Diversity in advertising must not be just a tick in the box

It may or may not shock you to learn that the period between the mid-1970s to 2014 saw hardly any change in the number of black or minority ethnic employees working in the advertising industry.

Taking this into account, it should shock you even less that meaningful conversations on how to address the lack of realistic portrayal of these groups have only started to take place in the last few years. A recent survey by Shutterstock found that 22% of advertisers are beginning to use diverse images in their work. Clearly that’s a start, but we’re far from where we should be.

If you needed any convincing as to why this change needs to be accelerated, here’s why: millennials are the most racially diverse group in history, and this will increase with each new generation. The industry no longer reflects its audience.

Advertising can be critical in how people see themselves, especially during their formative years. If you can’t see yourself in any of the ads you see online, on TV or in print – what does that mean? Without sensitive and accurate portrayal, the media industry is impacting black culture in a way that is at best irrelevant, at worst, harmful.

If you dig further, there is even a gender bias in black representation, with two-thirds of all black people in ads being male, as reported by a survey from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Cannes Lions.

Too often, brands have focused on merely being seen to be diverse, therefore creating a fake environment that few can relate to, rather than understanding what it truly means to be diverse in everything that they do. Instead of simply using black actors and models in ads in an unrealistic, transparently tick box exercise, we must undergo an education in the lives and perspectives of the black community and create something authentic.

A Google/Ipsos/Nielsen survey found that black millennials are asking, and expecting, brands to do better. Apart from being the right thing to do, it will make an impact on the bottom line at a time of unprecedented choice and fierce competition. 75% of black millennials say that they will consider spending money with a brand that reflects their culture positively, and 70% will choose to buy from brands who further agendas by having a clear voice within discussions on race than they will those who don’t.

There are elements within the media that are already getting it right on black representation. YouTube’s mobile app is used a lot more by black millennials than other racial groups and two-thirds rate it as a positive voice. The interactive elements and of course the ability to upload your own videos, create a space in which black users feel they can be heard, and be authentic. Less than half say the same about TV.

40% of the respondents to Shutterstock’s survey also stated that they find it difficult to find the resources for diverse campaigns. In fact, there are plenty of tools available at Shutterstock, some for free, and marketers can be confident in using them, that they have been compiled and sourced to show realistic portrayals.

This is only one challenge you’ll face this year, but it’s imperative to get it right. The industry-leading team here at Clifford Associates can help you to recruit the senior-level digital people who will push your brand forward.

Contact us now and get started.

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  • Tom Salvat, CEO, CONCURED
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    - Tom Salvat, CEO, CONCURED
    Tom Salvat, CEO, CONCURED
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    Karen Troman, Office Manager & HR Co-ordinator, VoucherCodes.co.uk part of RetailMeNot
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    Neil Kettleborough, CRO & Co Founder, Chalk Social
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    Ross is a fantastic recruitment consultant -  extremely professional, meticulous, patient and supportive. Throughout the process, I felt he represented me really well and genuinely cared about my career and finding the right role. Thanks to Ross I am now in a role I love, working with a brilliant team. Very highly recommended!
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    Helen Rosemier, Commercial Director, Professional & Financial Services Practice, Longitude

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