Like countless others, I watched the standoff between Hollywood talent and the studios. What was at stake — from fair payment to equitable opportunities — spanned all races, genders, and identities. Yet, the implementation will dramatically affect underrepresented communities, who have been disproportionately underutilized and underpaid in Hollywood for too long. A 2022 analysis of diversity in film and television by the Writers Guild of America West found that BIPOC screenwriters accounted for just 22.6% of employed screenwriters.
As those of us in advertising await what will come next in the entertainment industry now that the strikes have come to an end, we should think through how we can better support historically marginalized creative talent in our world.
Here’s what we can do:
Show diverse people in diverse roles.
Cultural nuances mean everything. It’s how we connect with people. It’s how we feel connected – or not – to entertainment we watch. Let’s display culture the right way in our writing and casting. Showcase all facets of people and eliminate bias through the accurate portrayal of race, identity, and culture. The drug dealer shouldn’t mainly be Hispanic or Black. A terrorist shouldn’t automatically be Muslim. This doesn’t mean we’re banned from depicting these portrayals, but we must balance them out to reflect the diversity of real life. For example, cast a Latina executive for every Latina maid. If you don’t believe that viewers will buy this characterization, then do your homework. Today, nearly one in four businesses is Hispanic owned – most by women, according to the Joint Economic Committee Hispanic Entrepreneurship and Business Brief.
If hiring an actor who’s cast as Hispanic, hire a Hispanic. Don’t hire someone who looks Hispanic. If you cast a gay actor or someone with a disability, hire someone who lives that life. There are plenty of actors who fit those profiles and are looking for work.
Add more diversity to the copywriting process.
Let’s bring more people into the creative process. The more we incorporate the perspectives of varying backgrounds, the more accurate our character portrayals will be.
Bolster interviewee diversity.
While this is a mandate for all, it’s especially relevant to marketers. Teams should reflect the makeup of the total population. While the 2020 US Census found that 61.1% of the population is diverse, data from the ANA and AIMM found that marketing teams were 32.3% diverse in 2022. While up from 30.8% the year prior, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Make sure you interview at least one diverse candidate for every opening. If all you have are white men applying, then expand your search.
Use AI wisely.
Artificial intelligence can help us do our jobs more efficiently and effectively. But if not used properly, it can learn bias and incorporate that into everything from copywriting to how we screen job candidates. According to the actors’ union, studios want to use AI to replicate actors’ likenesses. Talent, in turn, would receive a day rate for their scanned image, which studios could use in perpetuity. If there are fewer opportunities to get on screen, that will hit already-struggling underrepresented groups particularly hard. Let’s use AI to our advantage, but not to replace qualified talent.
Support diverse media.
Where we put our money matters. Advertisers should spend money on shows that embrace diversity – shows like ‘The Bear’, ‘Abbott Elementary’, ‘Wednesday’, ‘This Fool’, and countless reality shows that feature people from differing backgrounds. Also, explore new media platforms – diverse owned and/or targeted platforms with relevant programming for diverse consumers looking to be accurately represented on screen. These platforms specialize in reaching consumers in culture, and sometimes in language – a perfect way for marketers to connect with consumers.
Remember: your choices impact culture broadly.
If underrepresented groups aren’t cast in a realistic light, negative stereotypes can proliferate. As an industry, we have a responsibility to foster accurate perceptions. If we have fair representation and on-screen portrayal, it’ll show that the overwhelming majority of people who are Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, and others are good, nuanced human beings. If we do the opposite, we are responsible for consumers’ negative views on segments. So, we must be purposeful in our work and inclusive in our strategies and creative processes.
Lisette Arsuaga is co-founder of the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). AIMM is branch of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), comprised of brands/corporations, media companies and advertising agencies. AIMM is at the forefront of developing a blueprint for marketers to better engage the multicultural audiences (Hispanic, African-American, Asian and LGBTQ+ segments) that directly link to business growth.
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