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Priya Patel on Embracing Culture in Advertising

Priya Patel: Embracing Culture in Advertising


B&T | 6 September 2019

DDB managing director Priya Patel may joke about being a “coconut” – brown on the outside and white on the inside – but in this discussion with Ant Melder, she reveals how she learnt to embrace her Indian culture and her view on achieving better diversity within agencies…

Creative agencies have historically underrepresented certain minorities, said Patel, with most of her superiors being “lovely, white, posh blokes” in the early days of her career in London.

“I used to joke that I was the only Indian person in account handling in London,” Patel said on the Brown Riot podcast, hosted by Coffee Cocoa Gunpowder creative partner Ant Melder.

The Brown Riot podcast launched earlier this year, featuring candid chats with a range of creative and business leaders from ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Reflecting on her time at girl’s school in Cambridge in the UK, Patel admitted she initially masked her Indian background to better fit in with her white colleagues, even avoiding another Indian colleague ironically with the same name.

“When I think about it, it’s because I thought I needed to make sure that I differentiated myself and that people didn’t think we were actually the same person!” she said.

“It was this absolute paranoia from the very outset that everyone would just think we’re the same because there wasn’t enough room for two Indian people.”

Surrounded by her predominantly white classmates, Patel said she was aware of the cultural differences, and tried to “speak the same, act the same and have the same experiences” despite her cultural background.

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