TfL challenges brands to portray London's BAME communities in ‘nuanced and authentic' way

40% of London’s population identifies as BAME

Transport for London (TfL) is offering up free ad space across its network for an ad that can successfully challenge the “sometimes superficial” representation of the capital’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

This year’s iteration of TfL’s diversity in advertising competition (which first launched in 2018 setting a brief for advertisers to better reflect women in the city) will challenge brands and their agencies to develop creative that markets their product while offering a “nuanced and authentic” portrayal of BAME people.

The winner will receive £500,000-worth of advertising space across the TfL network, which includes tubes, buses and out-of-home inventory from JCDecaux UK and Global.

The brief was set by TfL and the Mayor of London after insight from Lloyds revealed that although ethnic minority representation in advertising increased from 12% to 25% between 2015 and 2018, more than 60% of ads still feature only or majority white people.

40% of London’s population identifies as BAME. However, while there has been an improvement in the visibility of people from different backgrounds in ad campaigns from the likes of Nike and Sainsbury’s, representation has too often been stereotypical or tokenistic with 34% of black people in the UK telling Lloyds they felt “inaccurately” portrayed by brands.

Selma Nicholls, from Looks Like Me, a London-based talent and casting agency raising the profile of underrepresented groups, said it was critical that brands continued to represent society fairly so people from all backgrounds see advertising content that authentically represents them.

“It's time to celebrate our brilliant diverse city, create inclusive content that resonates with our audiences, so people from BAME communities can proudly say ‘this looks like me’,” she added.

The deputy Mayor of London for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, Debbie Weekes-Bernard, said: “Advertising is a powerful force but too often the images we are presented with provide very limited impressions of the people they portray.

“This competition provides a fantastic opportunity for brands to reject generic depictions of minority communities and tell stories that resonate with Londoners who currently may not feel properly represented.”

She added: “I hope it sparks further debate around diversity and representation in the sector and challenges advertisers to continue to make their industry truly inclusive.”

Last year, Holland and Barrett beat more than 90 brands to claim the top prize for its ‘Me.No.Pause’ campaign which sought to challenge misconceptions about the menopause as well as the underrepresentation of older women in the media.

Mothercare’s campaign celebrating new mothers’ un-retouched bodies took last year’s runner-up prize.

This year’s judging panel includes Chris Macleod, director of customer and revenue at TfL, Vanessa Kingori, publishing editor at British Vogue and Engine’s chief executive officer Ete Davies.

Entries close on 12 December, with the winner and up to two runners-up being announced in February 2020.

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