Ros King is the Director of Marketing Communications at Lloyds Banking Group.
She will be speaking at Marketing Week Live, which takes place today and tomorrow in London, about how well advertising is reflecting modern Britain. We caught up with her to get a brief insight into the topic.
Here is what she had to say.
Econsultancy: Do you feel that advertising accurately reflects modern Britain?
Ros King: I believe that the industry is very well intentioned, but our research suggests that advertising needs to do more to reflect modern Britain.
For example, nearly 18% of the population is aged over 65, however, only around 6% of the people represented in advertising fall into this age bracket. Less than 1% of people in advertising appear to be single parents, yet 25% of families with dependent children are single parents. Similarly, one in six people in the UK has a disability, yet they are represented by less than 1% of the people featured in advertising.
When we asked consumers if they felt they were accurately portrayed in advertising, only 47% agreed. This percentage was lower amongst respondents from minority groups, and was as low as 21% amongst gay women. 41% of respondents aged over 65, 43% of single parents, and 55% of two-parent families also felt they weren’t accurately portrayed.
E: Do you think the industry is even aware that there is an issue?
RK: Yes. I believe the advertising industry is aware that there is still more work to be done. A survey undertaken by Marketing Week in 2015 highlighted that 42% of marketing professionals believe the work they produce doesn’t reflect contemporary society.
E: Why do you think advertisers have failed to be representative?
RK: Advertisers don’t make conscious decisions to exclude people in minority groups, or portray them in a way that feels stereotypical.
Under-representation is likely to be driven through fear of getting it wrong and causing offence to minority groups. This may be coupled with unconscious bias, which is linked to challenges we know exist around the composition of the industry. The good news is there’s a widespread understanding of the challenges ahead, meaning increasing focus, with additional support by bodies like the IPA and the AA.
E: How can these challenges be overcome? How should the ad industry go about changing?
RK: One of the biggest challenges for any advertiser is how to reflect and represent diversity without stereotyping.
Our Reflecting Modern Britain report highlighted some important insights, which we hope will help people feel more confident in developing more inclusive communications. It is not as simple as re-writing a script to include a protagonist from a minority group – authentic storytelling is crucial. It is important to ensure that the advertisement is written with the person featured at the heart. You cannot just write a script and then deliver diversity in the casting.
Finally, and most importantly, demonstrate inclusivity – not just diversity. Singling out minority groups can create feelings of segregation and make some audiences feel they are being educated on prejudice.
E: How are you approaching this issue at Lloyds?
RK: Inclusion and diversity are fundamental pillars of our Helping Britain Prosper plan, they run deeply throughout our organisation. As one of the UK’s biggest banks we have a responsibility to better represent the diversity of the customer and communities we serve.
Our Modern Britain report helps us understand how advertising currently reflects our society, and how in turn we could improve. Findings from this research have inspired us to look at every stage of the communications process. From research and customer insights, through to creative briefing, media planning and evaluation. Starting with the customer at the outset, we will hopefully develop more inclusive advertising that feels authentic.
The Lloyds Bank ’For your next step’ campaign is a demonstration of how we are translating this into our advertising. One of the most memorable scenes is a proposal between two gay men – ‘He said yes’. This recently won a MAA #DoDifferently award, which showcases adverts featuring diverse and innovative marketing. Customers, colleagues and the LGBT community have been hugely supportive of this campaign via social media.
Don’t forget to sign up for Marketing Week Live on March 8-9 in London.