Sebastian Parker
Sebastian Parker
A view from Sebastian Parker

The next opportunity: let’s build in DEI as a game-changer for trust in advertising

How can we expect young people, the most distrusting of advertising, to think differently about us? The data is staring us in the face. DEI is the key to building back 'trust'.

Last Wednesday, the Trust Summit 2021, led by The Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA, addressed the prevailing issues surrounding public trust in advertising.

One crucial question lay at the heart of the discussion: "What next?"

There was one clear answer, which appeared in the research and on stage from various perspectives: we heard it from Keith Weed, president of the Advertising Association, Lynne Deason, head of creative excellence at Kantar and, more importantly, the "Voices of Britain": the answer is diversity, equity and inclusion.

The industry is already well under way with its progress on DEI. The "All In" census and action plan is moving ahead at a pace. At Creative Equals, we’re proud to be part of the Inclusion Hub with the AA, IPA and ISBA, so we know the work that is going on here. However, the opportunity is this: there is a chance to align the "behind the scenes" (All In) representation with the "front side" representation to expedite the change of public attitudes around trust: what’s on screen builds alignment with our audiences when people see "people like me". 

Diversity, equity and inclusion is the bedrock of building trust. Here’s why... 

On stage, we heard from industry leaders presenting compelling research into the public’s relationship with advertisers in our post-lockdown culture.

The Credos think-tank revealed a vast majority of the British public enjoys ads and wants to have confidence in them. However, many people, particularly millennials, have massive reservations in trusting advertising – key issues include bombardment, data privacy breaches, invasive advertising, ads targeting or affecting vulnerable groups and the perpetuation of unhealthy messages.

The four key solutions were not surprising: combat fraudulent advertising, reduce bombardment, increase creative excellence and advertise the work of sector body the Advertising Standards Authority (which has in itself tackled DEI in stereotyping as part of its mandate). Is there room for a fifth? 

Why DEI is a powerful opportunity

Seventy per cent of consumers are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in advertising. This came through as an undercurrent of the Credos research, the Kantar research and embedded in the creative work.

Walkers' "Crisps in or crisps out?" campaign's inclusive narratives had universal appeal and rocketed its social conversation. Boots' "Feel as good as new" spoke to this human truth through an all-inclusive business strategy (read Boots' Pete Markey on this here). 

Post the 2008 financial meltdown and NatWest's reputation with it, the way the bank had built back trust was clearly through inclusive behaviours (braille credit cards, longer opening hours, schools outreach) and representative creative executions. 

For 70% of millennials, DEI is at the heart of why they invest in a brand

Research has shown that diverse communications have a greater influence on consumer trust than creative work that continues to represent only the industry’s typical conventions: white, heterosexual, middle-class, able-bodied and slim.

A report by Accenture cites "70% of younger millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity in terms of its promotions and offers 66% in terms of their in-store experience and 68% in terms of their product range". 

Multi-ethnic heritage women are more likely to trust brands than they are the police

It has been reported that many marginalised groups are likely to have more trust in brands that represent them than in government and institutions that have proved to be unrepresentative.

A recent report from the Unstereotype Alliance, pulled out an uncomfortable truth: multi-ethnic heritage women in the UK are more likely to look to brands to tackle inequality (71%) and social justice (59%) than the police.   

What’s next? The data says it all – so do consumers

The question we have to ask ourselves is: how can we expect young people, who are the most distrusting of advertising and have a more critical approach to society and culture, to think differently about us? The inclusion of the diverse and authentic identities of their generation needs to be part of the plan for the future – and winning the "war" on talent. The data is staring us in the face. DEI is the key to building back "trust".

Sebastian Parker is insights researcher at Creative Equals