Diversity and Inclusion in Digital Advertising Matters

Understanding and achieving diversity in the digital space

Digital advertising has an extremely outwardly-facing presence, meaning diversity isn’t only an internal issue for the industry, relegated to its boardrooms and offices – it’s external as well, and concerns the images of people that are broadcast to millions each day.


But why is diversity and inclusion in digital advertising an important topic, and how does the industry achieve it?


We’re diving into the reasons why diversity in digital advertising matters both for society and the companies in the industry, how diverse digital advertising is today, and what positive steps can be taken where it’s lagging.


Diversity in digital advertising should be thought of primarily as a social responsibility and secondarily, but also importantly, as a good business practice.


Digital advertising’s social responsibility for equal representation


‘Very often, as I see brands posting photos of their teams — and don’t see anyone who looks like me, it kind of feels like a little punch in the gut. In every instance, the signal these non-representative images send are “you don’t belong here.”’


The above quote from Sonia Thompson, Inclusive Marketing Strategist and Educator, captures the feeling of exclusion that can happen due to unequal advertising.


The main focus points of digital advertising are the products and services it sells, but by using people for its imagery it also projects an image of society. Who is and isn’t included in the imagery creates real consequences for people’s perceptions of each other and people’s self-perceptions as well.


Consumers expect and respond to diversity


Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that users who view digital advertising expect and positively respond to diversity.


In a global study by Kantar, 59% of consumers said they find it important that companies they buy from actively promote diversity and inclusion. According to a global Deloitte survey, meanwhile, the youngest respondents (from 18 to 25 years old) were far more likely to notice representative advertising than their older peers across a range of industries.


It’s an increasing trend that purchasing habits are even more heavily affected by diversity for younger generations. Engagement with audiences, especially younger audiences, is paramount for consistent revenue growth. As Gen Z gains more buying power, brands that aren’t investing in diverse marketing will fall behind. High-growth brands (those with annual growth of 10% or more) establish key performance metrics for diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives more frequently than their counterparts.


The trend among younger consumers isn’t entirely locked to diversity and inclusion, either, but wider care for societal issues as well. According to the Deloitte’s Equity Imperative, an overwhelming 94% of Gen Z expect companies to take a stand on social issues.


88% of respondents for Kantar’s global study responded that not enough brands were doing a good enough job of representing them or their community.. A quick look at advertising statistics gives a good insight into why that is.


In the United States, a country that boasts rich diversity in its population, digital advertising under-represents its population.



Making digital advertising more reflective of our countries’ populations through proportional representation isn’t an issue that can be resolved overnight, but for the sake of our societies and for more profitable advertising, more work needs to be done.


Effective diverse digital advertising starts with a diverse marketing team. Representation is often nuanced, with cultural indicators that are easily missed and insensitive blunders that are easily performed by teams that aren’t themselves diverse.


To create and retain diverse teams, companies should establish key performance metrics for hiring and retaining diverse talent.


Also important are equity metrics for brand advertisements – while the topic of diversity and inclusion cannot be seen as a ‘quick fix’ issue that can be solved solely with measurable quotas, creative teams shouldn’t dismiss the benefits of measuring their brand’s advertisement’s diversity and inclusion.


Priotizing minority-owned media for the creation process can be an important part of reaching those metrics. As Estefanía Agüero, Regional Director of US Multicultural at ShowHeroes Group puts in her insightful article on the topic, some US agencies have quotas for how much of their spend is allocated to those businesses.


On the topic of video agencies, hiring means working with teams of seasoned editors who  can provide the content and expertise necessary to create diverse and inclusive advertising. At ShowHeroes, our ShowHeroes Studios digital content creation team has a library of over 150,000 thousand clips that reflect a very wide range of communities.


It’s part of ShowHeroes Better Media framework and pledge, which has diversity, equity, and inclusion as one of its main four pillars. You can read about Better Media, our commitment and framework for the entire digital advertising industry to follow, through the link below.