Media Matters: Advertising industry wakes up to diversity at last

Media Matters: Advertising industry wakes up to diversity at last

The latest Maltesers campaign features disabled talent, writes Colette Sexton

It has been a long time coming but finally advertising is waking up to diversity.

And by waking up, I mean it has been dragged kicking and screaming into the real world. Slowly but surely, the stereotypes are being dropped.

Back in June, the world’s second biggest advertiser Unilever pledged to remove all sexist stereotypes from its advertising. The move was on the back of research that showed just two per cent of ads include intelligent women. It is a big decision, considering it spends €8 billion a year on its more than 400 brands, which include Dove, Knorr, Surf, and Cif.

At the Cannes Lions Festival in France, Unilever said it would address the three key areas where women are generally misrepresented: role, personality and appearance.

Unilever told agencies that its adverts will now show the “aspirations and broader achievements” of women. Women’s personalities in the ads will be more “authentic and three dimensional” while their appearance will be “enjoyable, non-critical and in perspective”.

All good news there then.

But of course, the depiction of women is not the only diversity issue in advertising which is why I was delighted to see the latest Maltesers campaign last week.

As part of its year of disability, Channel 4 invited brands to enter its Superhumans Wanted competition to win £1 million worth of commercial airtime with an exclusive launch spot in the 2016 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. It was designed to encourage brands and media and creative agencies to prominently feature disability and disabled talent in their advertising campaigns.

Mars Chocolate UK won the competition, and developed three TV ads for its Maltesers brand. Created by AMV BBDO, the Look on the Light Side series feature four disabled actors in the lead roles. The ads were exclusively broadcast for the first time on Channel 4 during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games on Wednesday, September 7.

But how can advertising truly make creative ads that reflect diversity when they are mainly controlled by white men? The Irish statistics are grim, according to the latest census from IAPI .

Staff in the advertising industry are 91 per cent Irish, with five per cent from other EU countries and four per cent from outside the EU. While the industry is completely balanced 50:50 in overall numbers some 74 per cent of art directors are men. Even more worryingly, just 18 per cent of chief executives are female.

Truly diverse creative can only come from truly diverse teams. Many clients have already caught up to the importance of diversity. Now it is time for the agencies to do the same, otherwise they will get left behind.

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