Many brands made public commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion based on the global outcry for social and racial justice in the summer of 2020, but two years later, only one-third have actually set aside the resources necessary to effect change. For those who have, the good news is that prioritizing representation, diversity and inclusion in advertising directly connects to positive results, driving revenue and better outcomes.
Research from Deloitte-owned agency Heat shows that 69% of brands with the most diversity and inclusion in their in ads saw an average stock gain of 44% in a seven-quarter period. Another study found that significantly more consumers consider the topic of diversity and inclusion to be important (60%) than those who do not.
At Cannes 2022, hundreds of leaders in media, marketing, and advertising gathered to discuss how to advance diversity and inclusion. Here are a few takeaways on how companies can accomplish more effective, actionable and scalable change:
Create a plan that focuses on diverse consumers
In order to create more effective and inclusive advertising, brands must gather insights on how to improve the quality of portrayals of diverse communities. Brands should be proactive when it comes to gathering inclusive data and DEI practices, and work to create content that resonates with audiences.
“DEI is not just something that you can green light to launch a new campaign,” said Meghan Schoen Nally, chief product officer at Shutterstock. “It has to be something you live and breathe within your organization and within your creative process.”
In 2016, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and The Female Quotient launched SeeHer to help brands drive the accurate portrayal of women and girls in marketing, advertising, media and entertainment. SeeHer’s Gender Equality Measure (GEM), which is the global gold standard for media measurement, helps brands embed diversity and inclusion into the research process. The GEM score has proven that inclusive media drives improved business results.
“Even when you have women and representation in the room, there are findings in creative testing and data collection that often surprise advertisers and marketers,” said Shenan Reed, SVP and head of media at L’Oréal USA. “The GEM score allows brands to have fresh eyes and to have the vantage point of the consumer that tells us whether or not we are doing the right thing.”
Build a diverse team and infrastructure
Inclusive advertising starts with having diverse people filling the seats at the decision-making table.
“You can’t separate the strategy from the people,” said Raymond Goulbourne, executive vice president of broadcast media sales at BET Networks, Paramount. “The way to create the best environment for inclusion in advertising is to open the aperture of opportunities for people of different genders to come in.”
The follow-through is also important—after you’ve attracted a diverse workforce, you must nurture it as well. Once you have diversity at the table, give them a voice and listen to them.
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice at the table and belonging is being heard at the table,” said Jessica Park, SVP of global fan marketing for the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Increase your reach to intersectional audiences
In order to drive inclusion, brands must start thinking ahead and create plans for intersectional messaging. This has two prongs: contextual reach and relevance. When brands decide to examine both, they will attract consumers of diverse backgrounds and identities.
“The need to increase our data is huge right now to go after those intersectional audiences,” said Deborah Harper, global unite lead for Unilever at Mindshare. “But you can also reach those audiences in other ways through contextual targeting, even if you do not have the data. Looking at both is key.”
Lindsay Franke, the EVP of creative excellence at Ipsos, noted that 63% of female consumers under the age of 35 feel that they can be represented in a more relevant way. Statistics like these expose an opportunity for brands to continue to better understand consumers and their expectations as they drive positive portrayal and relevancy.
“It’s a passion of mine to bring these learnings to the market and to the industry in order to understand where we have come from and how to raise the ceiling and the floor on where we can go,“ Franke said.
Involve everyone in the process
The greatest driver of inclusive media and storytelling is when you have everyone in the room working together. Bring your creative agency, your internal creative partners and your media agency along for the ride.
“The best way we increased our GEM scores and our diverse messaging right away was by having real work sessions with our internal teams and our creative team,” said Suzy Deering, global CMO at Ford Motor Company. “We also learned to celebrate those learnings internally and not to hide them or keep them to ourselves.”
Reed agreed about the value of working together: “You need everyone singing from the same hymn book and carrying the same language in the conversation,” she said. “If you can bring everyone to the conversation, then you will have a greater opportunity to make change.”