Ads should reflect diverse workplace

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Selecting the right audience is a critical step in enabling readers to identify an ad as a source of information relating to their job interests. It's done with a picture or a headline—preferably both—and it says, "Hey, this is for you."

In other words, good advertisements allow members of a target audience to see themselves in the ad. That's easier said than done—especially in an increasingly multicultural workplace where a refreshingly diverse cast of faces is becoming more common. But it's heartening to see b-to-b advertisers becoming more inclusive and more reflective of the workplace, where more women and people of color are making or collaborating in the decisions. The traditional audience should not feel disenfranchised. They should recognize the realities of today's work force.

However, companies that employ a diverse cast in their ads should themselves be models of diversity—or at least be making big strides in that direction. Companies that lack diversity among their top corporate officers or throughout their general work force are hypocritical if they use women and people of color in their ads as mere window dressing. That's the wrong way to select an audience. Don't just talk the talk; walk the walk.

Microsoft, in its long-running "People-ready Business" campaign, cleverly allows any businessperson to see herself or himself in its ads that feature a blank cut-out of a human form amid a diverse cast of office workers. "In a people-ready business, software brings everyone to the table," reads the headline of a Microsoft ad whose central thrust is that software can bring the best minds of the company together to achieve the best results. Instead of "your ad here," it's your face here.

SunGard Higher Education, which helps colleges and universities raise money, essentially holds a mirror up to the workplace in its ad where two women are depicted as the key players in fundraising. This inviting ad makes the point that SunGard's team can help institutions of higher learning innovatively and efficiently support complex fundraising programs.

In a testimonial ad for BlackBerry, Maribel Martinez Lieberman, a chocolatier and owner of Marie Belle in New York, commands the spotlight as she clutches her handheld communication device. In the copy, she describes how her BlackBerry has allowed her to travel effortlessly to Spain and Mexico in search of ingredients without being tied to a single place. The Chasers are fond of well-produced testimonials because of their credibility with readers. "They say" ads carry more weight with readers than "we say" ads.

Dell declares in the opening line of copy that "Having a direct relationship with our diverse suppliers helps us deliver our best customer experience." Appropriately enough, Dell taps a multicultural cast to illustrate the ad and closes with this line: "Dell supports small, minority and women-owned businesses with tailored technology solutions."

Finally, there's this attractive ad from AT&T featuring a man and a woman looking over a set of plans in a work setting. In the ad's white space, copy states: "We're committed to supplier diversity. And for several years running, that commitment has been honored by DiversityInc, and others. We're proud of that recognition and even prouder of the performance of our diverse suppliers. They've made us a better corporate citizen and a better company." As the headline says: "It's not just good. It's good business." The Chasers couldn't agree more.

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