Graeme Atha: Unconscious bias against women in advertising needs to be challenged

Syl Saller, CMO at Diageo
Syl Saller, CMO at Diageo
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The Amplify Marketing ­Festival takes place at the University of Edinburgh Business School on August 24 as the Marketing Society plays its part in the world’s biggest creative and cultural event.

We start the day with a workshop on marketing effectiveness in ­association with the IPA and ISBA, the two main bodies representing advertising agencies and advertisers.

Graeme Atha, Director of The Marketing Society

Graeme Atha, Director of The Marketing Society

At this session we will examine the business language that is used in ­different departments like finance and commercial and how we can encourage a common language and agreed metrics to ensure all parts of an organisation and their agencies are on the same page regarding ­marketing effectiveness.

Next up we have the Ogilvy Lecture – this year delivered by Syl Saller, CMO at Diageo the world’s leading premium drinks business which operates in 180 countries with more than 200 brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys.

She will be joined by Grainne Wafer, global brand director at Baileys and they will look at the way women should be represented in advertising in a progressive, inclusive and authentic way.

They will also cover some of the issues involved such as unconscious bias and the culture surrounding ­creative development.

Syl will focus on the role marketers can play in shaping culture and be a catalyst for social change. Also what it takes to be a bolder leader of change and why more than ever the time for change is now.

Many things have moved on in advertising since the David Ogilvy Mad Men era on Madison ­Avenue but many things still need to be ­challenged.

Following the lecture, we have the Badger Debate named after Kenny Harris, one of the great characters in our industry who with the white flecks in his beard was affectionately known as “the badger.”

Kenny was a passionate and ­champion debater who believed this was a key skill for marketers ­especially when being challenged by the other disciplines represented around the board table. This year’s debate motion is: In today’s world big data is more influential than big ideas.

Big data has had a lot of media ­attention this year with the ­Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandals and the new GDPR legislation as well as the ongoing investigations on the influence on election results. So this debate will look at the very basis of democracy as well as important ­privacy and security matters. We will also debate the nature of a big idea and how brands create and control them when social media can be so influential

Chairing the debate will be Gemma Greaves, chief executive of The ­Marketing Society, with Lisl McDonald, a senior marketing strategist and David Roberts, head of business at Multiply speaking for the motion.

Debating against will be Mark ­Gorman of Think Hard and Keli Mitchell, deputy MD at Frame.

The final session is our Clients vs Agencies Pioneering Spirit Creative Challenge.

We have invited teams from leading clients and agencies to select award- winning campaign ideas from across the world and pitch them to our audience who will vote for the winners.

The client team this year is ­captained by Katherine Goodwin, from Food Standards Scotland and includes Jim Coates, Velux; Lisa Sutherland, Scottish Government: Anna Vaughn, RBS and Beverley Hart, Scotland Food & Drink. The agency team will be captained by Guy Vickerstaff from The & Partnership and includes Nick Cole, Teviot; Mhairi MacLeod, Lux Food and Drink Agency; Victoria Milne, The Leith Agency and Scott Walker from Lewis. This session will be chaired by Julian Boulding, ­founder of thenetworkone, the world’s biggest group of independent agencies.

Julian will start the session with a review of the Cannes Lions festival this year and the importance of both clients and agencies recognising and celebrating the power of big ideas. The day will end at the legendary Mad Men and Women drinks party at the Assembly Club Bar, one of the coolest pop up bars at the ­Edinburgh Festival, where the mover and shakers in the industry will no doubt share their thoughts on the day and network with each other well into the evening.

Full details on the Amplify Marketing Festival can be found at

Graeme Atha, director of The ­Marketing Society, @graemeatha @marketingsocsco