Nearly half of Indian consumers want more diversity in ads, shows study

48% of Indians have expressed the need for more inclusive representation by brands, according to a UN-supported study on diversity and inclusion in the advertising sector

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The study was launched at DEI Edge Summit in Mumbai, with a focus on new insights on Indian advertising industry. (Representative)

Nisha Anand New Delhi

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Nearly half of Indian consumers are of the view that brands need to increase the visibility of marginalised groups in their ad campaigns, a study on understanding the scope of diversity and inclusion in the advertising sector has revealed. This comes in contrast with the consumers elsewhere, of whom about one-third support a similar stance, said the report, launched Thursday by the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women convened platform 'Unstereotype Alliance'.

"48 per cent of Indians expressed the need for more inclusive representation by brands as compared to 33 per cent of consumers across the world", the report noted.

Diversity in advertisements

The research scoured through all the new ads that aired in October 2023, as well as an extensive analysis of advertisements over the past few years, put together by Kantar, a global brand research partner. The study shed light on many factors, including the near absence of the non-binary community, persons with disabilities as well as elderly folks in advertisements.

While the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other non-binary genders (LGBTQIA+) were observed in fewer than 1 per cent of the ads, the data stood at about 1 per cent for persons with disabilities, suggesting a worrying exclusionary trend in the portrayal of these groups. It also found that only 4 per cent of Indian ads depicted people aged above 65 years.

For women, who make up half the world's population, their overtly visible presence in ads remained skewed stereotypically. The study showed that as many as 58 per cent of women were depicted in fair skin tone ads compared to only 25 per cent of men, indicating the underlying strong presence of patriarchal notions embedded in any society, including India, where women are not only subjected to unrealistic beauty standards but also conditioned to believe that their worth stems from it.

Similar other references rooted in gender bias were also observed in various ads. The study showed that "17.5 per cent of women were depicted as the sole caregivers versus 3.5 per cent of men". It also highlighted that male characters were shown "three times more authoritative than their female counterparts."

Hiring of younger women

Another prominent highlight of the study remained brands' emphasis on hiring younger women compared to men. "Women tended to be shown as younger, with 86 per cent of them between 20 and 39 years of age compared to 62 per cent of men," it said.

The study's findings align with the view of feminist critics who have long contended that advertising discourse heavily positions women in subordinate gender roles, negating their individuality.

The study was launched at DEI Edge Summit in Mumbai, with a focus on "new insights on Indian advertising's diversity and inclusion representation versus global practice in a bid to improve the trends of progressive advertising."

"There is no doubt that advertising shapes society…The opportunity to include diverse perspectives and stories is a powerful one, and the event showcases the immense benefits both brands and society can derive from such progressive inclusions," said Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI.

Meanwhile, Susan, Fergusan, Country Representative, UN Women, noted the objective of the study and insisted on the importance of media in fostering inclusive society. "....Over the past two years, the Unstereotype Alliance in India has united brands, organisations, and individuals who believe in the transformative influence of advertising…our efforts transcend campaigns; we strive to dismantle stereotypes, fostering a cultural shift that champions diversity and inclusion in the advertising industry," she said.

The study is based on 28 markets across the world, including India, China, Japan, the United States, and others. The results are based on inputs from over 36,000 consumers aged above 13 years in these markets.

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First Published: Dec 07 2023 | 4:34 PM IST

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