Let's talk about bias

Let's talk about bias

3 minute read

How do you overcome the inherent bias that we all bring to the table? Diageo and Unilever share some views on how to get the 3Ps of progressive representation right: presence, personality, perspective

Article details

  • Senior Communications Manager
1 October 2019

Research shows that consumers feel advertising does not reflect the world around them. A study conducted by IPSOS in 2018 found that two thirds don’t see themselves, their community of friends, family and acquaintances represented accurately in most advertising.

And only 44% believe that, in recent years, more ads feature people who look like people they know.

It seems bizarre that in the era of Viva la Vulva, Find Your Magic, IKEA ThisAbles or The Talk, of the Unstereotype Alliance, #SeeHer and #HeForShe, brands are still seen as out of sync with the world that they’re meant to serve – and delight? Especially when we all know that progressive content drives better engagement and is good for the bottom line.

Everyone in the industry agrees that we have a job to do in ensuring that women, and ultimately all people – irrespective of race, ethnicity, physical ability, age or sexual preference – are more progressively represented in our communications.

But the reality is that despite all the great talks, award-winning campaigns and inspiring commitments, it is often hard to overcome the inherent biases we all bring to the table. A Harvard study found more than three quarters of people are gender-biased, both men and women. It is these biases that lead us to use stereotypes, often without even recognising we are doing so.

So how do we mitigate bias?

Diageo and Unilever believe it is important to use a rigorous framework as a litmus test at every step of developing an ad: from briefing to the selection of the creative team, to casting, pre- and post-production.

The two companies worked together on developing a creative framework that teams can use to ensure that gender is reflected in a progressive way across the board, looking at characters from the prism of presence, personality and perspective.

They recently presented their approach in a WFA webinar, sharing some of the dos and don’ts using live cases and examples of ads demonstrating where their companies got things right as well as talking candidly about where things could have been better.

The 3Ps of Progressive Representation: Presence, Personality, Perspective

Presence is perhaps the most straightforward and easily measurable of the three. It is all about who is being featured in the communication. It’s still the case that many kinds of women and men tend not to be shown in communications at all. To see your own image entirely erased from the culture that surrounds you is deeply disempowering.

Some steps to get presence right:

    • Feature men and women that are authentic to your market;
    • Ensure they are recognisable as people you know and the consumers you serve; and
    • Think beyond gender to age, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, neurodiversity.

 Perspective is about who is framing the story, who seems to be directing the action. It’s not enough to simply feature a diverse cast in your creative – people need to see their own perspective.

 Personality is all about the depth of the character. It is all about showing characters with three-dimensional personalities that feel authentic:

    • Characters that are funny, caring, strong, thoughtful and respected;
    • Women owning their own behaviour and taking control of their lives;
    • Personalities that are complex and layered; and
    • Using beauty as a way to show personality rather than as a way to suggest at physical attraction

Watch their webinar and try look at your brand's own ads through that prism. What would you change?

Article details

  • Senior Communications Manager
1 October 2019