Are You Meeting Consumer Expectations? Study Finds People Want Diversity In Advertising


Today’s British con­sumers are more diverse than ever before. Britain’s BAME com­mu­ni­ty already makes up 12.7% of the pop­u­la­tion, and is pro­ject­ed to rise to 30.3% by 2061[1].

At a time when brands have access to so much data, try­ing to under­stand who their cus­tomers are and their buy­ing pref­er­ences, these com­pa­nies are find­ing it increas­ing­ly impor­tant to use that data to cre­ate a vari­ety of mes­sag­ing that a diverse pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple can relate to.

To dig deep­er into the role that diver­si­ty and inclu­sion play in mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing today, we sat down with Toc­cara Bak­er, Prod­uct Mar­ket­ing lead for Adobe Adver­tis­ing Cloud in EMEA. Read on for her takes on the top­ic.

Why is it important for marketers to not just embrace diversity and inclusion in advertising but to also advance it?

It’s clear that diver­si­ty and inclu­sion in adver­tis­ing isn’t where it should be in terms of the mes­sag­ing and visu­als that are being used. It’s still not show­cas­ing the diverse world that we live in. A recent study that we did at Adobe proved that not only is diver­si­ty in adver­tis­ing the right thing to do, it is actu­al­ly some­thing that con­sumers now expect.

Can you share some of the top-line findings of the study?

There were a lot of note­wor­thy finds, but gen­er­al­ly speak­ing con­sumers over­all feel that ads con­tin­ue to lack diver­si­ty. Con­trary to the US, where up to 40% of African Amer­i­cans felt rep­re­sent­ed in adver­tis­ing, under-rep­re­sent­ed groups in the UK cit­ed much low­er per­cent­ages. For exam­ple, only 20% Black peo­ple, and 25% of Asian peo­ple, felt rep­re­sent­ed in adver­tis­ing.

Addi­tion­al­ly, we found that LGBTQ2+ indi­vid­u­als want to see them­selves more rep­re­sent­ed in adver­tis­ing. What I found real­ly inter­est­ing is that they also said it is impact­ing how they spend mon­ey. We’re see­ing sim­i­lar demands from the African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty, of which 40% said that they would stop sup­port­ing brands that fail to rep­re­sent their iden­ti­ties in adver­tis­ing.

What can executives do to advance diversity and inclusion in advertising?

Exec­u­tives need to archi­tect diverse teams. There needs to be diverse think­ing from the ideation through to cre­ation of adver­tis­ing. You can’t have a mono­lith­ic team cre­at­ing adver­tis­ing with­in the con­fines of their own echo cham­ber. That’s why Adobe sup­ports employ­ee net­works across all of our offices, to help our peo­ple – espe­cial­ly those from under­rep­re­sent­ed groups – feel com­fort­able and proud at work. One great exam­ple here in the UK is the Black Employ­ee Net­work (BEN). As part of this net­work, a col­league of ours Dawn Osbourne recent­ly led an ini­tia­tive where Black grad­u­ates were invit­ed to our HQ in Lon­don to learn about the var­i­ous roles on offer at Adobe. This was in an effort to engage diverse mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty in the tech­nol­o­gy world, but also to hope­ful­ly build a more diverse tal­ent pipeline for our team.

We’re all blind to what we don’t know – and that’s total­ly fair. That’s why it is impor­tant to have all dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple in the room that can iden­ti­fy what might be inter­est­ing, valu­able and even offen­sive to dif­fer­ent types of con­sumers. If you’re not hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen dur­ing the cre­ative process, then you’re going to find that con­sumers are going to have that con­ver­sa­tion for you.

Yes, there have certainly been a few examples of brands being called out by consumers. What’s your advice for a brand to avoid such a mishap?

Brands need to show con­sumers that they aren’t just talk­ing about diver­si­ty and inclu­sion, they are tak­ing action. In the UK, the Adver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­i­ty (ASA) watch­dog has even passed a ban on harm­ful gen­der stereo­types. The ASA gave the exam­ple of a 2017 tele­vi­sion advert for Aptamil baby milk for­mu­la that depict­ed a baby girl grow­ing up to a bal­le­ri­na and baby boys engi­neers and moun­tain climbers. The advert showed unnec­es­sary and stereo­typ­i­cal gen­der-based future pro­fes­sion­al aspi­ra­tions, which prompt­ed con­sumer com­plaints at the time. The ASA said the advert would most like­ly be banned under the new leg­is­la­tion.

Brands need to be con­scious of the way they are por­tray­ing peo­ple in adver­tise­ments and sen­si­tive to the mes­sages that this sends. Brands must avoid send­ing mes­sages that have the poten­tial of alien­at­ing cer­tain con­sumers, or even worse, per­pet­u­at­ing stereo­types. Not just because they could find them­selves in trou­ble with the ASA, but because it could turn away their cus­tomers.

What about from a technology perspective? How can marketers use technology—Adobe technology—to advance their diversity and inclusion in advertising?

Mar­keters that are lever­ag­ing Adobe Adver­tis­ing Cloud can iden­ti­fy who their audi­ence is through first-par­ty data or sec­ond-par­ty data. That means you can get a full view of who is engag­ing with­in your online site or who is being exposed to your adver­tis­ing. Mar­keters can bet­ter under­stand how diverse their audi­ence real­ly is. With that infor­ma­tion, mar­keters can cre­ate mul­ti­ple vari­a­tions of ads, to per­son­alise cre­ative and mes­sag­ing to be able to con­nect to a diverse set of con­sumers.

Of course, it must also be said that brands need to be thought­ful in the way they tar­get con­sumers and devel­op cre­ative. There’s a fine line between hyper-per­son­al­i­sa­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion, as Face­book has recent­ly learned to its detri­ment. Brands should ensure they aren’t exclud­ing peo­ple based on fac­tors like race or gen­der. On the oth­er side of the coin, brands should also be wary of try­ing to pro­duce cre­ative that appeals to too broad a group of con­sumers, only to fail in res­onat­ing with any of them. At the end of the day, it’s a bal­ance between pre­ci­sion tar­get­ing, and respon­si­ble mar­ket­ing.

Get the full report about diver­si­ty in adver­tis­ing and more from Adobe Dig­i­tal Insights here.



[1] Uni­ver­si­ty of Leeds, Eth­nic Pop­u­la­tion Pro­jec­tions for the UK and Local Areas, 2011–2061: New Results for the Fourth Demo­graph­ic Tran­si­tion

Toccara Baker

Posted on 07-15-2019

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