Efrain Ayala, the Global Creativity and D&I Director at Reckitt, is a renowned expert in leveraging the power of brands to drive meaningful change. With a proven record of delivering award-winning campaigns that drive growth and deeply resonate with diverse audiences across cultures and geographies, Ayala is widely recognized as a trailblazer in the industry.
With more than 15 years of experience under their belt, Ayala is known for their strategic approach to DE&I, producing measurable progress. Their unwavering commitment to creating a more inclusive world has earned them numerous accolades, including the esteemed role of WFA Global D&I Ambassador and juror for the prestigious Glass Lion: The Lion for Change award at this year’s Cannes Lions festival.
A true innovator and catalyst for change, we had the opportunity to chat with Ayala about creating a better world through brand work and their new juror position for the Glass Lion for Change.
In what ways does your team ensure that diverse, intersectional perspectives and ideas are included in the creative process?
The creative process at Reckitt enables diverse, intersectional perspectives and ideas to be incorporated into our brand work at various stages, in collaboration with internal and external partners. For instance, our North America business collaborates with Creative Equals, a DEI consultancy, to train a group of volunteers from our 6 ERGs, representing race and ethnicity, disability, gender, and LGBTQIA+, to identify bias in the creative development process. Additionally, our agency teams bring a diversity of thought to the table.
One campaign that Reckitt takes considerable pride in is Vanish's Me, My Autism & I. Individuals who identify as autistic often find solace in their clothing, as it serves as a safe space that provides comfort. Vanish, a brand with a range of products that help clothes last longer, looked to shed light on clothing as a real lifeline for parts of this community.
From the very beginning of the creative process, the brand and Havas, one of our two agencies of record, partnered with Ambitious about Autism. This collaboration allowed the brand and agency team to draw inspiration from within the community to shape their work. In fact, the ad features an autistic protagonist and was filmed with her real-life family, showcasing their lived experiences encompassing both struggles and successes. I passionately believe that this "nothing about us, without us" approach contributed to the brand and agency winning Channel 4's Annual Diversity in Advertising Award.
Calendar holidays and honorary months put a momentary spotlight on marginalized communities, creating a wave of temporary support and celebration. While this is a positive step, the industry agrees that authenticity comes through consistent engagement. What can brands do to maintain continuous connection with groups?
This is paramount to how Reckitt builds its brands. Each one of the brands selects a United Nations Development Goal to which it can meaningfully make a measurable difference. Within each of these commitments is a community that our brands disproportionately benefit, ingraining inclusion and positive societal impact into the brand strategy, rather than just a content calendar for socials.
Take, for example, Nurofen, which aligns with UN SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing. As a world-leading over-the-counter pain brand, the brand believes everyone has the right to have their pain understood and taken seriously so they can receive appropriate pain treatment. The sad truth is that 1 in 2 women in the UK feel their pain ignored or dismissed due to their gender. Therefore, Nurofen’s See My Pain is a long-term commitment that includes annually measuring the Gender Pain Gap and raising awareness of the issue. However, creating lasting change requires more than that. So, Nurofen is committed to gender balance in the design, conduct and analysis of clinical research, has committed to including, studying, and understanding women in research to bring new and improved solutions for women’s pain and training doctors and pharmacists to help close the Gender Pain Gap.
It is through this unique approach that Reckitt brands can create value for both the business and society at large. By harnessing the superiority of science, they can bring about change in ways that no other brands or products can.
Congratulations on being appointed a juror at Cannes for the Glass Lion for Change! Can you give us a sneak peek of the criteria you’ll be looking for in entries? What will indicate a brand’s genuine strategy for change?
Thank you. I am honored to play my part in selecting the best of the best in such an iconic and important category at the Lions. The Glass Lion is dedicated to change, specifically fostering positive societal change through the power of creativity. However, unlike other awards and categories, it goes beyond measuring campaigns solely by the number of impressions, vision, artistry, or technical ability. This award celebrates the brands, agencies, and storytellers who unite their collective talents to make a meaningful impact. Therefore, my criteria are simple: recognize the work that has made an indelible mark on society by instigating a shift, a nudge, or a movement rooted in positive societal change.