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The Importance of Diversity in Advertising Visuals

At the end of 2017, Shutterstock published survey results from 1500 U.S, U.K, and Australian marketers that explored how they use imagery in advertising campaigns. Of the many findings, a common theme was that marketers felt representing diversity and modern day society in advertising visuals was increasingly important.

“Our research shows that globally, marketers are shifting their attitudes and selecting images, primarily, to represent modern day society. Marketers are also recognizing that choosing images that are relatable to diverse groups benefits their brand’s reputation. Striking a chord with consumers is no longer about serving them images of perfection, as social media has helped to change how people view images. Consumers prefer images that accurately portray the world around them, as opposed to a perfected version of the world offered by marketers.”
Robyn Lange - Shutterstock Curator

Globally, the findings showed positive feelings towards increasing diversity in advertising visuals. But marketers also felt there's still room for improvement and growth. Let’s take a closer look at how the individual regions surveyed felt about diversity in advertising visuals.

U.S. Marketers

Specifically, for U.S. marketers, the findings overwhelming supported the importance of diversity in advertising visuals. Survey results showed that 88% of U.S. marketers agree that using more diverse images helps a brand’s reputation. Additional findings showed that:

  • 41% of U.S. marketers now think it’s important to represent modern day society in marketing imagery.
  • 57% of U.S. marketers who are featuring more non-professional models in imagery are doing so to best represent modern day society.
  • 65% of U.S. marketers who are featuring more non-traditional families in imagery are doing so to best represent modern day society.
“We are pleased to learn from the research that marketers in the U.S. are making a conscious effort to be more inclusive with their choice of imagery showing nontraditional families and nonprofessional models. It’s clear that societal changes combined with shifting attitudes are influencing the demand for more modern imagery that represents a diverse range of communities.”
Robyn Lange - Shutterstock Curator

U.K. Marketers

In the U.K., new legislation from the Advertising Standards Authority resulted in greater enforcement to discourage gender stereotyping in advertising visuals. Its impact has already been felt by U.K. marketers as shown in the survey results:

  • 57% of marketers have been impacted by the ASA’s announcement to ban gender stereotypes.
  • 35% of marketers have used more images featuring women over the past 12 months.
  • 51% of marketers now think it’s more important to represent modern day society when choosing marketing imagery, compared to 30% in 2016.
“The ASA’s crackdown on gender stereotyping within marketing images highlights the diversity problem that exists within marketing is no longer acceptable. We are pleased that the ASA’s announcement is having an impact on marketers and that the upward trend of using non-stereotypical images of women in marketing campaigns is continuing. Marketing campaigns have a strong visual impact on public life, therefore, marketers need to be more inclusive through their choice of images and ensure that they are representing people in society effectively.”
Robyn Lange - Shutterstock Curator

Australian Marketers

Australian marketers showed almost unanimous feelings towards expectations of more diversity in advertising visuals. From the survey results for the region, 98% of marketers agree they are expected to use more diverse representations in their campaigns. Additional survey results found that:

  • 45% of Australian marketers believe it’s important to represent modern day society in marketing imagery.
  • 55% of Australian marketers who are featuring more imagery of same sex couples are doing so to better represent modern day society.
  • 41% of Australian marketers who are featuring more imagery of racially diverse models are doing so to represent modern day society.

Brands are Seeing Value in Diversity

The results of this report are an encouraging sign that marketers are embracing business opportunities that come from advertising visuals that are more inclusionary of society.
At Shutterstock Custom, our solution was built on the principle of helping brands create authentic visuals, with real world people in a scalable way. Our customers find huge value in visually representing the consumers they market to, and making their branding relatable.

In Shutterstock Custom’s 2017 Visual Content Report, there are other signs that marketers are taking diversity seriously when it comes to visuals. One key finding in our analysis was that ‘ethnicity’ was the most popular ‘people specification’ requested by brands in their creative briefs with age, wardrobe, and body type rounding out the top five. This is an indication that brands are actually putting marketing dollars into producing more visuals that better represent modern society, and show real people in real life settings.

To learn more about how Shutterstock Custom can help your brand create visual content that’s authentic and scalable, request a demo and we’ll have one of our specialists show you how it works. Also be sure to check out the curated 'Our World' collection of Shutterstock images for inspiration on diversity visuals.