Channel 4 to run annual competition after ‘disappointment’ over dropped diversity campaigns

The winner will get £1m of airtime but Channel 4 also wants to encourage shortlisted brands to make their campaigns after admitting to being ‘disappointed’ following last year’s competition.

Channel 4 diversity
Maltesers won the Channel 4 competition last year.

Channel 4 says it was “disappointed” with shortlisted brands dropping their diversity-based campaigns after last year’s competition, and is encouraging brands to push forward with their plans by offering a cash incentive.

The inaugural ‘Channel 4 Annual Diversity in Advertising Award’ is a long-term commitment from the brand to improve diversity in advertising every year until “at least” 2020.

Each year the prize will hone in on a different area of diversity. While last year’s ‘Superhumans Wanted’ competition was focused on disability, the rebranded competition for 2017 focuses on invisible disability.

Brands and agencies will be invited to pitch creative campaign ideas that focus on issues surrounding non-visible disabilities and mental health issues. The winning campaign will be awarded £1m worth of the broadcaster’s commercial airtime and will be aired later this year.

Matt Salmon, head of agency and client sales and commercial marketing at Channel 4, says the brand took away some important learnings from last year’s competition. While a number of brands entered and were shortlisted, most then decided to drop their diversity campaigns – something Marketing Week exposed at the time.

Salmon finds this “disappointing”, which is why the brand is now offering to match funding for up to four runners-up. This means that if the brands decide to go ahead with their campaigns and buy £250,000 of airtime, Channel 4 will match this sum.

“We had six shortlisted brands come and present to us, but they didn’t end up making the ads. For me, that is disappointing. The challenge for this year is not just to give £1m to the winner, but also to encourage those shortlisted to make those ads,” he tells Marketing Week.

We had six shortlisted brands come and present to us, but they didn’t end up making the ads. For me, that is disappointing.

Matt Salmon, Channel 4

When asked how Channel 4 will look to inspire brands that aren’t shortlisted to put diversity at the heart of their campaigns, Salmon adds that Mars’s “very public” positive commercial results could encourage more brands to take the plunge. He also believes there is a “definite momentum building” among agencies and clients.

“Agencies Grey and MediaCom started [a series of] roundtables around three weeks ago inviting other agencies to discuss how to drive diversity and encourage advertisers to be more representative of the people buying their products,” he says.

“Our whole brief for our campaign, and this is also why Mars won it, is that it’s not just to produce a stunt ad for the sake of it. It also has to deliver on business and marketing objectives. It has to be integrated and we are also looking for legacy as we want to shift behaviour.”

Reaching out for help

Channel 4 is also developing its own diversity strategy in different ways. Salmon says it is currently working with Gay Pride, and is exploring how it can work with certain charity partners to “create a platform to get more brands involved”.

That said, Salmon recognises that it’s “very challenging” for brands to implement diversity into their business strategy, and believes it can be difficult to decide how best to approach it. As a result, he recommends brands reach out to charity partners for advice. Last year’s winner Mars, for example, collaborated with disability charity Scope to ensure the ads’ tone was right.

He concludes: “My encouragement to business is to use the resources out there. Charities are very helpful and willing to give advice and support as they want advertisers to be more representative.”

Hide Comments1 Show Comment
  • Colman Cawe 25 May 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Mencap would be interested in speaking to brands about the value we could bring to their campaign. Learning disability is often seen as a non-visible disability and provides compelling stories, both emotive and light-hearted, for campaigns.
    Contact Colman Cawe on for a chat.

  • Post a comment

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