The UK's Advertising Association is running a campaign highlighting the diversity of people who work in the industry in the U.K.
Advertising Association | adam&eveDDB
The UK's Advertising Association is running a campaign highlighting the diversity of people who work in the industry in the U.K.

The British ad industry wants to maintain a cultural mix of workers because it allows it to service global client accounts, the report said. "The explicit brief from our clients is that we bring cultural diversity into our teams. They don't want solely Anglo-Saxon faces showing up at a meeting telling them how to run their campaigns in France, Germany, India and Brazil," said St John Walshe, managing director Europe at agency BBDO, who also runs advertising for chocolate conglomerate Mars.

Meanwhile, Liz Jones, CEO of Dentsu Aegis UK's business-to-business division, said the industry was becoming more diverse, telling the AA report: "Our industry was for too long dominated by white, male, middle-class British people. They would sit in a room, come to a unanimous solution quickly and then be extremely satisfied with themselves.

"But we have a diverse and global customer base with various experiences and motivations. You will not create a connection with that audience unless you have a similar level of diversity to do the thinking. The end product will take more time to develop, but it will have far more business value."

James Murphy, the AA's chairman and CEO of agency adam&eveDDB, urged Brexit decision-makers to make migration in and out of the EU efficient.

"It's vital for the government to keep us open to the world because we've got a world leading industry… and that means immigration of skilled workers in and out of our country to be as free-moving as possible. We need minimum costs and minimum delays in terms of that talent," he told CNBC's James Wright.

"We want the government to understand how important it is to have frictionless access to that talent. We also want those international talented people to understand how welcome and valued they are," Murphy added.

Diversity in all its forms is currently a hot topic in adland. The "Unstereotype Alliance" was launched at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June, aiming to stamp out sexism in ads, while business leaders say portraying a range of people in advertising and having a mixed workforce pays.

"Greater diversity is now a proven driver of more creativity, more innovation, faster growth and longer-term profitability," John Seifert, worldwide chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather told CNBC at Cannes.