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The positive impact of showcasing black stories in advertising
Diversity & portrayal in advertisingCreativity & research
Advertising that features black characters and positive, joyful black culture creates a very large uplift in effectiveness, according to new ad testing conducted by System1 to mark Black History Month in the UK.
Why it matters
When people see their life or culture represented on screen, it resonates more powerfully and emotionally. The research (part of the Feeling Seen report series) also demonstrates that, to a point, advertising that strongly appeals to a minority group will usually appeal to the general population, proving there’s no downside to making inclusive work.
System1 looked at six examples of black representation in advertising and concluded that all ads saw a large uplift in effectiveness (as measured by its Star Ratings and Spike Ratings) when tested with a black British sample. But it also observed that there may be a point at which diverse advertising stops uniting audiences and offered some suggestions as to why that could be:
While advertisers have long used black music, this has often been music released two or more decades before, rich in association and recall. Ads with, for example, a modern RNB or grime soundtrack may not resonate as effectively with the general audience.
The testing indicated that black audiences regularly notice more right-brained elements – especially hummable tunes and familiar locations – and are more likely to pick emotional rather than functional key associations. So advertisers should emphasise elements, such as characters and stories unfolding, which aren’t so culturally determined and which may then have the same impact on general audiences.
Creating work with generally broad appeal is more effective than creating work that targets smaller populations. (Different audiences don’t necessarily need different advertising – they just need to feel seen within varied elements of the advertising.) So advertisers are better making minor creative shifts rather than entirely new work, to avoid losing reach or resonance.