Diversity learnings to take to 2023

Rich Miles, CEO and Founder of the Diversity Standards Collective reflects on Christmas advertising and calls for more authentic representation in 2023

Rich Miles

CEO and Founder The Diversity Standards Collective


The main thing we want to change in 2023 is how minority communities are represented in advertising. But that's massive, and I’m not really sure it counts as “one thing”.

So, with many of us still sweating out the Christmas booze and working off the festive foods, let’s focus on one area. Christmas.

The yearly congratulat-a-thon of how good our work can be. When the eyes of the nation turn to advertising and look, with festive glee and happy nostalgia, through blurry tears at the work we produce.

Stop just thinking about casting, think about not just who else is in the room, but about what else is in the room, what’s on the table and how and why those characters might be doing what they are doing.

Rich Miles, CEO and Founder of the Diversity Standards Collective

Well, not the whole nation. In actual fact, a lot of minority communities see a very different picture of what we paint. They see Christmas ads full of tokenism, negative stereotyping and inauthentic representation.

To try and dig further into this, we decided to test 12 Christmas ads featuring Black and mixed-raced casts with members of the black community using our Community Certification ad testing tool, testing firstly the authenticity of the inclusion of the Black characters and secondly whether they represented the community.

As we suspected, the feedback wasn't great. Of the 12 ads we tested, only 5 scored more than 75% with our respondents and passed our test, which points to a pretty significant problem in our industry.

We asked the respondents:

-        Do you feel this is an authentic portrayal of your community?

-        Do you think this content will be responded to positively by your community?

And asked them to say why.

The two worst-performing ads were Shelter and Lidl, which got picked up for negatively stereotyping the black community and not being authentic to black culture. Here are a couple of their responses for the supermarket’s ad. 

-       It doesn't feel like an authentic portrayal because there is nothing in the advert that makes it distinctively portray the Black community. If the black actors were replaced with white actors, it would not have made a difference.

-       I’m really tired of the single black mom stereotype. Single black dads do actually exist and struggle too, along with single white/Asian moms.

But we understand that it's not about just picking fault or raising awareness of issues. We all need to work together to make sure that next year’s crop of ads don’t make minority communities feel under-represented, misrepresented or stereotyped.

For Lidl, The community noted, ‘There may be Black people in it but no culture, so no authenticity’. When we hear comments such as this, it's important we start to look at everything around the characters; location, set design, clothing, music, décor, even food on the table. The DSC has been carrying out a lot of research into the different types of Christmases and potentially, culture could have been added by placing foods such as Macaroni Cheese and Rice on the table, items the community keep telling us they also have for Christmas lunch.

In general, though, here are some thoughts that everyone can take on board when creating next year’s ads.

-       Stop just thinking about casting, think about not just who else is in the room, but about what else is in the room, what’s on the table and how and why those characters might be doing what they are doing because in most cases, it will be slightly different.

-       Ensuring you gain diverse consumer research and insight right at the start of your creative process, share things like your strategy and initial ideas with different types of people from different communities and allow them to help you make it grow.

-       Get out of the mindset of doing this all yourselves, people are ready and waiting to help you make the most progressive and creative pieces of work. 

-       And if you can’t do this for yourselves, look for professional guidance

And it wasn’t all negative, either. Some ads passed our mark with flying colours and elicited very positive responses. So let’s finish on a high.

H Samual

-       Awww, this is really positive and I love that the woman has an Afro. It’s a lovely fusion of cultures.

-       Looks like a scene out of my own family Christmas and many of my Black friends and extended family.

JD Sports

-       “Yes!! This is exactly something me and my cousins do when we get together during the holidays. Arcade games together. Board games, fun competition.”

-       Some of the best entertainment and cultural leaders in the community are in this advert and I love to see it.


Rich Miles is a former Creative Director, now CEO + Founder of The Diversity Standards Collective, an agency that consults, creates and checks for authenticity in all content that features or targets diverse communities. The DSC strives to help any agency, brand or publisher create work that never offends or misrepresents, something we see all too often in the advertising and marketing industry today. Rich also created the first gender pronoun converter app, a tool that helps any business communicate properly with non-binary staff and clients.

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