TV Ad Travesty - Can You Spot Yourself in the Three Minute Ad Break?

06/06/2016 16:37 | Updated 06 June 2016

My blog this month has involved a small amount of research on my part following my ever growing irritation at the lack of diversity depicted in TV ads. This irritation has grown to the point where certain adverts evoke a barrage of non-repeatable words and a rise in my blood pressure. Forms of media as powerful as television have a social and ethical responsibility to depict society as it truly is. Why shouldn't it? What is it about our culture that permits the juggernaut that is TV advertising to mostly depict white, heterosexual individuals in the regular three minute ad breaks that we are all exposed to? Whilst I felt the representation was unfair I had never actually calculated my assumptions. So during May I decided to see if my suspicions were well placed; my findings are grim.

Screen shots were taken of consecutive adverts, during any one ad break, on completely random channels, on four different days throughout May. Times of day varied; 17:45, 19:55, 13:40 and 22:45 so there was little uniformity there. I am sure that there are all sorts of technical floors in the planning and execution of my experiment but that's not the point. I am not wholly surprised, yet I am disappointed, that my expectations have been realised; my admittedly lazy little experiment has revealed some shocking results.

The figures: 24 screen shots were taken in all. I have tried to incorporate the completely visible people in a screen shot into the figures below. In 24 images 32 men were captured, 13 women and 7 children. Of the 32 men a staggering 87.5% were white. Of the remainder 12.5 percent, 50% were serving white people, for example one picture depicts a black man selling a car to a white woman, another, a waiter serving drinks. All of the women captured were white. All of them. 85.7% of children depicted were also white. My accusations were certainly well-placed and it is fair to say that my irritation remains. The questions to these industries remain; why? As does the lack of represented diversity, and in 2016 this is just unacceptable.

Of course, this subject has been discussed before. A little over a month ago Allan Blair, through the Guardian website, debated the effects of the stark lack of diversity in the marketing and advertising businesses. Not only is this imbalance unfair but it is also counterproductive for business itself. When advertising depicts society as white, heterosexual and middle class it excludes and further marginalises the remainder of our plentifully rich population.
In the age where two men can marry, in the age where the President of the United States of America is a black man (and alongside that a woman is now seriously in the running for a forthcoming shot at the job) we should proudly depict our difference through every form of media possible. Why, is it, then, that we still don't?

What's worrying is what this is supposed to achieve. What messages are our children supposed to be gaining from this type of advertising? Surely we are not still promoting white heterosexist living as the ideal? Surely! But of course this kind of advertising is. Negative messages are subconsciously spoon fed into the minds of all of us as we casually absorb those 3 minute breaks. Our children are led to believe that the adverts they watch depict the societal ideal. Shouldn't we at least give the next great varied generation of children the chance to see themselves reflected on their television screens? Advertising could go a long way in influencing how children consider their role in the world around them. Let children see people just like themselves when they watch people going to the dentist, eating their favourite chocolate bar or doing the laundry. Let children feel included. Let us all.