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Why We Need Diversity in Advertising

— Joseph Gahan 

No matter how inclusive and progressive one might think the world is right now, there are still plenty of issues that the communications industry has skipped over or wildly exploited. One such demographic that finds itself “invisible” within advertising is the LGBTQ community.

A recent study carried out by UM London and dating app, Grindr, interviewed 2000 of its users between the ages of 18 and 34, and found 52% of participants believed that LGBTQ individuals aren’t portrayed in advertising. These beliefs are supported by a study carried out by Lloyds Banking Group in December 2016 named ‘Reflecting Modern Britain?’, which showed that only 0.06% of adverts portrayed LGBTQ members in 2016.

The UM London study found that 69% of participants thought brands have a big part to play in challenging and progressing society’s views. If we’re to ignore minorities within communications, then we’re not only shrinking the market but also overlooking customer feedback. A global CSR study carried out by Cone Communications in 2015 revealed that 88% of consumers are more loyal to companies that support social issues. In tandem, the Lloyds study stated that 65% of consumers would respond favourably to a brand that promoted diversity.

As if these statistics weren’t convincing enough, Mars Chocolate UK’s recent Maltesers advert featuring a disabled protagonist was their most effective advertising for the last ten years. The brand more than doubled their expected target for sales from 4% to 8.1% and increased its brand affinity from 10% to 20%. This is a compelling argument for brands to look more closely at how they build their messaging.

With such good results and the general population keen to see diversity reflected in advertising, is it time for companies to come around to the idea? Small progress has been made, but there’s a long way to go. Respondents from the Lloyds study said that gay women (79%) were far more underrepresented than gay men (49%).

From a communications stand point we need to be aware that core messages that run through our campaigns need to be inclusive of all. It’s easy to stick with the status quo and run adverts that don’t break the mould. But the question is, should we? If the large majority of the population believe our clients and companies should be furthering the progression of societal understanding, why shy away from that responsibility? We should embrace all the world has to offer, and that includes the people within it. No matter what gender, race or religion they are, or aren’t assigned to.