16 Dec Holistic Diversity in Advertising
Christmas TV adverts have become a talking point for many in the Christmas period. Each year brands deliver their creative offerings – John Lewis normally being the one to watch. However, this year it has been supermarket brand Sainsburys that everyone has been talking about. Conversations have stemmed from the inclusion of a Black family as the protagonists of one advert in a series of 3 that they have rolled out. The advert features the family, in a nostalgic collection of photographs and old videos, and a daughter on the phone to her Dad, speculating whether she will be able to eat his traditional homemade gravy this year.
Backlash has come from those who “don’t feel represented by the advert,” who have said that they’ll be boycotting the supermarket and shopping elsewhere from now on.” In response to the advert on Twitter, one user wrote “I see the white people have been represented well in this advert, imagine a complete white family, imagine the uproar.” Another tweeted (this is the) “last time I shop at Sainsburys.”
However, many have supported the advert, including Natasha Mushonga, who is the mother of the two child actors in the advert (Malakhai, 11, and eight-year-old Shannel), she said “it hurts that people think that the colour of your skin determines what type of Christmas you should have” she also stated “I don’t think they wanted it to be about colour diversity.” Furthermore, anti-racism activist Sarah Beckett, who runs the Voice of Colour Instagram account, raised the point that “calls to boycott Sainsbury’s for featuring Black people showed racism was as prevalent as ever within British society.”
Sainsburys defended the advert in responses on Twitter, and released this statement “‘we want to be the most inclusive retailer where colleagues love to work and customers love to shop. We are proud that our advertising represents the diverse communities we serve, and our Christmas campaign features three stories of three different families. Sainsbury’s is for everyone and it’s important to us that our advertising reflects this.”
In contrast, another cause of contention has been the Tesco Christmas advert. The advert, named “there is no naughty list” features “character’s inner monologue as they worry about what might put them on the naughty list this Christmas, including purchasing too many rolls of toilet paper.”
The controversy regarding this advert, is that it was originally supposed to feature a Black couple, who were evidently cut before the final edit. There has been speculation as to why the amendments were made; including that it was a move to avoid that backlash that Sainsburys faced, and that there were issues with styling the Black actresses’ hair. The actress, Vanessa Vanderpuye, who was supposed to feature in the advert discussed this on a no longer able to view Instagram story, explaining she was ‘disappointed’ to have been cut, with ‘no explanation.” She also cited that she had been excited to be featured as part of a Black couple rather than the “token Black girl” she finds herself often cast as.
Tesco have denied that the reason for their omission had anything to do with “the actors Race” stating “at Tesco, we believe that diversity in our business makes us stronger and our advertising campaigns are designed to represent everyone, showing the breadth of the communities and customers we serve.”
Conversations around the adverts and businesses being held accountable for Black representation is of course constructive. However, to increase the impact and make real change in business, we must recognise that representation should be present not only in marketing activities, but throughout business structures – at all levels (Tweet this). In this sense, representation in both Sainsburys and Tesco’s boards should be considered. After investigation, it appears that Sainsburys’ board of directors has no Black members, some Asian members, but mostly consists of White men. Tesco Board is predominantly White men also.
But why should business increase representation internally? The commercial answer is that in order to serve their customers more effectively and represent them (even in advertisements) the company needs to reflect the diversity of the customers it is trying to attract (Tweet this). Further to this, it has been proven that when implemented in an inclusive environment, more diverse internal teams are more innovative, and more able to be creative and strategic with the brand message and thus company attraction (Tweet this).
To implement representation throughout business, companies must address their internal culture and inclusivity (Tweet this). They must be able to build trust with their employees, collect honest employee feedback, and collate data involving their own demographics. This can be difficult to begin internally, especially if this is a new culture shift. The Equal group are able to offer an internal equality diversity and inclusion (EDI) Audit, to help organisations identify where they can make sustainable improvements in terms of EDI, and guide organisations on how to allocate resources in order to gain the advantages of EDI. The Equal Group are also able to facilitate trust, which enables honest data on internal staff demographics, company policies, procedures and employee feedback etc to be acquired and analysed effectively.
To see how The Equal Group could help your company to take action in terms of your EDI initiatives – Book a free 30 mins Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Session with one of our consultants to outline the top 3 priority steps for your company to take!