Black women are not being adequately represented or portrayed in advertising, a study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Cannes Lions has found.

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute, discussed the findings on Lions Live, a digital-content platform run by Cannes Lions, a sister company of WARC.

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The study was based on analysis of 251 ads entered into the Film or Film Craft awards ‒ all either English-language or with English subtitles ‒ in 2019. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Advertisers are failing in portrayals of Black women ‒ and need to embrace intersectionality.)

Of this sample, some 18.2% of the characters depicted were Black, an increase from 17.5% the previous year, the study revealed.

That representation level can be measured against the fact that approximately 14% of the US population is Black, as are 13% of people in Europe, and 8% of people in Brazil, noted Di Nonno.

But the headline figures, she explained, masked a powerful gender disparity. “Black female characters rarely appear: 69% of the Black characters are male characters,” Di Nonno said.

“And, additionally, Black female characters are seven times more likely to be objectified than white female characters.”

Such insights are of particular significance given that the advertising industry is struggling with issues like diversifying its own talent base, as well as addressing the problem of casting, and moving beyond outmoded views of different communities.

And the Geena Davis/Cannes Lions research indicated that definite failings remain. “If we look at Black characters, they are stereotyped as being less professional.”

By way of example, Di Nonno pointed to the fact that white characters “are two times more likely to be shown in an office” than Black characters.

When it comes to stereotypes, another insight from the analysis was that “we do see white characters more likely to be working and depicted as smart,” she asserted.

Sourced from WARC