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Women feature in only a third of adverts despite making up nearly half of the UK population, according to a new report from Lloyds Banking Group.
The report, Reflecting modern Britain, says that only 33% of the people featured in advertisements were women. The report says: “In the advertisements we analysed, women rarely occupied positions of power and when they did the role was often linked to seduction, beauty or motherhood.” If a woman didn’t conform to what society considered to be beautiful, “their advertising role was reduced to that of a joker,” said the report.
The report also shows how some minorities are underrepresented in adverts. Single parents who make up 25% of the population are only represented in 0.29% of adverts, it says. People over 65 are also very much underrepresented [accounting for 17.7% of the population and only represented in 6.17% of adverts]. Other underrepresented groups included LGBT, Asian and disabled people whereas black and mixed race groups were slightly overrepresented. However, black people “are often shown in a limited number of roles such as salesperson, teacher, musician and sportsperson”. Also, says the report, when Asian, black and mixed race groups are represented in advertising, they are portrayed with a strong British identity and integrated into British culture. “There is a lack of diversity in cues such as the language and accents they use, the clothing they wear, the religion and rituals they practise as well as the food they eat,” it states.
The report found that the traditional nuclear family was largely displayed as the ideal, with few identifiable examples of single parent families, LGBT people were rarely visible, with focus groups saying Lesbians were particularly absent, and disability was rarely shown and, if depicted, it was represented as a physical disability. When older people were depicted in advertising, they were usually presented in traditional grandparental roles, says the report. “It was rare for an older person to be portrayed humorously or promoting technology or innovation,” it stated.
The report says only 47% of their focus groups felt advertising reflected them accurately. Minority groups were more likely to feel that way. Only 21% of gay women felt accurately portrayed, while people over 45 felt less accurately portrayed than younger respondents. Respondents who were not part of the traditional family structure were less likely to feel that advertising portrayed them accurately. And only 39% of those registered disabled or who have someone living with them that is disabled, felt accurately portrayed.
The report says advertising needs to do more to address challenges around portrayal and it says marketers “not only have permission to do this, we have a duty”, citing 65% of people who said they would feel more favourable about a brand which reflected diversity in advertising. It calls on marketers to demonstrate inclusiveness not just diversity by showing a variety of people, be authentic and ensure depiction is realistic and ensure the protagonist and script lends itself to the story.