"Diversity & Representation" poses critical questions that can help to eradicate bias from your creative processes in 2021
Too often, creative processes are influenced by unconscious bias. When it comes to advertising and marketing, this becomes particularly apparent through choices regarding representation, i.e., showing who consumes or might consume the services and products we sell.
The World Federation of Advertisers has created a guide to help us rethink these processes. The guide contains critical questions that marketing experts can use when building a brand campaign or strategy.
Below, and in celebration of Pride Month, we take a look at the key questions included in this document titled “Diversity & Representation: Guide to potential areas for bias in the creative process.”
1. A limited view of who your audience and consumers are
Brands that reinforce stereotypes have a limited understanding of who their main customers are and fail to question who they should be representing.
We’ve seen this with beer brands that, until recently, mainly targeted cismale and heterosexual customers, failing to acknowledge that their products were being consumed by people of all genders, social classes, and sexual orientations. This resulted in underrepresentation in their branding choices, sending messages that, slowly, they began to correct. How can you avoid this perception bias?
- Are there any underrepresented groups you’re missing?
2. Missing data
If you or your communications team can't answer this question, then the guide suggests you ask yourself the following:
- Is there any bias in research used to gather insight? Does it capture representative perspectives or just broad generalizations?
- Do you know what cultural tensions your brand is exposed to?
- Are stereotyping concerns tested with the affected group?
- Have you engaged experts who can help advise on how specific audiences might positively or negatively interpret your intentions?
- Could audiences interpret your intentions positively or negatively?
3. Emotional connection
To connect with a broader audience, it is important to not reduce the people that you are trying to reach to potential customers. Part of understanding the social dimension of communicating means not just looking at the project from a sales perspective.
- Does your brief make it clear that representation is key, not just for sales purposes?
- Are you able to communicate values that go beyond business opportunities?
- Are you able to tap into values that are more important than those that solely benefit the brand?
- Are you sending a message that helps build a fairer society?
4. A diverse team
While we all know that diverse teams are best at discovering new perspectives and create better work when it comes to communication, the experts who created this guide recognize that "the advertising industry, in general, is not diverse enough, and that's where the problem begins."
- Are you able to work with a professional team with more diverse backgrounds and specialties?
- Have you thought about including people from the communities you represent in your team?
The 3P rule
It is not only about just making these communities visible in your campaigns but also giving members roles behind the scenes. The guide suggests thinking about how you are applying the 3P rule:
- Presence is all about who is featured in the communication
- Perspective is about who is framing the story
- Personality is all about the depth of the character
5. Why research matters
When you are going to start representing new audiences, you must carry out a constant and thorough study: you will need a testing and learning plan. The more extensive your testing, the more at risk you are of "dissolving" the perspectives you are interested in. In other words: we need to focus on very specific targets and audiences to improve our vision.
When you have identified the new audiences or consumers you want to incorporate into your message, ask yourself:
- How far can I go in researching the problem of stereotyping in this group? Are there experts who can help me?
- What are the most urgent matters and biggest areas of need and interest?
- Could I join with other companies or foundations with whom we can exchange information and collaborate?
- Have I created a safe space for frank criticism from people who can advise me?
6. Images used on social media and in campaigns
When choosing who you show and how, the suggested questions are:
- Have I allowed enough time for an inclusive casting process?
- Could an underrepresented group play a larger role and be more influential?
- Have I considered whether props or costume choices reinforce stereotypes?
- How diverse is the production team? Will they notice something you missed?
- Could there be a bidding process that makes it easier for your work to be done by female, transgender, or other underrepresented directors and technicians?
7. Content editing
Even if the creative process works well, sometimes the final impression of the project can be changed negatively in post-production.
Some questions to ask yourself to avoid this:
- Is there diversity in the post-production team?
- What is the casting of voiceovers, are you avoiding stereotypes there?
- Have you considered the colloquial nuances of accents?
- Are there opportunities to make the material more accessible? For example, with descriptive audios for the blind or subtitles for the hearing impaired?
- Have you ensured that approval processes account for bias?
- Have you double-checked that the final edition delivers your diversity ambition?
8. Content circulation
Where you place your content, who signs it, and what it funds is just as important as the content itself.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are your media plans safe from funding hate or misinformation?
- Are there any channels that would be inappropriate to be present on?
- Could your marketing mix, data usage, or brand safety settings exclude certain groups?
- Have you considered actively including or partnering with diversity-focused media partners?
- Could you actively collaborate with a specialist media outlet by letting them guide you?
9. Impact evaluation
Evaluating the impact of your launch is a way to consciously and fully follow your process. You should also prepare for potential positive and negative responses from consumers and colleagues.
To do this, ask yourself:
- What is the monitoring/response plan for any feedback on representation?
- Are your social media teams briefed?
- Are you prepared to respond to any hateful comments you receive?
- Are you ready to respond if the communities you are trying to positively represent raise questions?
- Have you prepared responses for the best/worst possible outcomes?
10. How your message can evolve
According to the authors of this guide, we are all starting a journey toward more inclusive marketing and communication. To avoid getting lost along the way, we must create a learning culture that involves constant evaluation and analysis of our successes and mistakes.
The last question, therefore, is key:
- How are you building your body of knowledge, effectiveness, and insight to capitalize on your experiences?
If you are interested in accessing the original document from which these tips were extracted and exploring some of the points in more detail, you can download the complete guide here. Please note that the content is only available in English. The message of this guide is clear. At every stage of the marketing process, including but not limited to communications, there is an opportunity to champion better representation.
This article is part of Pride Month at Domestika. Who are the LGBTQIA+ creatives who inspire you the most? Celebrate Pride Month by creating a tribute to your icon using any technique you like. Graphic design, painting, embroidery... and share it on your social media profile using the hashtag #CreateWithPride. You can find more information and resources to help you to get started on your tribute in our forum. Check out our #CreateWithPride forum and upload your tribute to your favorite icon.
English version by @eloiseedgington.
You may also like:
- What are the origins of the different LGBTQ+ symbols?
- The PhotoBook That Vindicates the Memory of Argentina's Trans Community
- 7 World-renowned Artists Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity