Exploring the Value of Diversity & Inclusion in Advertising

Our how-to guide for brands and agencies highlights successful campaigns and tips for creating 5-Star ads

There is no lack of surface diversity in American advertising today. Commercials will often feature different races and ethnicities as a way of showing America as the great “melting pot” that pays no heed to color or creed.

But these days that might not be enough. Demographics are shifting and customers are holding brands accountable. Brands want, and need, to show a deeper level of understanding and inclusion of all their customers, telling unique stories that speak to culture, raise awareness and acknowledge issues, not camouflage them.

Advertising – one of the most basic brand/consumer interactions – is one way to demonstrate allyship, and yet advertising also serves a very basic purpose: grow the brand and sell more stuff.

Can it do both? Can effective advertising also have ‘purpose’?

Feeling Seen Feels Good

Yes, it can. We know that great advertising can put diversity and inclusion at the forefront and have a huge commercial impact, and we created a report around it to share when, why and how this happens.

Feeling Seen USA, is a detailed look at diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in advertising, and how it impacts effectiveness. The report tested nearly 60 ads with our Test Your Ad platform that showcase the experiences of typically underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Hispanics, women, and those who are 55 years and older. Our testing included brands from numerous categories, including fashion, personal care, food, technology, travel and more. In total, we ran more than 150 tests among over 18,000 respondents.

The results are fascinating. We found some ads that were loved across the board, and some that fell flat. We found a few which worked fine for the general population but didn’t ring true for diverse audiences. But overall, we found a broad base of support for and enjoyment of inclusive ads. And most importantly, we found ads which tested strongly with a national representative sample, and then even stronger among the group whose lives they featured. This “diversity dividend” – where a good ad becomes great amongst a featured group – is one of the biggest benefits of aiming for diversity and inclusion in advertising. The report spotlights the ads that achieve it and shows you how to get there yourself.

Getting Representation Right

Getting it right can feel daunting, especially when social media can amplify the most extreme voices out there and make the task of marketers feel impossible. But Feeling Seen USA found that high-quality diverse advertising actually performs better among the general population than the average U.S. ad. We learned that factors like music, characters, setting and dialogue are essential to driving emotion, which is one of the best predictors of ad effectiveness and brand growth. We also discovered that telling unique individual stories, rather than everyone’s story, created feelings of empathy, perhaps the most important element of all.

A great inclusive ad is a win-win. It will make people happy and stimulate long-term growth for your brand and business. Yes, mistakes may be made and there are traps to avoid. Testing is critical, as is working with diverse teams at every stage of the creative process who can provide meaningful input based on real-life experiences. But for the people who you help feel seen and be heard, it creates a diversity dividend and an extra boost in effectiveness.

Access all the findings from Feeling Seen USA so that your brand or agency can create effective diverse advertising that supports brand building.

Download Feeling Seen USA

Methodology

System1 tests ads on measures which predict long-term brand growth (Star Rating) and short-term sales growth (Spike Rating).

The Star Rating is the crucial one for long-term brand building. System1 has validated it using the independent IPA database and also against real sales data at a category level. Star Rating is based on emotional response to an ad – viewers are asked what they felt about it and how strongly. Ads that resonate strongly and create positive feelings score higher and will generate more growth for brands.

Each ad scores between 1-5 Stars. Across every ad that airs, only 1% score 5-Stars. The higher the Star Rating, the more the quality of the ad will amplify media spend on it. A 1-Star ad will have zero effect on brand growth, a 5-Star ad will have an exceptional impact (up to 3 points of market share gain, depending on investment).

Spike Rating is also based on emotional response – how intensely people react to the ad – but also on how quickly and strongly they recognise the brand an ad is for. Spike Rating predicts short term sales impact. For Spike Scores below 1, System1 predicts low or no short-term impact on sales from the ad. For Spike Scores above 1.33, System1 predicts exceptional short-term sales impact.

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