A picture is worth a thousand words. But what if the words being inputted to find the picture are beset by implicit biases and outdated stereotypes, holding the advertising industry back from portraying an accurate image of the world we live in today, in all its diversity?
Advertising can be a powerful force for good; it influences so much of what consumers consume and showcases everyday life through a visual lens. But are advertisers alienating pockets of society by not considering their diverse perspective on what the world looks like?
Inspired by a recent roundtable discussion looking at how brands can help challenge biases by changing their metadata and searchable keywords, The Drum in partnership with Shutterstock sought to delve deeper into the topic of inclusivity in search to come up with seven actionable steps to help brands and agencies become more inclusive with search.
Featuring brand interviews with Cassie Begalle, strategy and innovation brand manager, U by Kotex for Kimberly-Clark; Claudia Gebhardt, head of global marketing communication at Zalando; Mordecai, head of innovation + partnerships, Innocean Worldwide Americas (Hyundai Motor Group); Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard as well as Kristen Sanger, senior director, contributor marketing at Shutterstock, the whitepaper seeks to provide a broad industry view on what can be done to improve inclusivity in search and how it is being addressed across a range of industries.
Under this overarching theme, the whitepaper includes industry insights and best practice examples highlighting how, when the advertising and marketing industry comes together and uses its collective power as a force for good, real change can become a reality when it comes to breaking down stereotypes and reshaping an entire world view.
One of the key takeaways from the whitepaper is that to build more diversity and inclusivity into our technology systems, we first need to acknowledge our own implicit biases. After all, algorithms do what they are taught; and unfortunately, some are taught prejudices and unethical biases by societal patterns enforced by humans.
“We need to ensure that the inputs for AI are diverse because we’re essentially training computers in this world and need to make sure the education of those systems are done from diverse perspectives,” said Kristen Sanger from Shutterstock. “Making sure that we’ve got varied humans from all demographics, races, ages, gender identities, education levels, and socio-economic backgrounds is key to making sure that the inputs are representative, diverse and varied.”
Below are some of the key steps from the whitepaper for addressing biases in search:
Acknowledge your own implicit biases
Ensure that your business is acknowledging its own implicit biases: is it all inclusive? Are diverse people leading these conversations? Unstrip and understand the biases in your brands and build them up from the right foundation to drive this new way of thinking.
Create dialogue with your customers
Stop relying on assumptions about who they are and what they want and consider their perspective on what the world looks like. Let them guide your creative decisions and build tech in an agile way to be able to continually adapt and improve based on that.
Help normalise diverse content
If we all start choosing, searching and using more diverse and representative content in advertising and across all aspects of our business, and reviewing keyword blocklists to ensure they are inclusive, that will help make it more popular and, therefore, normalise it.