LONDON - Britain’s MI6 launched its first TV advertising campaign on Thursday as part of a bid to cast off its macho James Bond image and recruit a more diverse workforce to the secret service.

The brief commercial features a shark gliding through the waters of an aquarium in a shot deliberately intended to evoke the spy thriller genre.

“We are intelligence officers but we don’t do what you think. It is not keeping your cool in the shark tank, it is picking up the silent cues that matter,” a voiceover intones.

The camera then cuts to a child who steps back in fear before turning to his mother who sweeps him up in her arms. “Understanding others. Helping them see things differently. It’s exploring the world beyond your own. And if that sounds familiar it’s because you do it every day.” It ends: “MI6 - secretly we are just like you.” The advert is intended to showcase the “soft” skills the service requires from new applicants and will be shown as part of MI6’s drive to recruit 800 new staff by 2021.

“The concept was to play on the Bond image but to explain very clearly that this was not James Bond,” said the agency’s head of recruitment, a mother with 20 years in the service whose name was not disclosed.

“In many respects the people we are recruiting have sets of skills that are common to many people in the population.”

She said they were looking for new intelligence officers who had a “blend of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills” combined with a “strong sense of integrity and creativity”.

Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service - the formal name for MI6 - has reported an upsurge in interest from applicants following intrigue over the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, blamed by Britain on the Kremlin.

However according to the latest official figures of March 2016 only 24 percent of senior staff and 38 percent of non-senior staff were women, while there were no BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) members among the senior ranks and they accounted for just seven percent of the non-senior staff.

A senior director of the service said that bringing in a more diverse workforce would help counter the dangers of “group think”.

“We are looking for people who are brave enough to speak up,” he said.