Reaching the optimal balance between tone and authenticity in brand messaging may seem like an intimidating tightrope act when America’s eyes are glue on the actions of companies more so than ever before.
To steer advertisers in the right direction, the Association of National Advertisers’ SeeHer collective in collaboration with Getty Images launched a guide available exclusively to SeeHer members on how to incorporate inclusive imagery to achieve diversity in their messaging amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The guide, “Inclusive Visual Storytelling for Women,” encourages advertisers to consider a range of factors to diversify their visual messaging, detailing step-by-step suggestions and provoking reflective dialogue about the representation of gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, body type, ability, age and religion.
“A recent ANA survey revealed that more than 90% of respondents indicated they have adjusted their marketing messaging since mid-March, when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization,” said SeeHer president, Nadine Karp McHugh in a statement. “With so many marketers reviewing their advertising, this new guide will help remind them that gender and ethnic diversity needs to be included in their revised strategy and planning.”
SeeHer, the ANA’s movement made up of leading marketers committed to gender equality in advertising, marketing and entertainment, was founded in 2016 with the goal of reducing inauthentic portrayals by 20% by 2020. The group surpassed that goal in late 2018.
Despite the strides made to accurately portray women and girls in media, unconscious bias still persists throughout media, resulting in accurate depictions for only a small fraction of women.
Reducing bias now is more than critical than ever, as “studies show adverse impacts for women can be compounded during a global pandemic,” said Tristen Norman, senior manager of creative insights, Getty Images. “It’s time for the advertising and other creative industries to ask themselves tough questions about their visual choices and recognize their power in reshaping the narrative for women around the world.”
Recent research from Getty Images, a SeeHer member—and according to the visual media brand’s CEO Craig Peters a “passionate champion for the realistic representation of all through imagery—found that searches for “empowered woman” increased by 138%, “girl power” by 133%, “real people” by 115% and “inclusion” by 126% year-over-year from 2018 to 2019.
“While we’ve seen a positive shift in the popularity of imagery that realistically represents women, there’s a lot more to be done whether it is an internal document, a social media post or a global campaign,” Peters said in a statement.
Throughout the guide, the idea that authenticity is crucial to building trust, resonating with consumers and promoting greater social awareness is emphasized. It cites figures that support the claim that women are still feeling misrepresented in media. For instance, 44% of women indicated they saw themselves reflected in the women they see in the media in an Edelman Intelligence study in 2019.
The guide also notes that diverse messaging is more likely to occur when there is more diversity in the workplace. According to the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment in UCLA, if female writers are in the writers’ room then female character representation on screen is, on average, 50% higher. It also referenced a 2019 study by Deloitte Digital’s Heat agency that looked at ads for 50 brands from the top 200 media spenders and saw that those brands with the most representative ads saw a 44% growth in their stock over the previous two years.
ANA’s SeeHer has expanded its initial mission to have 80% of measured media bias-free by 2030.