In today’s “politically correct” world, many advertisers want to include people of different backgrounds in advertising for products that reach across a variety of markets. The key is to make sure that the images are integrated into the ‘story-line’ of the ad, and to make sure they do not perpetuate stereotypes.
One ad that gets it right is the Kellogg’s television ad “Higher” for the kids snack product Gripz. Two kids at school are competing to see who can toss their Gripz snacks higher and still catch them in their mouth. The snacks go so high they pass the window of an airplane, and the pilot is African American. On top of that, he’s wearing a casual shirt, so, he’s a leisure pilot, all of which suggests intelligence, professional achievement and affluence-in that quick momentary shot.
If your product, audience, constituent base, etc. is multicultural, and you want to make sure you are reflecting the diversity you serve, here are some pointers to consider to do it effectively:
- At the end of the day, it’s still an ad to sell your product or communicate your message. For the Gripz ad, my 7 year old could recite the product by name after seeing the commercial once, and won’t stop asking now until I buy it-the focus is on the product and how fun it is to eat.
- Do the images in the ad relate to one another-is there interaction or parity? In this case, the pilot is part of the story-line. As a ‘bad example’ I’m reminded of an ad for Minute Maid Lemonade. There’s what looks to be blonde Caucasian woman in the front, an African-American man on a bike in the back, and a Hispanic man and his child playing in the middle. There is no interaction among them, and they seem to be set up in a hierarchy. It feels forced and distracts from the product message.
- Finally, be sure not to perpetuate stereotypes. “I’ve seen enough ‘know-it-all-black women bobbing their heads’ in ads to last me a lifetime,” says Michelle, a 30-something African-American colleague. The ‘all-knowing’ Confucius inspired Chinese man also has been big lately, to the point that Snapple’s new TV ad for White Tea is simply unoriginal, on top of relying on stereotypes.
Inside the U.S. people of different backgrounds do not live in silos, so intercultural marketing, where diverse people interact in ads targeting multiple audiences makes sense. Can you find the hidden stereotypes in ads that you see everyday? How might you mix things up to integrate diversity without perpetuating stereotypes? Maybe start by acknowledging the stereotype…and then set it aside.