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News & Views

UK Advertising doesn’t reflect modern Britain

What we’ve all suspected has now been proven by Lloyds Banking Group in their ‘Reflecting Modern Britain’ report. UK advertising does not reflect the diversity of modern British society, with only 47% of consumers feeling accurately portrayed.

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In a quest to create more inclusive advertising for their own brands, Lloyds set themselves the task of answering two elementary questions whose answers impact not only all other UK brands, but arguably reverberate across the world. These questions go to the very heart of understanding and reflecting your customer base. “Does advertising reflect modern Britain?” and “Does reflecting modern Britain make a positive impact on brand perception?”

To answer these complex questions, Lloyds conducted a multi-disciplined study using a diverse set of techniques:

– Quantitative online research amongst 2,200 consumers in England and Wales

– Semiotic study looking into how well inclusion and diversity is reflected in advertising through reviewing all the ads of the top 20 UK advertising spenders of 2015 – over 1,300 ads from over 40 different brands

– Controlled online experiment that recreated current advertising with different protagonists and measured both the conscious and unconscious responses of 2,200 consumers

– Focus groups

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The results were not the greatest surprise, but still spectacularly depressing! While some inroads have been made with some communities, there is obviously a long way to go for others. Less than 1% of people featured in ads were visibly disabled, single parents or visibly LGBT. For all three communities this is a drastic underrepresentation given disabled people represent 17.9% of the population, single parents 25% and LGBT 1.7%.

Over 65s appear to fare better, featuring in just over 6% of advertising. But, when how they were portrayed was examined, they were depicted with a limited range of personalities, roles and interests and rarely portrayed humorously or promoting innovation and technology!

Women you would think would feature strongly in UK advertising bearing in mind they represent 51% of the population. Oh no, only 33% of the people featured were women! And, like the over 65, how they were portrayed is open to question. Women rarely occupied positions of power and when they did the role was often linked to seduction, beauty or motherhood!

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Does anyone really notice these discrepancies? Well, apparently they do — especially the dearth of LGBT and disabled representation. Only 47% of respondents felt that they themselves were portrayed accurately and guess what; that number declined considerably if the respondent belonged to one of the underrepresented communities!

Does it matter? Well, 67% of respondents said that advertisers should show more diversity and 65% said that they would feel more favourable towards a brand that reflected diversity in its advertising.

The study concluded that if you want to more accurately represent your consumers then you should:

1) Demonstrate both inclusivity and diversity – show a variety of people.

2) Be authentic and when including minorities ensure depiction is realistic.

3) Ensure the protagonist and script fits the story.

What does this mean for your brand? These damning statistics represent a huge opportunity. The question you need to answer is why you’re not more diverse, not whether you should be!

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