Diversity and inclusivity in advertising have been a hot topic this past year, and in light of the recent Dove scandal it is not about to cool down anytime soon. If you somehow missed it, the advert depicts a black woman transforming into a white woman after using their soap. How could a brand, who has been so adamant on championing values of diversity and inclusivity, have gone so wrong in its latest campaign?
Of course Dove didn’t purposefully try to offend with their ad, with one of the models featured in the ad expressing that it was “supposed to be about all skin types deserving gentleness,”. But how the whole creative process missed catching such a risky representation goes beyond me. Christian Ward, head of media and marketing at Stylus, claims this may fall fault of brands’ and agencies’ internal inclusion strategies. In order to understand and connect with as wide and diverse an audience as possible, all parties involved must also reflect diverse demographics and thinking, and when this falls through the cracks, ads that can be interpreted as discriminatory can unfortunately be the outcome.
Many agencies are already making explicit efforts to channel more thought into diversity. For example, Havas Chicago made an interactive installation for Black History Month called #blackatwork. This invited people into a space which addressed various micro-agressions black employees encounter at work. Not only does this sort of thing help start a discussion about such important but marginalised matters, but also helps close the gap between agency, clients and consumers by opening up an honest conversation. Beyond the agency walls, brands are also working on their inclusivity strategies. Deloitte plan to put in place “inclusion councils” that will combine numerous people’s viewpoints to tackle diversity issues.
Instead of isolating minority groups, diversity is something that needs to be engrained in a company’s culture at every level. This will not only be useful to avoid “colour-blindness”, but will also help level the playing field by empowering and encouraging employees to bring varied perspectives out into the open. Having teams of mixed backgrounds will ensure a wide range of viewpoints and problem-solving strategies that smooth the path for more versatile solutions, which is necessary for brands and agencies to rise above their competition. It will also ensure that compelling messages don’t get lost in translation, as they did in Dove’s recent ad. What’s more, this will have a positive knock-on effect – inclusive and diverse workplaces will naturally attract varied talent that celebrate their differences and who express divergent attitudes, something the generation entering the workforce now value highly.
Here at Total Media, diversity and inclusivity are already ingrained in who we are – not only expressed through the wide variety of nationalities and upbringings at the agency, but also in our rich client-mix. Strengthened by our behavioural planning approach and powered by our diverse thinking, we are constantly striving to better understand our audiences’ many needs. As a result, we can devise bespoke media strategies that reflect the diversity of our clients’ customers and engage with them in a desirable way.