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]](#ftnref1) Uni­ver­si­ty of Leeds_, Eth­nic Pop­u­la­tion Pro­jec­tions for the UK and Local Areas, 2011–2061: New Results for the Fourth Demo­graph­ic Transition