“So much work to be done”: Geena Davis Institute, CreativeX pinpoint adland’s diversity challenges

Geena Davis Institute clip art

The new partnership analyzed representation in image and video ads in the U.S. across popular CPG, beauty and alcohol brands.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and CreativeX will partner to help brands get a better understanding on diversity representation in advertising, the organizations said on Thursday.

The non-profit research organization founded by actress Geena Davis, which analyzes gender representation in media, will work with CreativeX, an AI-powered software, to accurately measure diversity in advertising creative. 

The partnership aims to encourage brands to produce more inclusive and representative content.

CreativeX will support the institute’s mission with its Representation technology, which measures diversity in creative work at scale. For every user of the Representation product, CreativeX will donate to support the institute’s ongoing research, education and outreach.

The partnership expands on a study CreativeX ran last year analyzing more than 3,500 image and video ads in the U.S. across popular CPG, beauty and alcohol brands for age, gender, skin tone and setting. 

The analysis found that although more than half (55%) of ads feature female characters, male characters were 1.5 times more likely to be shown in professional settings. 

Characters with light to medium skin tones were shown twice as often in professional environments. Characters with darker skin tones were featured roughly half as frequently as their lighter-skinned counterparts — 18% compared to 8%.

When it came to age, older characters were rarely featured. Only 1% of ads included people over 60, and of those, less than 2% were featured in physical settings (i.e. offices). Seventy-seven percent of ads featuring adults ages 25 to 59 also skewed younger. 

Advertisers are missing an opportunity: although Baby Boomers are rarely seen in ads, their generation controls 70% of the nation’s disposable income.

“Female characters are historically four to six times more sexualized and less depicted as leaders,” said Madeline Di Nonno, president and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “And marginalized communities, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, they're not even anywhere near the baseline population. There has been progress, but there's so much work to be done.”

The Geena Davis Institute and CreativeX believe brands must take responsibility for this lack of diversity in creative work and widen their representation of different people and environments.

“We really want to see every brand have a good understanding of where they stand today,” said Anastasia Leng, founder and CEO of CreativeX. “Every goal is going to be specific to where each company is. [Then they can] actually hold up these numbers in front of their team and be proud.”

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