Channel 4 Diversity In Advertising Award returns to tackle ageism

This year the annual prize fund has increased to £1.1m, including a bespoke social media campaign.

Replens MD: Brand won TfL's diversity award this year
Replens MD: Brand won TfL's diversity award this year

Channel 4 has launched its annual Diversity in Advertising award – and this year it is challenging the ad industry to address ageism. 

The brief calls for brands to modernise their representation of all age groups from young to old in a non-stereotypical way, while also demonstrating intersectionality of age with gender, sexuality, disability or ethnicity. 

It comes as research commissioned by the channel found TV ads in the UK to be focused primarily on younger individuals, with only 29% featuring characters over the age of 50. Of those, only 12% are cast in lead roles. 

It also found that age representation differed between genders. Male characters are more likely to be older, while women are younger and often used for brand building. Older women, meanwhile, feel they are more likely to be portrayed in a stereotypical way.

The Advertising Association’s recent All In census also revealed a disparity in the ages of those who work in the UK advertising industry, with minimal representation of those over 55.

The winning campaign will be awarded £1m of Channel 4 commercial advertising time, boosted by an additional £100,000 bespoke social media campaign, created by the broadcaster’s in-house digital content team 4Studio, delivered via its Facebook, Instagram and YouTube Channels. 

Veriça Djurdjevic, Channel 4’s chief revenue officer and chair of judges, said: “Channel 4 has helped force the pace of change to improve authentic representation in TV advertising right across the diversity spectrum with this award. But we know from research that different age groups and diverse communities still don’t feel accurately represented in TV ads so there’s more work to do to encourage the industry to deliver inclusive advertising campaigns to our screens.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how the best creative teams in the industry respond to this year’s brief, helping more brands realise the creative and commercial benefits of embracing authentic portrayal of underrepresented groups in British society, and follow the success of our previous winners.”

This year, Transport for London hosted a similar competition, which also tackled ageism. The contest was open to ad campaigns that provided a more authentic portrayal of people aged 55 and over than the usual stereotypes.

The Replens campaign, created by The Gate London and called “Sex never gets old”, earned the Church & Dwight-owned vaginal-dryness moisturiser brand the top prize of £500,000-worth of free advertising space across the TfL network.

Channel 4 has run diversity campaigns since 2016 and has awarded £5m worth of commercial airtime to date. Recent winners Starbucks (2019) and EA Sports (2020) have received worldwide critical acclaim for their authentic portrayals of diverse communities, including a Cannes Lions earlier this year for Iris and Starbucks.

This year, the judging panel will select five runners-up, which Channel 4 will offer up to £250,000 of match-funded commercial airtime, making the total value of the prize pot £2.35m. 

Previous winning campaigns have focused on disability (Maltesers), mental health (Lloyds Bank), the portrayal of women in the media (RAF), the lack of representation and stereotyping of the LGBT+ community (Starbucks), and black, Asian and minority ethnic culture (EA Sports).

Competition entries must be submitted by 4pm on 26 August. The winner and runners-up will be announced in October, with the campaign airing on Channel 4 in early 2022.

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