Channel 4 is dedicating its entire ad space today (10 September) to ads featuring either a black lead or majority black cast as part of its Black to Front project, which also gives over the day’s programming schedule to black talent.
The broadcaster has signed up more than 60 brands, which will run 70 separate campaigns across 55 linear ad breaks, as well as breaks during dedicated content on All 4. In addition, every sponsorship brand partner that is on-air on the day has reviewed or updated its ident creative to ensure it aligns with the day’s ambition.
Alongside this, Direct Line, HSBC and Tesco are taking part in “The joy of black”, an ad break takeover that will premiere during the first break of Celebrity Gogglebox after 9pm. It comprises three 30-second films featuring black employees from the three brands sharing what brings them joy, bookended by a branded intro and outro. “The joy of black” was created by a crew that was more than 60% black.
Commenting on this initiative, Raj Morjaria, diversity and inclusion lead at Direct Line, said: “Far too often, the lived experiences of black people are presented though a lens of trauma. 'The joy of black’ ad-break takeover presents a different perspective – and we’re incredibly proud to be part of that.”
Another strand of the commercial activity is “LinkedIn conversations for change”, a “collection lounge” sponsored by the professional network featuring a range of black stories from the Channel 4 archive.
Programming featured during the day includes Highlife, a new branded content series in partnership with Google Pixel.
To ensure the Black to Front project leaves a lasting legacy for advertising, 4Sales has committed to an annual diversity audit of UK TV advertising, which aims to explore diversity and inclusion within advertising and track progress over time.
Channel 4 is also offering placements to young black creatives and creating an “opportunity fund” to help those seeking to break into the creative side of advertising.
Veriça Djurdjevic, chief revenue officer at Channel 4, said: “At Channel 4 not only are we committed to reflecting the cultural diversity of Britain in our editorial content, but also in our commercial airtime.
“We have seen an incredibly strong appetite from brands and agencies to work with us on this ambitious project to help us achieve Channel 4’s biggest cultural intervention ever. We hope that many of these spots will run beyond this day and herald a step-change in behaviour and a commitment to a lasting legacy for better representation in the TV advertising industry.”
Despite the project’s admirable aims, it has come in for some criticism. Tanya Joseph, managing director of Hill & Knowlton Strategies and former director, business partnerships at Sport England, wrote: “As someone who calls repeatedly for greater representation, you’d think I would be delighted, but I am not.
“Yes, it is a good thing that the need to support and nurture talent from a wide range of backgrounds is being highlighted, however I am deeply uncomfortable about the execution. It feels incredibly tokenistic and I fear that, while it will provoke a bit of a conversation (and, let’s be honest, some racist abuse), there will be no lasting impact. Call me cynical but I just don’t see how an all-black episode of Celebrity Googlebox or Hollyoaks or a series of ads especially made for the day are going to make a blind bit of difference.”
Comedian London Hughes, meanwhile, shared her sentiment, while also pointing out that Channel 4 is opting to show US film Moonlight rather than a film from a black British cast or crew.
Black hosts presenting one off versions of White British shows, one all Black episode of Hollyoaks, re-runs of Desmonds, re-runs of the US sitcom Black-ish, *Coloured* Come dine with me …Andd the US movie Moonlight?!!— London Hughes (@TheLondonHughes) September 8, 2021
This is the best use of Black British talent?? https://t.co/fm7f6tCFCl