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Ads fail to reflect modern Britain

News, 07 December 2016

LONDON: Just 19% of the people featured in ads served in the UK include people from minority groups and only around a half (47%) of consumers feel accurately portrayed by advertising, a new report has revealed.

Also of note for marketers, the research by Lloyds Banking Group found that about two-thirds (65%) of consumers would feel more favourable about a brand that tries to represent different parts of society.

The Lloyds' Reflecting Modern Britain Report was first shown to Marketing Week, which reported that Lloyds polled 2,200 consumers about 40 brands and 1,340 TV and press ads that were served in 2015.

Central to the report's findings is the observation that minority groups remain under-represented in ads in comparison to their numbers in wider British society (although the survey limited itself to England and Wales).

For example, disabled people represent 17.9% of the population yet just 0.06% featured in the ads included in the study. Similarly, just 0.29% of single parents featured in ads despite them making up a quarter (25%) of the population.

Around four-fifths (79%) of respondents said they feel gay women are underrepresented in advertising, followed by bisexuals (56%), gay men (49%) and disabled people (44%).

And despite efforts by broadcasters and advertisers to increase the representation of racial minorities, the report confirmed that there is more work to do.

More than a third (35%) of respondents felt members of the Asian community did not feature enough in ads, while 31% thought mixed race people were underrepresented, while 27% felt black people were not portrayed adequately.

Indeed, Asian people featured in just 2.71% of the ads under review, climbing slightly for people of mixed race (3.86%) and black people (5.65%).

"The advertising industry over recent years has made enormous strides in this space, but I think we can all look ourselves in the mirror and know we could do so much more," said Catherine Kehoe, Lloyds Banking Group's MD of Retail Brands and Marketing.

"I'm not sure people make a conscious decision to exclude people from minority groups or portray them in a way that's inauthentic or tokenistic," she continued.

"I genuinely think it's hard to get it right and I think that concern about getting it wrong or cause offence to minority groups is probably at the forefront of people's minds.

"You've got to couple that with unconscious bias, which we all know is prevalent and linked to challenges [around] the make-up of the industry more broadly."

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Lloyds Banking Group; additional content by Warc staff