A Mirror On The Industry: Dissecting Diversity

We were very excited to hear that Mirror On The Industry, our project with Channel 4, has been nominated for a Media Week Award. Tapestry’s Jessie Reddin shares the headlines from this important piece of work:

For many years, the ads on our TV screens have been filled with the same kinds of faces and it’s time for that to change. So when Channel 4 wanted to conduct the UK’s most comprehensive diversity study of its kind, we rose to the challenge. But this was no easy feat!

We undertook a large-scale audit of the top 1,000 ads each year, manually coding each and every one of them on both an advert and character level. We left no stone unturned, recording the tone and purpose of the ad and every single detail of the characters: including age, sexuality, job-type, body shape and much more. We also ran a robust survey amongst the general population in the UK to really dive into how people felt about representation in advertising.

The study has given a huge amount of data, helping Channel 4 and the industry to start to unpick where there are areas for improvement. It’s also helped to launch this year’s Diversity in Advertising Award.

Some of the most interesting things for us were:

  • From 2020 to 2021, we saw the representation of black characters in adverts markedly increase from 37% to 45%, likely in response to the power of Black Lives Matter
  • Disabled representation has stayed far below the population average of 22%, peaking at 4% of adverts in 2021 in the Paralympic year – representing a key area of focus for this year’s award
  • 82% of all characters in our most recent wave were either slim or midsize in their build, with only 3% of characters being plus-sized
  • And people from minority groups notice the shortfalls – 65% of the population felt that there was “still more that can be done to make advertising more representative of the different groups in society”, with Black people, South Asian people and LGBTQ+ people being the most likely to feel that “companies should do more to represent people like me in TV adverts”

You can find out more about this important study, and listen to a great podcast on the topic here.