When you think about certain jobs — doctor, CEO/CFO, bus driver, housekeeper, lawyer, HR executive, etc. — I can almost guarantee that a certain type of person of a given race or
gender pops into your head.
While as advertisers we try to reflect society, broad generalizations and traditional assignments of these roles in advertising do
something detrimental to society, and more importantly to our youth. They create predetermined conceptions about certain lifestyles and societal roles.
If you’re a BIPOC teenager or young adult growing up in a low-income household, you may not be surrounded by people who are in high-income earning careers or high-powered positions,
so you don’t have the exposure to be inspired to aspire to go down some of these career paths. Then turn on a TV or scroll through social media and you’ll probably find yourself in a
situation where your subconscious or conscious beliefs on what certain attainable “successful” roles look has also been skewed.
to a 2019 study from Adobe, only 26% of African-Americans, 10% of Hispanics and 3% of
Asians feel represented in advertising, compared to 59% of whites.
So what can we as advertisers do to flip the script of gender and race bias in ads? Well,
I’ve got some ideas.
Support, mentor, and educate youth
I’ve experienced firsthand how exposure and
access to opportunities can have a profound effect on people in different communities. I was born and raised by Dominican immigrants in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, and my
parents always stressed the importance of education. As a result of our family focus on advanced education from a young age, I earned a scholarship to a private school that gave me exceptional
Being immersed in this culture — of high-level academics, but also of extreme privilege — allowed me to see the abundance of opportunities
available, and also that these opportunities were attainable for me. I went on to earn an academic scholarship to Brown University, which ultimately led to my roles at renowned agencies like Young
& Rubicam, BBDO, VaynerMedia, and now Mustache.
The environment you grow up in sets the tone for your personal and professional aspirations. To ensure
that kids of various socioeconomic backgrounds aren’t limited to certain beliefs about themselves and their futures, we need to do better in terms of showing them what is possible for
I’ve been a dedicated participant in mentorship programs at various public schools in NYC. I make it a priority to expose young kids to the
professions that are out there. Not many kids in these communities realize they can become an architect, work in advertising, or produce television shows.
Planting the seed in these
kids’ minds about careers they can aspire to have, and that people who look like them have excelled at these careers, is an important step to empowering minority youth.
Emphasize hiring a more diverse staff to get to more diverse ads
Advertising needs to help change stereotypes, not spread
them, and help open up possibilities, not close doors. In order to do that, advertising needs more diversity in both the workplace and in the content that is created.
It is likely that
we won’t be able to have diversity reflected in the content we create until we have more Black people and minorities working in our industry.
employ people of all backgrounds, the work that is produced isn’t tone-deaf, is truly relevant to multiple audiences, and champions diversity and inclusivity. Diversity in the advertising world
is directly connected to business growth and success.
A brand’s diversity, or lack of it, impacts consumer perception of their products or services. Some may even stop
supporting a brand whose advertising doesn’t reflect their identity.
It’s crucial to show people of color in your advertisements and campaigns
One of the ways our culture systemically oppresses people of color is by not casting them in certain roles.
For example, if CEOs are almost always depicted as white
males, we implicitly associate this position of power and importance with white males.
As an industry, I think we have a duty to understand how what we represent in media affects perceptions
of reality that may ultimately be problematic. We must use the power at our fingertips to reflect a better perception of reality.
Be a pioneer on changing
It’s important to mention that it’s not in the hands of BIPOC leadership and employees to solely make the change. It’s up to the
entire leadership staff at the company to recognize and proactively implement diversity initiatives.
I’ve always been motivated to be a Black
leader in the advertising space and create better representation in the field. So I’m comfortable initiating the tough conversations and advising my colleagues on how we can do
Again, for me, it all starts with better representation within the advertising industry to get to better representation within ads.
It may be
uncomfortable at first and could seem odd or arbitrary to focus on societal roles in ads, but advertisers and specifically the brands they represent need to stop doing what they’ve always done
— reinforcing implicit and explicit biases — and start to lead by example instead.
While we work on hiring and empowering more BIPOC employees, there is no
time, and honestly no reason, to overcomplicate the process of diversifying ads.
Plain and simple, we have to mix it up and shake up the perceived societal norms. The quickest and most
effective way to see immediate change is to start casting BIPOC for lead roles in advertisements.
has been a wide spectrum of action over the last few weeks, some of it performative and some of it comprehensive. Many brands and agencies are making statements about taking action, and I challenge
them to earnestly carry through and make substantive changes.
In my opinion, the advertising industry has some work to do when it comes to who is being
exposed to opportunities and hired, who is being empowered, and who is being represented in ads.
Consumers will be actively demanding and scrutinizing diversity now more than ever, and
it’s up to us to deliver, advocate, and bring about change going forward.