Creative News Noteworthy

TFL diversity contest challenges brands to tackle ageism


By Imogen Watson | Senior reporter

October 8, 2020 | 4 min read

The brief for the third edition of Transport for London's (TfL) annual diversity competition focuses on ageism by challenging brands to make their campaigns more representative of mature consumers.

TFL/ City Hall

2019 saw Nubian Skin crowned the winner of TfL's annual diversity competiton

“We are responsible for one of the most valuable advertising estates in one of the most diverse cities in the world,” says Chris Macleod, director of customer and revenue at TfL. “This is why it is vital that we play our part in making sure campaigns are truly reflective of London’s diversity.”

What is the Diversity in Advertising Competition?

  • Now in its third year, TfL's Diversity in Advertising Competition was inspired by The Women We See report that showed how women and girls feel pressured to achieve a specific beauty standard as a result of the women they see in adverts around the city.

  • Hoping to combat this, the first year saw TfL challenged brands to authentically portray women in their ads. It was won by Holland and Barrett with its ‘Me.No.Pause’ campaign due to its positive presentation of women going through the menopause and commitment to reflecting the diversity of women in London.

  • The second installment asked brands to devise campaigns which addressed the “sometimes superficial” representation of the capital’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. In February, the progressive lingerie brand, Nubian Skin was crowned the winner. Challenging assumptions surrounding the word ‘nude’ in the fashion industry, it was chosen due to its bold and inclusive imagery which embraced a range of ages and body types as well as skin tones.

What is the brief this year?

  • For the third annual competition, Tfl has teamed up with City Hall and its advertising partners.

  • Aiming to tackle inauthentic and one-dimensional portrayals of older people within adverts, brands have been asked to come up with campaigns that better reflect older individuals.

  • The winner will receive advertising space worth £500,000, across the TfL network. The runners up will be invited to run a campaign on the network with match funding up to £50,000 each.

Why does this matter?

  • The UK has an ageing population. A 2016 Lloyds Banking study found in 2016 that while 65-year-olds make up 17.7% of the population, they only feature in 6.17% of ads.

  • It also uncovered that older people are typically shown as a wise, generous, engaged parent or grandparent in a nuclear family - a stereotype that can have a negative impact on older adults.

  • This was echoed in research from UCL in 2018 that found people over the age of 55 reported feeling 'invisible' and 'irrelevant.' Further, fewer than one in four respondents were able to recall seeing an ad that featured a person with wrinkles.

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