How I Work: Bukola Garry, adam&eveDDB

The ad agency’s new head of diversity, equality and inclusion talks to us about her experiences in advertising, her plans for the role, and why it isn’t about being the ‘PC police’

Bukola Garry has been appointed as the first head of diversity, equality and inclusion at adam&eveDDB, joining from Havas where she held the position of diversity and inclusion manager since 2018.

Garry’s appointment comes as part of the agency’s drive to embed a “pro-actively anti-racist and positively inclusive philosophy”, and follows an audit of the agency’s work streams, including new business, recruitment, creative output and production prior to her joining.

As the agency looks ahead to developing new policies and frameworks to foster a more inclusive business culture, we spoke with Garry to hear more about her experiences in the advertising industry, her vision and plans for the role and why there will never come a day when this line of work is completed.

Getting into the ad industry I studied marketing, advertising and PR, with the kind of pipe dream of living my very best Mad Men life, [but without the] racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other isms that were obviously in the show.

I was quite intentional in my studies around wanting to work in advertising and looked for a job for about nine months after I’d graduated and landed a role at a major London agency, but the realities of advertising really felt a lot closer to the fictitious Mad Men world than I had expected. So it was a bit of a shock, because I think I walked into it thinking there was going to be difference, and a celebration of difference would be welcomed, but it wasn’t quite the case.

We’re going back almost ten years and this wasn’t really a thing that happened then – DE&I wasn’t really spoken about. Having four years of that lack of support, I left to actually work with the youth charity that I’ve been mentored by … as the head of marketing and comms.

Those two experiences together armed me with a range of skills that allowed me to really think about where I wanted to go next, and so leaning on the experience that I’d had in advertising, I really wanted to think about how I could bridge the gap. I started really focusing on employability and access for underrepresented young people, predominantly from the Black community initially, and then definitely people from low socio backgrounds. I worked with the local authority and lots of different grant-makers and fund-makers to set up a number of programmes and initiatives. Then I went seeking partnerships with ad agencies, knowing that the talented young people I was working with were exactly who the industry needed and was looking for. That was I guess a serendipitous moment as it’s where I interacted with Havas, which is where I spent my time prior to joining adam&eve. I guess the rest you can say is history from there.

The importance of how we talk about diversity, equality and inclusion I think so much of it is about context, so I’m going to talk about it based on the kind of work that I’m doing today. I’d say diversity is actually about minoritised and marginalised communities that are underrepresented in our industry. Diversity calls for our presence and contribution that’s needed within an organisation where there is a clear imbalance.

It’s not about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. Let’s apply the same creative thinking and the same innovation we do to our briefs