A Study of Advertising’s Ability to Reflect Our Time in the Years 2015-2020

The Geena Davis Institute partnered with Google Sweden on a comprehensive study exploring the strides and stumbles towards inclusive advertising in Sweden. This research, conducted with the support of Sveriges Annonsörer, Google Sweden, and the Geena Davis Institute, scrutinizes the portrayal of diversity within top Swedish advertising campaigns between 2015 and 2020.

Key Findings

  • Representation vs. Reality: While 25% of characters in evaluated campaigns were from ethnically diverse backgrounds, mirroring Sweden’s demographic, deeper analysis reveals a persistent skew towards stereotypical representations.
  • Stereotypes in the Spotlight: White characters disproportionately embody roles of intelligence, employment, and leadership, overshadowing their non-white counterparts.
  • Gender Disparities: Although gender representation is nearly equitable, sexist stereotypes have significantly decreased, dropping from 34% in 2018 to 3.8% in 2020.
  • Age and Body Diversity: The advertising industry falls short in representing older individuals and those with larger body types, often succumbing to ageist and body-specific stereotypes.

Moving Forward: Breaking Stereotypes

The study highlights both achievements and areas needing attention, urging the Swedish advertising sector to confront and rectify these disparities. It champions campaigns that defy stereotypes, like the Swedish Cancer Society’s authentic storytelling and H&M’s collaboration with style icon Iris Apfel, advocating for inclusive practices that encompass all ages and body sizes.

Discussion with Industry Leaders

Sara Mattsson and Pia Ghosh from Google’s Creative Works engage in a candid conversation with Madeline Di Nonno, President and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute, discussing the study’s implications and the road ahead for inclusive advertising.

Actionable Insights

  • For Advertisers: Evaluate your campaign narratives and character portrayals to ensure they reflect genuine diversity beyond surface-level representation.
  • For Marketers: Challenge traditional stereotypes within your campaigns. Aim for authenticity in storytelling that resonates with a broader audience.
  • For the Public: Support brands and campaigns that prioritize genuine representation and diversity, fostering a media landscape that reflects the true fabric of society.