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Diversity and inclusion in advertising in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement originally emerged in 2013 and has since then advocated for non-violent civil disobedience to fight discrimination against people of color. Demanding societal change and an end to systemic racism, it gained momentum in the summer of 2020 in the United States with the George Floyd protests leading to a social unrest that shook the United States and then the world. The movement ignited widespread debates about the lack of racial representation in media and advertising.

This demand for more inclusion is mirrored in the findings of various studies conducted in 2020. One such study discovered that 61 percent of Americans believed that diversity in advertising is important. According to the results of another survey, 42 percent of respondents would like to see more racial diversity in ads.

Diversity in advertising workforce

The lack of racial diversity in advertising can partially be attributed to the absence of inclusion within the advertising workforce. Labor market data shows that 82.6 percent of employees in the advertising sector are White. However, studies have indicated that there is more equality in terms of gender representation, since about half of all employees working in public relations, advertising and related services are female. The perception that the advertising and PR workforce seems to be more leveled between men and women is confirmed by other studies on gender diversity in the sector, which show that within independent advertising agencies, 59.7 percent of employees are female, exceeding the number of male workers.

Purchasing behavior and brand support

Diversity and inclusion in advertising is not only important to consumers personally but also directly affects their purchase decisions. For example, a study revealed that 58 percent of respondents stated that the lack of LGBTQ+ identity representation led them to stop supporting a brand. However, companies must be genuine in their support of the LGBTQ+ community, as consumers might otherwise believe that Pride-themed items are a marketing tactic rather than a reflection of a company’s values.

Brand responses to social issues had an impact on their image during the BLM movement. Some 43 percent of surveyed Americans said they were much more likely to stand behind a company supporting BLM either financially or by making a statement to show solidarity. Nonetheless, consumers remained realistic about why they thought brands were backing the BLM movement. One third of respondents to a 2020 survey were of the opinion that brand statements about Black Lives Matter were motivated partly by want to do good but also as means of getting publicity.

And so, the BLM movement has started the conversation on racial inclusion in media and ads, but brands should not forget about other underrepresented minorities either. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and racial minorities as well as equal gender representation, is important to consumers. By using diverse portrayals in advertising, companies are able to build their brand while also changing societal perception of the communities depicted.

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Inclusion and diversity in advertising in the U.S.

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Key figures

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Diversity in the industry

LGBTQ representation

Black Lives Matter in advertising

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