Representation of Asians in advertising images still lacking

More needs to be done to capture and represent Asian culture in advertising images, with consumers expecting companies to do a better job of capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures, according to a study from Getty Images and YouGov.

The research found that seeing people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances represented in advertising isn’t enough for 84% of consumers across Asia Pacific (APAC). In Southeast Asia (SEA), that percentage goes up to 88%.

The research, via creative insights platform Visual GPS, showed that APAC consumers appear more acutely conscious of this bias than the global average of 79% who agreed with the above finding. The belief held strongly across all generations: Gen Z (77%), millennials (80%), Gen X (79%) and Baby Boomers (79%).

In addition, women consumers in APAC feel poorly represented. For example, Australian customer search data on Getty Images shows searches decreasing year on year for ‘diversity’ (down 15%), ‘culture’ (down 46%) and ‘inclusion’ (down 21%). This is compared to global search data, which revealed an increase for ‘diversity’ (up 133%), ‘culture’ (up 115%) and ‘inclusion’ (up 126%).

The research also found that most people in APAC encounter some bias in their lives, with 59% feeling they have been discriminated against based on body shape, lifestyle choices, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identification. Notably, this sentiment is more common among Gen Z (73%) respondents in APAC, while a drilldown to SEA markets showed 68% of respondents had been discriminated against.

“The key takeaway for brands should be that authentically diverse representation in their advertising and marketing is not only socially imperative, but it is ultimately good for their bottom line,” Petra O’Halloran, creative research project manager at Getty Images told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “Seven in 10 women don’t feel represented in media and advertising, only 15% of advertisements featuring people of colour were culturally represented by more than their skin colour, and less than 1% of ads represented people with disabilities, despite the fact that one in four adults lives with a disability.”

The study also highlighted search trends on Getty Images from Southeast Asian markets:

  • Before and during the pandemic, search increases around ‘diversity’ went up 375%, ‘Asian Business Woman’ went up 269% and in Thailand, ‘LGBT’ went up by 230%.
  • Searches for ‘working from home’ went up 4200%, ‘online shopping’ 981% and ‘online learning’ 1500%. ‘Telecommuting’ as well as ‘virtual meeting’ were other new significant search terms across SEA.
  • Words like ‘Together’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Wellness’ increased by 1500%, 900% and 235%, respectively since lockdown, as well as searches for ‘Home Workout’ and ‘Positive Thinking’, reflecting the role plays in the region and how people are looking to visualise the concept.

“As we can see from the Visual GPS report, being relatable is a key focus for consumers. People in South East Asia want to see the diversity of all kinds and expect brands to capture their true lifestyles and cultures,” Kate Rourke, head of creative insights for APAC at Getty Images told The Drum.

The study found that 85% of people in SEA see themselves as eco-friendly, almost three-quarters (70%) stated they prioritise convenience over the environment, significantly higher than their global counterparts at 46% Additionally, eight in 10 people in SEA want to know what goes on behind the scenes when a product is being produced.

“Being transparent in your brand communication is something consumers value highly key. One way of doing this is by bringing your customers on your brand journey… Pulling back the curtain and allowing your customers to visualise how your business runs will create greater engagement and trust,” added Rourke.

The Getty Images’ Visual GPS report, together with YouGov, surveyed more than 10,000 consumers and professionals in 26 countries globally and identified the four key forces in 2020 which are driving purchasing decisions: sustainability, technology, realness and wellness.

Sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific, The Drum

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