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C4 Diversity in Advertising Award returns to tackle ageism

Since 2016, Channel 4 has encouraged the UK advertising community to be more inclusive in their campaigns

Channel 4 has announced that its industry-leading annual Diversity in Advertising Award will return this year to challenge the advertising industry to address ageism – in particular, the inauthentic and sometimes clichéd portrayals of different age groups within UK advertising.

As the UK broadcaster with the youngest viewing demographic, Channel 4 hopes to encourage brands to modernize their representation of all age groups by depicting them in a non-stereotypical way – and also demonstrating intersectionality of age with gender, sexuality, disability or ethnicity.

Veriça Djurdjevic, Channel 4’s chief revenue officer and chair of judges, said of the announcement: “Channel 4 has helped force the pace of change to improve authentic representation in TV advertising right across the diversity spectrum with this award. But we know from research that different age groups and diverse communities still don’t feel accurately represented in TV ads, so there’s more work to do to encourage the industry to deliver inclusive advertising campaigns to our screens.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how the best creative teams in the industry respond to this year’s brief, helping more brands realize the creative and commercial benefits of embracing authentic portrayals of underrepresented groups in British society, and follow the success of our previous winners.”

What is the Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising Award?

  • Since 2016, Channel 4 has encouraged the UK advertising community to be more inclusive in their campaigns by awarding an annual £1m airtime prize – £5m worth of commercial airtime to date.

  • Recent winners Starbucks (2019) and EA Sports (2020) have received worldwide critical acclaim for their authentic portrayals of diverse communities, including a Cannes Lions earlier this year for Iris and Starbucks.

  • 2021’s winner was Fifa 21, which was applauded for its authentic depiction of British Asian football culture. The ad featured Premier League star and newly-signed EA Sports Fifa Ambassador Hamza Choudhury, and starred the Midnight Ramadan League – a grassroots football team set up to help those who struggle to play during their Ramadan fast, with matches kicking off after iftar and before suhoor.

  • Previous winning campaigns have focused on disability (Maltesers), mental health (Lloyds Bank), the portrayal of women in the media (RAF), the lack of representation and stereotyping of the LGBT+ community (Starbucks), and Black, Asian and minority ethnic culture (EA Sports).

Why ageism?

  • New research commissioned by Channel 4 found TV adverts in the UK to be primarily focused on younger characters. Older people are often left out, with 29% featuring characters over the age of 50 and only 12% of them cast in lead roles.

  • It also found that age representation differed between genders. Male characters are more likely to be older, while women are younger and often used for brand building. Older women meanwhile feel they are more likely to be portrayed in a stereotypical way.

  • The Advertising Association’s recent All In census also revealed a disparity in the ages of those who work in the UK advertising industry, with minimal representation of either those under 25 or over 55.

How will the winner be chosen?

  • This year, a diverse panel of expert judges will award the prize to the brand and agency considered to have pitched the strongest campaign idea.

  • The panel will select five runners up, who Channel 4 will offer up to £250,000 of match-funded commercial airtime, meaning the potential total prize pot for 2021 exceeds £2m.

  • Competition entries must be submitted by 4pm on August 26. The winner and runners up will be announced in October, with the campaign airing on Channel 4 in early 2022.

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