Opinion: The ad industry must embrace a more authentic view of the Latinx community
Since 2007, Getty Images has seen significant change in images featuring the Latinx community. In earlier years, the limited amount of customer-licensed imagery depicting people of Latinx descent was usually a one-dimensional, often stereotypical view of the community: a sexualized and/or objectified woman, an athlete, individuals dancing salsa or tango, mariachi bands and so on.
In the last few years, customers have begun to embrace a more authentic view of how the Latinx community lives, loves, works and plays. Here are the No. 1 sellers each year, with the most recent appearing first: http://bit.ly/LatinxImages
The shift is partly the reason Getty Images set out to develop the Nosotros Collection, whose goal is to embrace the authentic experience of the Latinx community.
Stereotypes in Latinx stock imagery
There are 57.5 million Latinx/Hispanic Americans in the U.S., making them the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority. Yet they are often left out of media and advertising or portrayed in a way that does not accurately reflect everyday realities. The media and the advertising industry—including brands and companies within it—and even Getty Images bear responsibility in perpetuating harmful tropes. Some examples:
There’s an overreliance on the “fiery” or “sultry” Latin archetype across media, including film, television and advertising. The objectification of women is damaging in any context, but when you add the element of racial/ethnic identity it becomes doubly harmful: There are already few spaces in which Latinx/Hispanic women appear on their own terms. While the objectification of women is mentioned more frequently, Latinx/Hispanic men are often sexualized in similar ways.
A Latin “look”
Given the many countries included in the Latin American diaspora, the Latinx community is incredibly diverse. Moreover, the term “Latinx” or “Hispanic” refers to ethnicity, not race—meaning that individuals of Latin descent come from a variety of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, with ranges in skin tone, hair texture, body types and much more. Yet media/advertising and some Getty Images legacy content often typecasts diverse individuals with a single physical look: olive skin and dark, fine-textured hair.
Individuals of Latinx/Hispanic descent are often depicted as blue-collar service workers as opposed to white-collar professionals. While that might be true for some—and is certainly not inherently negative—it doesn’t reflect reality for Latinx/Hispanic individuals. This imbalance unconsciously affects the minds of the average consumer, sustaining stereotypes that justify prejudice.
Imbalanced power dynamics
In real life and in media, figures of authority at work, at school, and in other societal constructs are mostly white, cisgender and male. When showcasing authority figures in the Latinx/Hispanic community—particularly when the figure is featured within a group—they’re often not the first to be shown as bosses, teachers, police, doctors, judges, and other leaders.
Over-relying on multiculturalism
Individuals of Latin descent are often featured as the ethnically ambiguous member of a multicultural group . While this might seem aspirational, it is tokenistic and negates the real life experiences of the Latinx community—particularly when the individual is treated in such a way that they "could" be Latin, but also Middle Eastern or Asian or mixed race.
Lack of intersectionality
As with many marginalized and underrepresented communities, the media and advertising industries often focus on just one aspect of identity and leave out ways identities intersect. Individuals of Latinx descent can also be LGBTQ+, have a disability, have different body types/sizes, come from a non-traditional family unit, be of different socioeconomic strata, practice different religious faiths and much more. Yet that is often not what is shown in the wider world of advertising.
Efforts to more accurately depict the community
We launched the Nosotros Collection in May 2019 to challenge ourselves and the industry we serve to represent the Latinx community thoughtfully and authentically. The collection aims to shape a new narrative within the media and advertising landscape by using rich, carefully curated still and video content to tell stories in a voice that belongs to Latinx/Hispanic people living in North America.
We started with an audit of all creative content reflecting people of Latinx descent and interviewed individuals of Latinx descent across key markets to hear their experiences, what the industry gets wrong and to articulate what “right” could look like.
We also took a comprehensive look at the evolution of Latinx representation in advertising and media, including what’s worked well and what’s been unsuccessful. Finally, understanding the importance of representation on both sides of the camera, we hosted a series of recruitment events to bring in the best Latinx talent behind the lens.
Since launching, nearly 17,000 still and video assets are available. Through research and insights, we developed comprehensive guidelines for our contributor community to best reflect Latinx people, resulting in authentic representation that breaks stereotypes.
We’re committed to growing the collection to center and celebrate all aspects of the Latinx community. And we are incorporating that effort into all of the work we regularly do. As 2019 drew to a close, Christmas was the No. 1 searched term among customers globally, trending significantly above expected with 144 percent year-over-year growth. This means we have ample reason to continue the year-round creation of authentic, rich Christmas content, since it is a significant cultural touchstone in many parts of the world.
As a matter of course, we will consider photo shoots to both fulfill that need and also realistically reflect all communities who likely celebrate the holiday, including people of Latinx descent. What inclusion in the Nosotros collection brings to this is nuance, whether in images showing families opening gifts on Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), a holiday table filled with a variety of Latin food or the observation of Three Kings Day/Epiphany.
We aim to show every facet of the authentic experience for the Latinx community, and are challenging the industry to do the same.