1. Diversity & Inclusion in the Media: The Study
  2. Reinforce negative stereotypes in the media
  3. What do we do now?

In a new research study, characters in media were analyzed in order to gain a better understanding of the intercultural representation in digital advertising and the depiction of these characters.

The study sheds light on negative stereotypes reinforced by the media and what this means for advertisers.

Diversity & Inclusion in the Media: The Study

The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media analyzed the most viewed ads on YouTube between 2015 and 2019, including 978 ads in 11 industries with a total of 4,171 characters.

Worldwide, almost 40% of the characters shown were colored characters, which indicates an improvement over previous years. Despite an overall improvement in diversity, there are still gaps in representation between race, gender and other aspects of identity.

Latinx characters were largely underrepresented. Although they make up more than 18% of the US population, only 6% of the characters most viewed by the US audience were Latinx.

Globally, 74% of ads featured at least one woman, 61% of whom were white. Only 35% of the BIPOC characters were women. Middle Eastern women were particularly underrepresented; Only 2 out of 10 Middle Eastern characters were women.

In addition, almost all characters with disabilities were shown as white.

Reinforce negative stereotypes in the media

Perhaps more worrying than the overarching trends in representation was the tendency for ads to portray common stereotypes.

Madeline Di Nonno, President and CEO of the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media, explains: “Stereotypes shape our emotional reactions and judgments of others in a matter of seconds in ways we may not be familiar with, creating media that reinforce negative stereotypes of people of color Discrimination in the Real World "


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Some of the harmful issues were:

  • The fact that white characters were depicted as being particularly intelligent almost twice as often as other races.
  • Less than 1% of the characters were native and of those only 4% had speaking roles. Representations of people who are seen but not heard can have a symbolic effect.
  • Latinx characters appeared almost three times as likely to be partially naked and twice as likely to appear in revealing clothing.
  • Compared to other groups, Latinx characters were overrepresented at sporting events.
  • Asian characters were depicted half as often as drivers compared to other characters.
  • Black characters were almost twice as likely to be seen in comedic roles.
  • White characters made up 69% of characters in media and entertainment, the least distinct industry.

What do we do now?

One of the biggest dangers advertisers accidentally run into is creating creatives and campaigns designed only from their perspective and experience.

A diverse team internally and as a partner enables a broader perspective through which the campaign can be shaped.

One of the best ways to make sure your campaigns are inclusive is to make sure your team is doing it.

Also, to tackle the problem of designing campaigns and subjects without involvement, Google marketing teams suggested that they consider the following questions:


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  • Does my team reflect the communities whose stories we want to tell? Do we work with people from these communities?
  • Does this ad elevate the stories and does it reflect the diversity of traditionally underrepresented groups?
  • Are the characters shown with an agency?
  • "Does this portrayal challenge tropes and stereotypes?"



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