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.
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.