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The Drum

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world – its advertising must reflect that

Following on from 'London is Open', 'The Women We See' competition wants marketers to better reflect women in the capital

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. I want women and girls from all backgrounds to feel empowered and valued when travelling around our great city.

That’s why, as part of the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, City Hall and Transport for London (TfL) is launching a competition, inviting brands to create campaigns that increase diversity and challenge the representation of women in ads.

And we want to work with you – the industry – to ensure that women at the heart of our city’s success get the representation they deserve.

For the first time ever, this contest gives brands the opportunity to win £500,000 worth of prominent advertising space across the TfL network – one of the biggest advertising estates in the world, seen by millions of people travelling on TfL’s network every day.

The winner will see their campaign unveiled across TfL's tube and bus network in 2019, ensuring people across the city see this innovative and positive new work. What's more, shortlisted campaigns will also get the chance to receive a prize worth £50,000 in digital advertising.

We're launching our competition following the results of new research from University College London, commissioned by City Hall, which revealed Londoners don’t feel the women they see in ads are representative of women who live and work in the capital.

The researchers from UCL spoke to women and girls out and about in London, and asked them what they thought about the adverts they see in public places, and how the adverts made them feel.

It’s critical we respond to the concerns of Londoners on this – it’s not like you can turn the page if you don’t like what you see. These are images reflected back at Londoners as they go about their day-to-day lives – communing to work or school – and seen by people from all walks of life.

Findings from the new report, ‘The Women We See’, showed that 75% of Londoners feel that adverts should reflect the diversity of the city’s population, yet fewer than one in four think adverts are culturally diverse.

Women over the age of 55 and members of the LGBT+ community were among those that highlighted that they felt ignored or overlooked by the adverts they currently see around the capital. People also said they felt advertising was aimed at able-bodied people, with just 18% of people able to recall ever seeing an advert featuring a disabled person.

At City Hall, alongside TfL, we have a unique role to play in ensuring that the adverts across the TfL network play a positive role in the lives of Londoners.

The report showed that advertising across London transport was rated the most positively compared to other channels in terms of the quality, diversity and portrayal of different audiences.

But we want to go further: we want the ads across our transport network to be a shining example of how brands can create campaigns that are both inclusive and good for business.

That is why I'm calling on the whole industry to come together, and show how it can be done.

The competition is now open for entries – and I can’t wait to see the brilliant examples and ideas brands share with us.

Heidi Alexander is London's deputy mayor for transport. She tweets @Heidi_LDN