Recently, large corporations have created ad campaigns supporting social movements. Yet, the people behind the ads are not as diverse. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports only 17% of graphic designers are BIPOC, while 83% are white. Advertising managers follow a similar ratio: 16% BIPOC and 84% white.
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) also shared the same findings in their Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry published November 2020. A survey of their membership of advertising professionals revealed: there are more women in advertising and at senior management levels, but the representation of different cultural groups remains low.
Christopher Boulton, Associate Professor of Communication of University of Tampa, says there are “closed hiring” practices in many marketing and advertising agencies. When you have a “Refer-A-Friend” policy, you end up with a homogenous workplace with people of similar background. It makes it increasingly difficult to hire professionals from diverse backgrounds.
Although ANA has moved forward with tracking diversity in its membership organizations, the majority of marketing and advertising professional firms and organizations have not reported this information. Without metrics it makes it challenging to hold the industry accountable.
Continued public pressure and accountability will show in the advertising industry. During the summer of 2020, 30 advertising agencies announced their commitment to reporting their demographics and a move on recruitment with diversity in mind after 600 Black advertising professionals wrote an open letter to top leadership at large marketing firms. Training in graphic design is costly and an investment. At competitive marketing firms, extensive portfolios are often required. Orial Davis-Lyons, who currently serves as Spotify’s Creative Director, founded The ONE School. It offers gifted Black talent mentorship and guidance to fully develop creative portfolios and increase job placement of Black creatives in large marketing agencies.
Why is Diversity so Important?
It is no secret that winning marketing campaigns includes audience segmentation. Robust targeting is essential for successful call-to-actions in any marketing campaign. And niche audiences, like #BlackTwitter and #NativeTikTok, are gaining more mainstream acknowledgement.
With these audiences drawing support, cultural competence is necessary. The last thing any ad agency wants to be responsible for is a tone deaf ad or charges of cultural appropriation. Kendall Jenner’s announcement of 818 Tequila last week drew so much criticism with real concerns about the exploitation of workers and negative economic impact on agave-producing areas of Mexico as the celebrity tequila trend continues.
From a marketing standpoint, it is easy to understand why it's offensive to any person who knows Tequila and Mexican culture. In Spanish, adjectives go after the subject. Naming the tequila “Blanco Tequila” follows English grammatical standards, and it is a miss fire if Jenner is trying to create a relatable brand. The 818 area code is also connected to the Central Valley area of California - home of some of the poorest cities in California; Kendall Jenner is from Calabasas, California, one of the wealthiest areas in California. For some, it’s clear that Jenner is in for profit.
Unfortunately, it isn't the first time Kendall Jenner has been involved in cultural appropriation. Pepsi’s protest commercial starring Kendall Jenner in 2017 is now a classic example of a marketing fail. With serious upset of police shootings and #BlackLivesMatter protests, there was severe scathing of Pepsi’s ad. The Pepsi commercial, developed in-house, aimed at drawing “a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” In full crisis communication, Pepsi responds, “Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.”
Reports by The Mirror suggest that all 6 team members on the creative team behind the ad are white. Companies have made efforts in advertising since. We saw the trend in Super Bowl LV ads target diversity and inclusion.
Multicultural Expertise & Transcreation
It goes to show how cultural competence is increasingly important, and having creative voices from diverse perspectives is an essential first step. For long-term impact, a shift in multicultural expertise and transcreation services as an integral component of marketing rather than a niche part of marketing is needed. Again, it is difficult to track how the advertising and marketing industry has grown in these areas in particular. Not a single professional advertising and marketing organization has current metrics on the number of departments with multicultural or transcreation services within their agency. We know the number is not large.
Enter The Colibri Collective. With a passion for marketing, Gaby Cardenas founded The Colibri Collective. She knew that the multicultural space was underserved.
“You hire ad agencies for expert advice on what works with your target market,” says Gaby Cardenas, CEO of The Colibri Collective, “When we create a campaign for a client, we ensure to meet the moment. Having seen so many examples in marketing, there are not many agencies in the education, telecommunication or political space that truly have the expertise to do a solid mainstream ad campaign and cross cultural markets with successful results.”
As long as audience segmentation and targeting is part of the core piece of marketing, diversity in marketing will continue to remain relevant. With inclusive hiring practices and a long-term goal of adding multicultural expertise and transcreation services in marketing, the marketing industry may reflect the creativity and diverse viewpoints of our social fabric.
1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.
2. Zorilla, M., 2020. 600 Black Advertising Professionals Demand Meaningful Action From Leadership in Open Letter. [online] Adweek.com. Available at: <https://www.adweek.com/agencies/600-black-advertising-professionals-demand-meaningful-action-from-leadership-in-open-letter/>.
4. Assocation of National Advertisers, 2020. A Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry (2020).
5. Christopher, B., 2020. Opinion | Companies' ads say Black Lives Matter. So why are ad agencies nearly all white?. [Online] NBC News. Available at: <https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/corporate-ads-said-black-lives-matter-industry-creating-them-nearly-ncna1231540>.
6. Christopher, B., 2020. Opinion | Companies' ads say Black Lives Matter. So why are ad agencies nearly all white?. [online] NBC News. Available at: <https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/corporate-ads-said-black-lives-matter-industry-creating-them-nearly-ncna1231540>.
7. Robson, S., 2017. Was THAT Pepsi ad the result of a lack of diversity? Critics may have a point. [online] The Mirror. Available at: <https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/team-behind-controversial-pepsi-ad-10169148>.
8. Jeanine, P., 2021. Super Bowl LV advertisers tackle diversity, inclusion with mixed results. [online] Adage.com. Available at: <https://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/super-bowl-lv-advertisers-tackle-diversity-inclusion-mixed-results/2311981>.
9. Transcreation is the ability to professionally write copy for an advertisement in one language to another with the same meaning and impact.