The Metaverse Foundry

Hogarth, WPP’s specialist global creative content production company, is launching The Metaverse Foundry to deliver brand experiences in the virtual world. It will consist of global team with more than 700 creatives, producers, visual artists, developers and technologists.

The metaverse, for those of you who haven’t been listening at the back, is defined as a “simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain, along with concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interaction mimicking the real world.”

The Metaverse Foundry is built to take ideas to the next level at scale. A limitless place where creative, production and innovation come together to bring to life the greatest ideas, elevate e-commerce and customer experiences.It will provide  every aspect of experience design and production, virtual art, virtual stages, development of VR/AR applications, technology, and R&D.

WPP agencies are already delivering multiple metaverse projects for clients including Wendy’s, Under Armour, Duracell, Pfizer, Pizza Hut and Bombay Sapphire. 

 

The foundry will also collaborate with specialist WPP agencies such as Subvrsive (virtual events and immersive experiences) and Ars Thanea (design/animation and live action/visual effects studio) to supplement with specific additional skills.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of innovative technologies as people have learned to connect with each other in new ways.

The metaverse, with connected virtual worlds, augmented reality, NFTs and the blockchain. presents limitless opportunities for brands to build creative experiences and engage with diverse, highly loyal audiences.

Its market size in 2021 was estimated to be more than $1 trillion, growing at mid double-digits.

Andy Hood, VP Emerging Technologies at WPP, hosts a 6-minute metaverse masterclass.

WPP Reports Outstanding Year

Very strong growth driven by demand for digital services, ecommerce and technology; exceptional new business performance; over £1 billion returned to shareholders; sustained momentum into 2022.

The pace of growth in digital advertising has continued to accelerate, reflecting the seismic shift in the way people consume media. GroupM estimates that global digital advertising spend grew by 30.5% in 2021, and now accounts for 64.4% of total spend, up from 59.3% in 2020.

Within digital, one of the big drivers of growth has been the explosion in ecommerce. The pandemic accelerated a widespread shift towards shopping online, amplifying the number of opportunities for brands to connect to consumers on digital channels, while also levelling the playing field for challenger brands. GroupM estimates that global retail ecommerce advanced 20.4% in 2021.

Two other factors are playing a significant role in the growth in advertising spend. New, app-based or digital-first businesses are able to afford to invest a greater proportion of their income into marketing to grow scale fast because they lack the physical presence (and associated costs such as rent) of traditional businesses.

In turn, more traditional advertisers such as consumer packaged goods companies are investing in retail and commerce media – engaging with customers closer to the digital point of sale. This is blurring the lines between the marketing budget and the sales promotion budget, significantly growing the addressable market for marketing services businesses.

We have seen the acceleration of two significant trends, in data and purpose, that we expect to continue. The shift to digital and omnichannel commerce is driving companies to increase investment in data-driven marketing, which requires better (and privacy-compliant) customer data as well as marketing technology transformation. We are also witnessing very strong demand for strategic advice on purpose, sustainability and broader social issues. 85% of consumers believe that brands should represent something more than just profit, and brands perceived as having a high positive impact on society are estimated to be more than twice as valuable as brands that are not.

Digital-first businesses are spending more on marketing to grow quickly because they don’t have the costs associated with physical stores.

Traditional advertisers are investing in retail and commerce media, blurring the lines between their marketing and sales promotion budgets, and boosting markets for marketing services businesses.

Underpinning our success this year is the strength of our creative work. We were honoured to be recognised as the most-awarded company at the 2021 Cannes Lions Festival, with winners representing 38 different countries. Each of our global integrated creative agencies won a Grand Prix. In addition, WPP topped WARC’s 2021 global agency rankings across all three categories – creative, media and effectiveness – reflecting the breadth of our capabilities.

The metaverse presents a new frontier of creative opportunities for brands to engage with consumers, through virtual worlds connecting gaming, augmented and virtual reality, NFTs and the blockchain. Clients are seizing the opportunity and seeking our partnership to experiment in ways to bring experiences to life in this new channel. Our agencies are already delivering metaverse projects for clients including Wendy’s, Under Armour and Pfizer. To take the ideas to the next level, Hogarth recently announced the launch of The Metaverse Foundry, a global team of over 700 creatives, producers, visual artists and technologists focused on delivering the most creative and compelling metaverse experiences for our clients.

Meditative Travel A New Trend For 2022

The Wunderman Thompson Intelligence report “The Future 100: Trends and Change to Watch in 2022,” is an essential trend almanac offering a snapshot of the year ahead and the most compelling trends to keep on the radar.

This must have report that you can download here, takes a look at the near future and is packed with 100 emerging trends across 10 sectors, spanning culture, tech, beauty and more.

One trend I really loved was Trend 26: Meditative Travel 

Meditative apps for wellness are finding new space in the travel sector, giving stressed and anxious travellers access to therapeutic sessions to ease their minds during their journey.

Waze and Headspace are collaborating to make commuting less stressful. Drive with Headspace, launched in October 2021, incorporates the meditative, relaxing Headspace experience into the navigation app with five mood selections: Aware, Bright, Joyful, Hopeful and Open.

Waze is rolling out a new 'Drive with Headspace' experience to make  commutes less stressful | TechCrunch

Users can change their in-app icons and car image to reflect their mood, change the navigation narrator to Headspace’s director of meditation, Eve Lewis Prieto, and listen to meditative music curated by Headspace on Spotify. Available in four languages, the integration is meant to help drivers “find more joy and meaning on the road,” according to Waze.

The Avanti West Coast train operator in the United Kingdom will offer app-based hypnotherapy for its passengers, to help them when feeling overwhelmed, tired and more. Announced in October 2021, the 20-minute sessions will guide listeners with tips for power napping, guidance for improving productivity, and tools for confidence building.

The hypnotherapy app Clementine is free to riders on the West Coast Main Line services, because the “onboard journey experience is as important as getting to the destination itself,” according to an Avanti West Coast representative.

Delta Airlines will soon offer custom Peloton relaxation, meditation and stretching classes on planes with seatback screens. Announced in November 2021, the partnership aims to help passengers relax on their flights, with sessions lasting five to 20 minutes taught by some of the fitness app’s popular instructors.

Download your copy of “The Future 100: Trends and Change to Watch in 2022”

The power of creativity to build better futures


WPP

When I joined WPP three years ago, I was impressed with a new company’s purpose of using creativity to build better futures for our people, planet, clients, and communities.

As we break for Christmas and look worldwide, our agency’s work for clients has lived up to that purpose in a challenging year for humanity.

Client work included everything from helping to design the world’s first carbon-neutral TV to an AI-powered campaign that supported local businesses across India for Diwali and an immersive experience on the plastic crisis that helped protect over 22,000 square kilometres of ocean.

WPP in 2021 made real progress within our own company: the launch of our industry-leading net zero commitment, the creation of our Mental Health Allies network, celebrating the first successful applicants to our Racial Equity Programme, joining the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, our second NextGen Leaders programme (with participants from 60 countries, 50% US/UK participants identifying as Black, Asian or Latinx, and over 60% female representation) and countless other initiatives led by our brilliant people and agencies.

In a pandemic many parts of the world, people still can’t access COVID-19 vaccines. So WPP this month teamed up with the WHO Foundation to give everyone at the company the chance to buy a gift that truly matters this festive season.

The $5 vaccine campaign calls on people everywhere to play their part in vaccinating the world by spending the price of a coffee on a shot that could save someone’s life.


The money raised will fund COVID-19 vaccines for lower-income countries, protecting those who need vaccines the most.

As well as creating and delivering the pro bono $5V campaign (thanks to Ogilvy, Blue State, Landor & Fitch and GroupM), WPP is donating 10,000 vaccines on behalf of our clients, and will match every $5V bought by our own people.

So please buy yours today, and help end vaccine inequity.

Commercially, too, we’ve had an outstanding year, as the company grew at the fastest rate in its history.

A string of wins in many of the year’s biggest pitches – from Unilever and Bayer to Beiersdorf, L’Oréal and Sainsbury’s – culminated in the Coca-Cola Company the biggest of them all.

There really is no other organisation quite like WPP. Being part of this incredible company – with our 100,000 talented people, huge range of capabilities and presence in 110 different countries – means you get to be part of a unique opportunity to help bring about change in ways that others in our industry cannot. That’s why we call ourselves the creative transformation company.

Merry Christmas all and see you in 2022.

Don’t Choose Extinction

Listen up Scott Morrison and show some courage at COP26

The campaign was created by Wunderman Thompson Australia, in collaboration with Activista, Framestore and Mindpool, the “Don’t Choose Extinction campaign is designed to engage the world in a drive towards a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The much heralded Glasgow Climate Summit begins this Sunday to what many are calling humankind’s last chance to seriously tackle climate change.

UNDP works in about 170 countries and territories, helping to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and exclusion, and build resilience so countries can sustain progress. As the UN’s development agency, UNDP plays a critical role in helping countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

As a precursor to the hotly (is that the right word?) anticipated global leader talkfest (that includes president Biden on its guest list), the UN Development Programme has released a new campaign urging world leaders to do more on emissions.

The two-and-a-half-minute spot is called “Don’t Choose Extinction” and stars Frankie, a CGI animated dinosaur who delivers a powerful address to the UN General Assembly.

Frankie’s voiced by acting legend Jack Black and even stars actual UN members and officials.

“Listen up, people,” Frankie declares, “I know a thing or two about extinction. Going extinct is a bad thing. And driving yourselves extinct in 70 million years? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Frankie then calls out governments for spending billions of dollars on fossil fuel subsidies and says rebuilding economies after the pandemic offers a chance to do things differently.

A spokesperson for the UN Development Programme said the campaign was designed “to shine a spotlight on fossil fuel subsidies and how they are canceling out significant progress towards ending climate change and are driving inequality by benefiting the rich”.

The ad’s voiced in a variety of languages including Jack Black (English), Eliza Gonzalez (Spanish), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Danish) and Aissa Maiga (French).

João Braga, chief creative officer at Wunderman Thompson Australia, said: “This behaviour change campaign gave us the largest possible target audience anyone could have. With 7 billion people to speak to and a challenge of this calibre, we needed deep creative thinking from every discipline.

“This digital experience is only just the start of our work with the UNDP to help end the excuses around climate change for good and provide people from all walks of life the understanding and the facts they need to make a difference. We’re even working to take this idea as far as outer-space, by naming real asteroids after these excuses”.

The experience allows users to click into the excuses on the website, each pictured as an asteroid rocketing towards Earth, where they will find information and tools to provide direct action.

The tools, created by Wunderman Thompson Australia, will be rolled out in phases in the coming months and include:

  • The Chrome Plugin Thesaurus Rex, designed to help people navigate the terms around fossil fuels online.
  • The Voice of Reason, an Alexa skill that disarmingly rebuts every climate change myth or excuse.
  • A spin on The Birds and The Bees with an e-book that gives children the arguments they need to convince their parents and peers.

Boaz Paldi, global partnership and engagement manager for United Nations Development Programme, said: “With this initiative, we want to spotlight the climate crisis and at the same time energize the debate about some of the economic solutions that are out there to get us on a path to de-carbonization.

“Addressing fossil fuel subsidies is a critical issue in the fight against climate change. The campaign gives hope that despite the trajectory we seem to be on there is still time to act and solutions to fight for.

“Creativity and technology are two of the necessary tools we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and move towards a green transition. It’s why we needed the best minds in the industry to partner with us in our journey to make these goals a reality.”

To deliver scale and to amplify the message, UNDP offices across the world in 170 countries will activate the campaign.

This is the first phase of the global advocacy campaign, where Wunderman Thompson Australia will continue to work with the UNDP to launch more initiatives in the coming months.

Credits:

United Nations Development Programme

Director of Advocacy, Marketing and Communications: Anjali Kwatra

Global Engagement & Partnership Manager: Boaz Paldi

Senior Consultant, Creative Strategy: Nick Garrett

Executive Producer: Helen Trickey

Associate Producer, Campaign Advocacy: Rebecca Webb

Associate Producer, Campaign Media: Gabriela Goldman

Wunderman Thompson

Chief Executive Officer: Lee Leggett

Chief Creative Officer: João Braga

Project Lead/Australian Operations Director: Paulina Embart

Associate Creative Director: Jack Elliott

Associate Creative Director: Lochie Newham

Chief Innovation Officer: Martin Beecroft

UX/UI Director: Travis Weerts

Technical Director: Marcus Collier

UX Design: Isabelle Hooper

UI Design: Chris Hyland

Client Engagement: Anna Parker

Client Engagement: Rose Suys

Integrated Production: Emma Donaldson

Creative Director, Content: Brie Stewart

Social Strategist: Annie House

Content Creator: Rhys Delios Callanan

Senior Designer: James Ayling

Content Writer: Richard Kempsey

Digital Production: Danny Coleman

Digital Production: Joe Guario

Illustrator: Andjela Jankovic

Activista

Executive Creative Director: Paco Conde

Executive Creative Director: Beto Fernandez

Director of Strategy: Jon Carlaw

Writer: David Litt (reference to Obama)

Framestore Pictures

Director: Murray Butler

Managing Director: Jennifer Siegel

Head of Production: Anne Vega

Line Producer: Laura Morris

Director of Photography: Wyatt Garfield

Director of Production: Carla Attanasio

Executive Producer: Pete King

Senior Producer: Chris Harlowe

Associate Producer Jose Alvarado

Creative Director: Marco Marenghi

VFX Supervisor: Karch Coons

Lighting Supervisor: Richard Shallcross

Head of 2D: Woei Lee

Compositor Lead: Mark Casey

Tracking Supervisor: Todd Herman

Editorial Supervisor: Jacob Sadowsky

VFX Editor: Dustin Indrebo

Colorist: Beau Leon

Editorial: Cut+Run

Editor: Jon Grover

Editorial Producer: Eytan Gutman

Asst. Editor: Evan Bahnsen

Audio Post Production: String and Tins

Sound Design and Mix: Jim Stewart

Additional Sound Design: Joe Wilkinson

Foley: The Foley Barn

Audio Producer: Olivia Endersby

Music Coordinator: COOL Music

Music by Rachel Portman

Music Programmer: Luke Richards

Mindpool

Anne Sofie Lind

Mik Thobo-Carlsen

Flemming Rasmussen

Antoni Harbuz

WPP and Snap launch Augmented Reality partnership

WPP and Snapchat, today announced a global partnership (“The AR Lab”) to help brands build and deliver immersive experiences for consumers using Augmented Reality (“AR”).

With a particular focus on e-commerce, the partnership combines Snap’s leading AR technology with WPP’s integrated capabilities across creative, media, commerce and technology, allowing WPP clients to better connect with their customers on the Snapchat platform and drive meaningful business results through AR.

According to a recent study commissioned by Snap, 94% of people are expecting to use AR for shopping purposes the same as or more than 2022 versus 2021Snap Lego

With advertisers on Snap platforms finding AR campaigns to be significant drivers of business, the partnership will give WPP and its clients access to and mastery of Snap’s AR technology end-to-end, including creative production and measurement.

As Snap’s inaugural Agency AR partner, WPP will collaborate with Snap on new products and technology, such as the recently launched Snapchat Trends tool, which allows teams to use proprietary insights and data to inform creative and campaign development. WPP will also gain access to a custom AR Lab Strategy Guide, which includes best practices to inform creative development using Snap’s AR technology while ensuring that branded AR experiences can be brought to market faster and more easily than ever before.

In addition, WPP and Snap will implement a co-developed custom optimisation scorecard for WPP clients, which will be used to generate more effective campaigns. WPP and Snap’s methodology will provide insights into the performance of these campaigns, allowing teams to measure success and adapt in real-time.

WPP was an early adopter of AR technologies and has led the market by investing in its AR capability and partner ecosystem. GroupM, WPP’s media buying arm, has doubled its 2021 social AR investment in the last year and continues to pave the way for AR and commerce media activations.

AR-Snapchat-filters

The partnership will further develop WPP’s AR capability through a structured learning and development curriculum via the AR Lab Academy, an industry-first training programme centred on AR technology and products.

With support from a dedicated team at Snap, the programme aims to certify a minimum of one thousand WPP employees by the end of this year. In addition, Snap will sponsor a quarterly AR production competition for WPP clients.

The competition will focus on clients in key markets, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, and for the most innovative AR experiences, Snap will provide funding to bring the winning campaigns to life on Snapchat at scale.

Sanja Partalo, Executive Vice President, Strategic Development & Partnerships at WPP, said: “AR has a major role to play in the future of marketing and commerce, from virtual try-on to immersive digital experiences. Snap has built an impressive AR platform and we are delighted to partner with them to ensure our people can access Snap’s latest AR technology and in turn develop richer, more innovative commerce solutions for our clients and their customers.”

David Roter, Vice President, Global Agency Partnerships at Snap Inc., said: “Over 200m Snapchatters engage with AR every day. This partnership will help brands reach that community through the camera in ways that are engaging, impactful and drive real business results. We are thrilled to debut this initiative with WPP and look forward to driving this important frontier in marketing and commerce together with their clients around the globe.”

Audio programming that can listen, remember and adjust

Too much screen time we know is a problem.

Covid created more screen time as we went from zoom call to zoom call and more time on the couch with streaming visual content binging. Going from a working screen to an entertainment screen does create some well-being challenges.

Enter audio time.

After years of visual screen dominance, people started to find and enter a new era during Covid– the time with Sound.

Technology is a powerful enabler for this shift as it intensifies and diversifies how we listen.

Apple Walk

Good sound quality triggers positive emotions. When your right moment, music is started at the right time and right place. Your life improves.

Your feelings change; you become uplifted or feel relaxed.

manheadphones

If you think of the opposite, what can happen if bad quality audio triggers negative emotions such as dissatisfaction, annoyance, or disappointment.

Despite a trend in visual and screen time where we can sacrifice quality for convenience, our audio behavior suggests quality matters very much.

I am seeing a growing demand for personalized audio experiences that are immersive, intimate, and fine-tuned by the listener.

Audio and Sound technology enhancements act as a catalyst for this change, offering people unlimited ways to experience Sound is a creative pallet to explore and is only just started.

Consider the explosive growth of podcasting over the last few years – the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream as more than half of Americans and Australian’s over twelve years old have listened to one.

And then there is the rise of smart speakers, the fastest-growing tech sector in the United States and emerging in Australia. Nearly one-third of households have one audio streaming service, and almost every smart speaker owner has more than one device.

Speakers

Who didn’t increase Sound and audio combined with a healthy walk in your Covid lockdown? More and more, produced audio is becoming an essential addition to our daily lives.

And as we enter a post-Covid reality, we are about to turn a corner into a sound-first era. Technology is fueling the audio revolution: it has unleashed the sound experience from any tether. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music mean that Sound is no longer dependent on a carrier medium or dedicated device. Instead, listening has become mobile and on-demand.

Like an invisible companion, Audio is no longer dependent on a carrier medium or dedicated device. Instead, listening has become mobile and on-demand. Sound accompanies us wherever we go, without interruption.

While audio quality continues to advance both in how it’s produced and delivered. The addition of 3D and surround sound technology will change the category even further.

Sound will accompany us like a kind of halo and open up new virtual spaces for listeners—the ability to combine listening to audio programming with virtual spaces for an entirely new experience.

While advances in mobile and streaming technology have been fundamental to shaping the listening experience of today, A.I. will open the next frontier of personalisation.

Consumers will be seeking audio programming that that can remember and adjust their listening preferences according to different environments.

From waking up, self-love rituals, exercise, entertainment, and downtime.

Audio with A.I. will allow for this level of personalisation, with content, tracks, and moods tailored precisely for each listener and acoustics that auto-adjust as you move through your day.

Sound and audio programming will increase and advance so much in the next decade because the experiential Sound delivered will see consumers’ time on the visual screen be reduced.

And that sounds very positive for our well-being.

What Digital Transformation Is, And What It Is Not

WHAT IS AGILE? HOW TO GET MORE VALUE OUT OF IT? | by Asirinaidu P | Medium

There is a lot digital transformation taking place in many companies across Australia caused from the COVID pandemic and continued city lockdowns which has forced many business changes.

There are valuable aspects businesses can benefit from when undertaking digital transformation, as well as misconceptions that can waste time and money.

In my experience working with enterprise digital transformation, there can be unrealistic expectations of what such an initiative can and should achieve. Often transformation should be preceded, accompanied or followed by other work that can complement it, such as strategic goal-setting, culture change initiatives and organizational design. 

There are both opportunities and some overhyped aspects of digital transformation, here are three common trends;

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Processes

Phase 2: Analyze the Existing Business Process - Improving Business  Processes [Book]

A common hurdle I run into working with organizations on digital transformation initiatives is the sheer amount of systems and processes that need to be modified in order to enable success. Add to that the fact that many people are creatures of habit, and it’s no wonder that such a high percentage of transformation initiatives are deemed failures. 

A great digital transformation is designed with a deep understanding of the current processes, why (for better or worse) they exist and the problems that they solve. Only by having a good understanding of the current state of things can we design something better. 

An error I have also seen is allowing current processes and the “status quo” to cloud our ability to think of brand new ideas. As long as you make sure that doesn’t happen, you will be in good shape if you understand why the current state exists and allow you and your team freedom to create a new solution. 

This is not a substitute for implementing organization-wide process improvement initiatives or business process optimization, such as the adoption of agile, lean or combinations of any of the time-tested methodologies. 

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Company Culture

Frontiers | Understanding Culture Clashes and Catalyzing Change: A Culture  Cycle Approach | Psychology

While successful organizations have understood this for a while, any company undergoing a digital transformation initiative will soon learn that company culture and openness to change is at least as important as the technology strategy used. 

Before you begin the intense work of transforming your organization, you need to get buy-in at all levels. If leadership is not on board with your change initiative, nor are the front-line employees implementing the tactical approach (and anyone in between), there are going to be unnecessary hurdles along the way. 

One way to help with this is to educate and involve your entire organization in parts of the process from the very beginning to make them understand the role they play and to give them frequent updates on both successes and challenges. Make sure you celebrate wins along the way and clearly articulate the metrics of success. 

This is not a substitute for intentionally creating a great company culture. Culture change requires its own set of steps and metrics, but a healthy organizational culture will enable your digital transformation initiative to achieve greater success. 

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Customer Experiences

7 Examples of Bad Customer Service Experience (And How to Fix Them)

The most visible and arguably the most important aspect of digital transformation is how it changes and ideally improves the customer experience. After all, if you can’t improve the interactions your customers have with your organization, your long-term investment in digital transformation is arguably not worth it. Customers who buy more may buy more often and refer others — this is critical to company growth. 

This is not a substitute for meaningfully understanding and measuring customer experience (CX) in the first place. After all, if you don’t understand what success should look like, how do you expect to reach it?

Instead, make sure that your digital transformation has clear customer experience goals in mind. While operational efficiencies and cost-cutting might also be key performance indicators (KPIs) of your transformation initiative, if you can’t meaningfully improve the performance of your customer experience, you are missing a key component. 

It is important to understand what digital transformation can do in order to be realistic about the outcomes you can achieve. In my experience advising enterprise organizations on digital transformation initiatives, I’ve found that knowing what you can and cannot expect will help you create better plans and achieve better results.

WPP wins industry’s most creative company at Cannes Lions 2021

WPP was named the most creative company of the year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. WPP agencies collected a total of 190 Lions, including a Titanium Lion, 12 Grand Prix, 28 Gold, 57 Silver and 92 Bronze, with winners representing 38 different countries.

The award is based on the accumulated points total from agencies within each holding company. It is the first time that WPP has won the Holding Company of the Year award since 2017, and reflects investment in creative talent as part of WPP’s strategy for growth.

Ogilvy was the standout performer, with eight Grand Prix and a Titanium Lion for work including Stevenage Challenge (DAVID) and Moldy Whopper (DAVID and INGO) for Burger King; Courage is Beautiful for Dove (the moving tribute to front-line workers featuring the faces of healthcare professionals, etched with the marks from long hours in protective equipment); and Naming the Invisible by Digital Birth Registration for Telenor Pakistan.

WPP winners and shortlisted entries came from every part of the company, and from across its agencies. AKQA’s H&M Looop, a pioneering in-store recycling system designed to inspire a more sustainable approach to clothing among consumers, picked up a Grand Prix for Design, as did Superunion’s stunning work for sustainable packaging brand Notpla. VMLY&R’s ingenious I Am for Starbucks, which created a safe space for trans people in Brazil to have their names legally changed, was awarded the Glass Lion for Change. Degree Inclusive by Wunderman Thompson for Unilever, the adaptive deodorant for people with upper limb disabilities or visual impairment, was an Innovation Grand Prix winner.

Accessible Technology

Microsoft

One of the great things about my role at WPP AUNZ is working with Microsoft and their passion on creating technology focussed on accessibility. The Microsoft company wide goals and plans are to essentially put solutions in for existing barriers that technology can bring—which are part of systemic ableism—that typically preclude disabled people from being successful, contributing members of society. That includes areas such as employment and education, which unsurprisingly in modern times, is largely driven by technologies created by Microsoft, Apple, and others.

Microsoft under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, a father of three including an adult son with cerebral palsy, has been for sometime improving and innovating with accessible tech.

I remember the Microsoft’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial being very impactful in outlining how technology can support diverse workforces provide companies with a greater range of talent. 

Bringing people with different backgrounds and experiences together can improve problem solving and creativity, while contributing different points of view. A core element of embracing diversity and inclusivity is ensuring that every single employee has access to all the tools and resources they need to enable them to do their best work.

It’s important to create an environment in which, for example, people with dyslexia, vision impairments, language barriers and hearing conditions can work and collaborate to their full potential. Everyone has the right to be heard and understood, and allowing diversity and inclusion to flourish will encourage teams to thrive.

Like many companies, WPP has rolled out Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 to encourage collaboration across its global workforce. When COVID-19 hit, more than 95 percent of WPP’s workforce shifted to working from home

WPP was also serving all its clients remotely, and the company wanted to ensure that all client communications were as inclusive as possible. Inadvertently excluding people during creative pitches and client meetings would be a missed opportunity, so using technology to enable all staff to work at the same level was important for a sustainable remote-working model.

Microsoft worked with WPP to train 85 accessible tech champions — people who have an in-depth knowledge of all the accessibility tools available across Microsoft’s products and services so that they could, in turn, help their colleagues.

“Working with Microsoft has enabled us to really speed up our inclusion work,” says Nancy Lengthorn, Managing Partner and Head of Inclusion and Belonging for WPP UK.

“Improving systems and processes is vital to inclusion and diversity, and there can’t be a more critical system to improve than how we communicate with each other. The initiatives we are putting in place will really help us all to be more authentic and more effective, both with each other and our clients. This is about helping everyone to flourish and Microsoft have been a brilliant partner.”

Following the tech champion training sessions, a series of “brown bag” events focusing on diversity and technology took place.

These virtual sessions were made available to WPP, and covered areas such as vision, hearing, cognition, mobility, mental health, wellbeing and dyslexia. Around 800 WPP employees attended the sessions in the UK, and they were also recorded for people to view at their leisure.

“When the pandemic suddenly hit, it was a struggle,” Lengthorn continues. “However, in a way it also democratized everything.

Everyone was in the same boat, and we all had access to the same tools. Some of the barriers were taken away and many people started to notice new things. Perhaps things they hadn’t felt the need to confront in the past – can everyone participate, can everyone hear, does everyone feel they can speak up in a meeting?”

There are more than one billion people in the world with a disability, and for the majority, their disability is invisible. In the UK, 33 percent of surveyed employees responded that they choose not to disclose their disability, hiding their true selves due to fear or embarrassment – often referred to as “Covering”. Many people with dyslexia won’t, for example, disclose they have the condition.

WPP recognised that to help combat this stigma, they had to encourage openness through shared experiences while showcasing the strengths of dyslexic thinking. WPP and Microsoft created an event called The Creative Brilliance of Dyslexia, which included a keynote from Kate Griggs, CEO and founder of the Made by Dyslexia charity.

Role models from across WPP and other companies shared their experiences on the virtual stage, showing that people should embrace diversity. Demos of Microsoft Learning tools were also carried out, in addition to discussions on how managers can help their teams. Topics also covered how you can best help children with dyslexia to build their confidence and enable them to thrive.

“The dyslexia event had a much wider ripple beyond WPP,” says Lengthorn. “Employees also had their friends and family watch the live Teams event. Suddenly everyone found themselves at home, and people were homeschooling children with dyslexia, dealing with new, challenging situations. Bringing together so many people for such an important, positive cause was an amazing thing.”

The past year has been challenging for everyone. The global pandemic has kept friends, family members and co-workers apart, often isolating people from their support bubbles. While remote working isn’t a new phenomenon, shifting an entire workforce to a working from home model while expecting everyone to remain connected is no easy task.

The solution for WPP was Microsoft 365, a platform that provides a scalable and global collaboration platform. Employees in a global company like WPP will often work with people from other countries that don’t have English as a first language. Teams can help overcome language barriers by offering built-in text translation, letting people converse instantly without a delay in communication.

Employees who give PowerPoint presentations on Teams calls can also turn on automatic captioning, which presents subtitles in real-time, allowing employees with hearing loss to follow along more comfortably. There’s also the option to select live translations, which translate subtitles into other languages in real-time, opening up presentations to an international audience. If there are viewers who speak multiple languages, they can use the Microsoft Translator app on their smartphones to have real-time translations in their chosen language, too.

“It’s been an awful year, but some good things have come from it, too. We’ve all had to re-assess how we interact and that gave people a reason to engage with these tools and become closer to each other,” Lengthorn says.

For a company to truly embrace diversity and inclusion, the drive for change needs to come from the top. Leadership is vital in helping to instill a culture that fosters innovation and equal opportunities, and it’s a process that needs to be thorough, and authentic.