Black talent remains underrepresented in advertising industry

Dive Brief:

  • Black representation continues to be low in the advertising industry, the Association of National Advertisers said in a Feb. 15 report. Analysis of two ANA member data sets suggested African American and/or Black representation in advertising sits at 7.2%. This is compared to 12.05% of the U.S. population, ANA noted.
  • While gender diversity remained high, overall, ethnic diversity declined: from 32.3% to 30.8% year over year. This is on the heels of an increase from 27.6% in 2019 to 32.3% in 2022.
  • ANA analyzed its company membership data with several polls, including a board of directors survey and general membership survey. This made use of more than a thousand companies that shared gender and ethnicity information; overall, 27,572 people provided ANA with ethnic diversity information. The snapshot dates for the polls each year were between June and July.

Dive Insight:

Despite apparent warmth around and interest in diverse marketing campaigns, the strides for DEI may be more external than internal.

A different organization, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (also known as the 4A’s), noticed that ad industry leadership became less diverse on the heels of summer 2020’s racial reckoning. 

White-led ad agencies increased from 73% to 90% between 2021 and 2022. By the 4A’s estimation, Black people made up even less of the share of talent than what ANA’s metric suggested (6.99%). White people in turn made up 64.63%, the 4A’s said.

Representation critics have long noted that, beyond a dearth of ethnic representation in the advertising world, this industry in particular profits off of Black culture and images while excluding the same people from the C-suite.

“Our long-term focus on DEIB must not waver,” ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement, further adding that it is “not only the right thing to pursue, it is an important platform for marketers to drive business and brand growth.”

ANA’s report should “embolden our community to double down on diversity and to ensure that it remains a critical human resource strategy for all,” Liodice added.

Gilbert Dávila, co-founder of ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing, said this confirms the advertising industry “must do more to recruit, attract and retain diverse talent.” 

Dávila also made the two-pronged DEI argument: “We drive more authentic connections with consumers, foster more creativity and innovation, and ultimately spur business growth.”