Advertising a window to UK society

5 November 2014

LONDON: Consumers from ethnic minorities regard the portrayal of their cultures in advertising as a barometer for what society thinks according to a new report.

For The Whole Picture, Credos, the thinktank of the Advertising Association, carried out qualitative research among minority ethnic groups and quantitative research among 1,000 respondents divided broadly equally between consumers describing themselves as white, black, Asian or mixed, and a smaller group of other ethnic minorities.

This found that a majority of white respondents (57%) felt advertising was representative of the UK's multicultural society but just 45% of black, Asian and minority ethnic consumers agreed (BAME).

The current BAME population of around 8m is forecast to more than double by 2045."Taking care to ensure that advertising and communications appeal to the growing BAME population in the UK isn't just morally desirable, it also makes commercial sense," the report stated.

As it is, just over half of this group said they preferred  (53%), and were more likely to purchase from (51%), those brands that meaningfully represented their culture. And just under half indicated a preference for (48%) and greater likelihood to buy from (45%) those brands that championed diversity in their advertising and marketing.

Younger people are far more sensitive to issues around stereotyping of the BAME population in advertising. Almost one third (31%) of 16-29 year olds said the depiction of ethnic minorities in an ad had offended them, compared to just 14% of the over-60s.

At the same time, however, the younger age group was more likely to notice the changes brands were making to reflect diversity and were also more likely to assume brands were already thinking along these lines.

But a significant proportion appear not to be doing so, as the report also looked at the top 50 advertisers on television in the UK and found that 44% were running campaigns that underdelivered against ethnic audiences and which were more likely to be seen by white people.

The reasons for this are unclear, but even when planning mainstream campaigns, especially in categories such as mobile phones, fashion, beauty and technology, the report argued that brands should consider the BAME population.

The industry as a whole, it said, needed to ask more questions about differences and avoid shying away through fear of causing offence.

Data sourced from Advertising Association; additional content by Warc staff