There’s proof that huge groups of the population are being overlooked or only represented in a tokenistic way in advertising. British South Asians is one such group. As a member of this demographic, I’ve become confused about why we get lumped into the catch-all ‘BAME’ term. After all, my experiences as someone who grew up in a middle-class North London environment are vastly different to my neighbours in Peckham, and yet brands and agencies automatically negate that nuance by putting us in the ‘other’ box. In fact, when Nike’s ’Nothing Beats a Londoner’ advert came out in 2018, I was one of very few voices criticising the work, highlighting the lack of British Asians, a demographic that makes up approximately 20% of the capital city.
We’re helping to address the absence of British Asians in sport through the work we’re doing with the England Cricket Board and the South Asian Action Plan. Where we don’t have a client as advanced as the ECB to take the leap and include underrepresented groups, we take it on ourselves. Take stock photography, for example.
Earlier this year, when looking for photos to brighten up our pitches and presentations, we noticed the obvious dearth of British-born people from Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi backgrounds in everyday scenarios that could speak to our work and what we wanted to convey. In fact, when searching for ‘British Indian’ we were more likely to find photos of tech workers, Tikka Masalas and, no disrespect, Gandhi than actual representation of some 1.4m people in the UK. It’s why we launched Despora, a free-to-use bank of images featuring the Desi Diaspora, hence the portmanteau.