The obsession with the world’s youth is often mind-boggling, but more puzzling is the lack of positive representation of BAME in media and advertising.

Young people continue to be the focus in most consumer briefs, yet it is only in the last few years that better representation of cultures has become apparent. adidas’ This is Home and Tesco’s Food Love Stories are examples of campaigns which better reflect stories of a once overlooked community.

Responsibilities in influence

Marketing and advertising is a point of influence in culture and with that comes a responsibility to the people we market to, and the brands we consult. We pride ourselves on the breadth of research we can draw from and the depth of insights they unearth, but it will take a lot more effort to combat some of the structural and cultural systems that can often lead us to insular conclusions.

Black History Month is a point in the year that brings our responsibilities as communications specialists to the fore. It puts a reminder in our diaries that the history of the African diaspora is a huge part of youth culture in the UK today along with the wider community of black, Asian and ethnic minorities.

We know there is a lack of diversity and inclusion in the comms industry and that almost every agency and brand will say that they are pro- equality and change, but we need to remind ourselves of what it means and why it matters.


Change should mean something

The right words in a company address or a considered selection of stock images for a presentation are great, but we need to better understand how to represent different identities on a cultural level, and back this up with actions. When researching young audiences, do you know what backgrounds make up your data set? Have you been to different parts of the country or boroughs in London to speak to them in person? We often rely on the easy or obvious fixes and given the teams we work in, often have a younger demographic to call in for ‘insight’, but this will never be representative. We simply need to work harder when we build strategies. The identities of different cultures have previously struggled to come through in our communications in positive way, and instead get picked up by the media in only a damning light.

56 Black Men was one of those campaigns that didn’t skirt around the problem but showed how the negative perceptions of black men contribute to the systemic disparities that young people face, who in turn think they have no chance of aspiring to anything else.


Identity in the media

Growing up, we make attempts to understand who we are and where we belong, so our identity can be confusing, and the way it is shaped is in part determined by environmental influences.

As Gen Zs continue to be a priority segment of our marketing, the better we are at showing different and types of backgrounds in the media in a positive way, the better chance young people will have of seeing their trajectory change. I don’t think I even need to spell out the return on the brand, but you only need to look at the likes of sporting giants like adidas, IVY PARK and Nike to see what happens when you represent those who haven’t been before.

Beauty and fashion brands are also rectifying the representation of BAME women in their products and advertising. The launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand brought 40 foundation shades to the market which raised the bar for other beauty brands.

Publishers are also making changes in the way they feature different backgrounds of their readership. Dazed Media is changing what previous ‘ideals’ look like and aim to inspire and shape culture that more accurately represents reality. Dazed’s Priya Matadeen joined us at H+K’s Creativity+ Opportunity this month and spoke about Dazed 100 which is a list of the hundred most influential people shaping youth culture. It’s published each year and ranked by its readers. Her point-of-view is, “media at is best is good at being at the forefront of not just reflecting but shaping culture”.

If we want to communicate better with young millennials and Gen Zers and truly reach them, we need to understand them all. And if we find ourselves falling into stereotypes we should do more that carefully avoid them, but challenge ourselves to tackle them. We enjoy and benefit from living in a multicultural society so let’s bring this culture into our creativity.