Brands still failing on inclusion and authenticity in ads

ethnicityBritish women from ethnic minority backgrounds still feel their ethnic group is portrayed negatively in advertising, with over a third believing the entertainment sector is the worst culprit.

So says a new report by the UN-backed non-profit Unstereotype Alliance, carried out by IPG-owned agency UM, which quizzed 2,000 women from a raft of backgrounds including Black African and Caribbean, Jewish, Middle Eastern, South East Asian and Southern Asian and White Continental European.

Its key findings were that 26% of respondents believed they were being portrayed negatively, with that figure rising to 30% among Middle Eastern respondents and 29% among Black Caribbean respondents.

Over a third (34%) believed that the entertainment sector was the most guilty of inaccurate representation and stereotyping, although close to half (49%) of all respondents felt that YouTube’s advertising was the best for true representation.

Other social media firms were seen far less positively, with Twitter particularly criticised, as only 22% of those surveyed had seen themselves represented in the firm’s ads.

Another issue addressed was that of a group’s visibility or prominence within general advertising, with over half (52%) of Middle Eastern respondents, and 50% of South Asian and 48% of Jewish respondents feeling that they never, or rarely ever saw themselves represented in advertising.

The benefits of getting it right are revealed by the fact that nearly three-quarters (72%) said they would be more inclined to purchase from a brand that portrayed them positively and authentically.

UM UK chief executive Rachel Forde said: “The argument for inclusion and authenticity among brands and advertisers is a commercial one, as well as a moral one. Brands can be more successful, as well as become better corporate citizens, simply by reflecting their full audience in their marketing.”

UN Women Unstereotype Alliance UK lead Melda Simon added: “What we see and hear in advertising and on media channels affects how we see ourselves and the world around us.

“This research demonstrates the importance of approaching intersectionality through a culturally nuanced lens that considers the experiences of people from a variety of communities.

“The advertising, media and creative industries are all about influence, so there’s no more logical partner as we go about trying to rid society of the ingrained stereotypes that are holding back humanity.”

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