Creative platform Shutterstock has launched the results from its global diversity research, which point to increased awareness from marketers over the need to create diverse content, but also raise concerns over authenticity and restrictions on its creation.
The study itself examines how the events of the last year and half, including Covid-19 lockdowns, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Stop Anti-Asian Hate movement, Brexit and the wider political landscape have impacted how diversity is valued and prioritized by marketers in brand content decisions.
The right direction
To a certain extent the results reveal positive shifts in attitudes toward the need for diverse content, as well as the development of robust DE&I policies. Shutterstock’s findings point to the increased demand for diverse content worldwide, as the rise of awareness surrounding the Black Lives Matter and Stop Anti-Asian Hate movements last year drove brands to launch and develop existing anti-racism pledges.
63% of global marketers and 62% in the UK state these movements impacted content decisions over the last 12 months, and 65% agree racial and ethnic diversity is an important factor when targeting campaign audiences. Furthermore, 60% of UK marketers said they significantly consider the issue of colourism when selecting models and content for campaigns.
Meeckel Beecher, global head of DE&I at Shutterstock, says that these insights are heartening as “for many years now, marketers have been under necessary pressure to ensure their campaigns are representative of society, and it is extremely reassuring that 75% of marketers understand the importance of content that is created by the same audience it intends to reach.”
Concerns over authenticity
However, the research goes on to reveal that global brands are more focused on presenting their own ideology through their marketing decisions rather than representing the political landscape. In fact, 41% of global and 40% of UK marketers state they focus on their own company ideology, compared to just 32% of global and 30% of UK marketers who look to reflect the political landscape.
More than 25% of global marketers and a significantly higher 39% of UK marketers aim for their campaign creative to oppose the political landscape, demonstrating the increasing rise of brands making their own stand for social issues and establishing their own voice.
This raises questions over authenticity when depicting diversity in advertising. “In the content-hungry, fast-paced world that we live in, it is easy to get trapped in the cycle of constantly creating something because that is what we think we are expected to do,” says Beecher.
His advice is that “the next time a marketer sits down to develop a campaign storyboard, I urge them to ask themselves, is this reflective of our global community? And am I making these decisions for the right reasons? Who else can I collaborate with on this to ensure all perspectives are taken into account? The result will provide a far more effective campaign.”
Beecher also emphasizes that the past year and a half has presented “unavoidable barriers” for marketers creating diverse content, echoing the findings of the survey, which reveal that the demand placed on creative workers to produce diverse content has resulted in workers feeling pressured to disregard lockdown restrictions.
With borders closed and stay-at-home orders enacted in many places, 37% of global marketers and 34% of UK marketers claimed that their ability to source diverse content had been significantly impacted due to travel restrictions. The knock-on effect on content creation is clear: a quarter of marketers (25%) state they have been unable to localize content for individual markets, increasing to 29% in the UK. This has pushed more than one in six (17%) global marketers, and in the UK, to violate lockdown restrictions – risking health and legal implications – to continue to create diverse content.
Research has shown that Brexit has also negatively impacted the UK’s ability to source diverse content. The report reveals nearly half (48%) of UK marketers think the ability to hire diverse creative talent has been reduced because of Brexit. As a result, 48% of marketers are concerned leaving the EU has impacted the diversity of their marketing campaigns, with only 14% unconcerned. However, reassuringly marketers are trying to combat this; 39% stated that ensuring their campaigns represented all the cultures that make up modern British society to ensure authentic representation remains front of mind.
Beecher identifies that when it comes to creating truly diverse content, marketers will be best served by working closely alongside DE&I initiatives to ensure their attempts to represent diverse peoples in their campaigns are indeed ethical and fit for purpose.
“I started my role at Shutterstock earlier this year to help it continue to uphold and develop its values of diversity, inclusivity and representation, and keep them at the forefront of everything we do. This means that my role is to ensure a shared goal around our DE&I efforts and support the business to make better, more informed decisions.
“However, our study finds that globally, less than a third of head of DE&I roles are involved in wider marketing decisions, with 14% having no involvement at all. In the UK, even less (28%) have a voice in the marketing mix. For marketers, understanding the DE&I challenges and how to address them in campaigns is critical for both ethical and business reasons. Marketing materials are the external face of the business, and therefore it is imperative that they are created through a DE&I lens – always keeping in mind who is involved, who we represent and how.”