Representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in UK advertising has more than doubled in just the last three years, yet many feel ads too often cast BAME characters in supporting roles rather than as the main protagonists.

That is according to a new study from Lloyds Banking Group, which audited more than 2,000 ads from the top 50 spenders in 2017 alongside a survey of 2,000 people in England and Wales.

The good news is that a quarter of ads (25%) now include people from BAME groups, up from 12% in 2015, which prompted Lloyds to congratulate advertisers on making “significant strides” in better reflecting modern Britain.

But despite the progress being made, the survey also revealed that only 7% of lead roles in ads are played by someone from a BAME group and three-in-five ads (60%) still feature an all-white or majority white cast.

Furthermore, around a third (32%) of black Britons, 28% of Asians and 29% of multiracial people continue to feel they are under-represented in ads, compared to just 13% of white people.

In addition to physical representation of BAME people in UK ads, the study also explored perceptions around cultural representation, such as stereotyping.

It found that more than two-fifths (42%) of black people believe advertisers are not doing enough to recognise their culture, a third (34%) think they are inaccurately portrayed, while another 29% feel their ethnicity has been negatively stereotyped in ads. By contrast, only 9% of white respondents feel inaccurately portrayed.

“Whilst portrayal of BAME groups has improved, there is more work to do. Success depends on a few key aspects – the use of authentic and compelling storylines is essential,” the report said.

“Also important is avoiding assumptions and negative stereotypes, as well as considering how differences can be celebrated, rather than just being absorbed into the British culture,” it added.

“Instead of simply smoothing out differences, advertisers should seek out opportunities to embrace diversity by highlighting cultural differences.”

Sourced from Lloyds Banking Group; additional content by WARC staff