An ad awakening is upon us.
The 2010 Census was a shock heard around the industry, as tangible evidence revealed the growing prominence of minority publics. While America’s population has never been more diverse, the advertising industry itself is apparently much slower to the table.
Although primary objectives to promote and persuade haven’t changed throughout the decades, culture’s accompanying landscape definitely has. Whether they realize it or not, many advertisers feel blinded and binded by traditional trade practices. White male domination is obvious, especially in executive positions, but few acknowledge the theme as a cage of their own making.
To some degree, professionals take diversity into account regarding advertising approaches; however, a perplexingly different case rings true when it comes to choosing brains behind the operation. Incestuous hiring practices and little encouragement for individuals outside the classic mold have largely created the lockstep-style system.
A lack of diversity breeds lack of perspective—a root cause to many problems currently plaguing the industry. Viewpoint variety may be highly valued within advertising’s boardroom theory, but non-diverse contributions to the creative cause painfully limits thinking to inside the box, exclusively.
In light of traditional practice, much of advertising’s workforce has historically functioned on the notion of group think. A disillusioned means of single-sided assessment, the theory is a classic cop out to difficult decision making.
When group think takes the wheel, people grow falsely confident they know how to deal. Reaching consensus through strategically minimized conflict, the psychological concept can be a quick fix, but few consider the long-term repercussions.
Limiting people means limiting ideas, therefore limiting creative innovation and the chance to reach as many mixed-minded audiences as possible.
Evolving into one of the industry’s hottest buzzwords, true diversity often becomes a matter of process versus progress. Since the advertising sector is largely self-regulated, trade groups like the American Advertising Federation have carefully crafted ethical guidelines and principles to help steer a prosperous path. The standards of course sound good on paper, but for some the buck stops there.
“We’ve acknowledged these ethical concepts, so our responsible duty is done! Right?”
Wrong. These principles hold little value unless professionals act upon them. If practitioners want to accurately represent the publics they supposedly serve and value, internal incorporation of diverse perspectives is the most effective way.
Discussion only goes so far; culture has kick started the “conversation.”
Now is the time to simply do.
Interestingly enough, some traditional brands are leading the progress charge. We all remember the notorious ads by Cheerios (an almost 75-year-old brand) that received major backlash from featuring a mixed-race family. Taking a step further, Honey Maid (almost 90 years old itself) last year debuted its own commercial subtly starring a same-sex male couple bottle-feeding their baby and a tattoo-laden dad with his daughter, in addition to a multi-racial family.
Embracing the changing times, these iconic brands have a unique opportunity to lead by example as they capitalize upon new normals in a genuine and tasteful fashion.
Once-upon-a-time minorities are becoming the new majority as culture naturally moves toward greater acceptance of varying ideas and lifestyles. As dominating generations change, so do vital interests and motivations held by those that have come before them.
Tradition-minded audiences may see “progressive” ad moves as nothing more than shallow attempts to gain “cultural cred;” however, it’s merely a matter of logic. As up-and-coming publics hone their own values and consumptive quirks, the trade’s strategic focus should accordingly shift as well.
Acknowledging advertising’s diversity deficit is critical, but only the industry can break itself free.
Authenticity is key, so strive to thrive outside the box.
(Featured image via Jezebel.com)