At its heart, advertising is about people, and as such, it must reflect, honor, and include the beauty and diversity of the world around us. It’s what people expect – they want brands to be socially responsible, morally ethical, and altogether trustworthy.

This is not new news, but it has never been more important than it is right now. There is a global chorus of voices moving us toward a world where everyone is accepted and respected for who they are – regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or abilities. Advertising can provide the steady drumbeat.

As our research finds, one of the most important reasons to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in advertising is the role that advertising plays in shaping modern society and addressing social issues. It’s a reflection of who we are, but perhaps more importantly who we want to become.

When we think of DEI in advertising, we often think of the creative, no doubt a critical part of the equation. But if we are truly going to change the industry we love, we need to look at DEI in all aspects of our advertising. We must ask ourselves, are we:

  • Minimizing inherent bias in data and systems?
  • Distributing our media spend in a way that includes traditionally under-represented groups?
  • Respecting people’s privacy and preferences?
  • Delivering meaningful and relevant marketing messages?
  • Being intentional in our inclusion so we avoid exclusion?

As you’ll see in the research, a successful, holistic approach to DEI includes asking all these questions. And it’s not something owned by one part of the organization; it is a function and responsibility that is distributed throughout the entire advertising process, including creative, marketing strategy, media planning and buying, and even our internal organizational support structures.

The best marketing and advertising creates great customer experiences and delivers an even value exchange for the money and time people spend with brands. It’s respectful to people, while at the same time performing for brands. It’s balanced. Have we as industry arrived? Absolutely not, but I am pleased to see that we are headed in the right direction.

We were humbled to undertake this research, to truly understand what is and isn’t working, and where we can improve. To talk openly and honestly about the fear of getting it wrong, but the beauty of getting it right. DEI in advertising takes focus and commitment at all levels – from brands to agencies, from leadership to the front lines. It takes willingness to question the status quo. It takes willingness to analyze the results – to understand what is and is not working. And most importantly,
it takes willingness to continue to adapt.

As the founders of conscious marketing movement, it’s what we believe all brands must demand of their advertising and their advertising partners – marketing that is relevant and respectful to people while still delivering for brands.