Royal Air Force wins Channel 4’s £1m diversity award  

The broadcaster asked brands to pitch campaigns that challenge female stereotypes and has promised that it will match up to £250,000 of airtime for the three runners-up if they decide to produce their ads.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has won Channel 4’s annual Diversity in Advertising award and receive the prize of £1m in free airtime.

The brand’s campaign, created by Engine, focuses on the portrayal of women and is expected to launch in February next year.

The RAF beat Cadbury Milk Tray, eBay and Flybe in the finals after the two other finalists, HSBC and Jaguar, withdrew early from the competition.

Channel 4 focused this year’s award on gender in light of the #MeToo movement and the UK’s centennial of some women’s right to vote. It asked brands and agencies to create a campaign that challenged stereotypes around women.

Channel 4’s head of agency and client sales Matt Salmon says: “At its worst, the portrayal of women in advertising has a huge impact on society at large, reinforcing negative stereotypes.

“The campaign by the Royal Air Force and Engine vividly encapsulates the issues and I really hope the moment it airs on Channel 4 will act as a catalyst for change in how women are portrayed in advertising.”

Channel 4 will also offer the three other finalists match-funded commercial airtime of up to £250,000 for each brand that goes on to air the adverts they pitched. So far only one brand that has been shortlisted but not won, Ford, has gone on to run its ads.

The competition has not been without its controversy. Last year’s initial winner, Volvo, pulled out after it claimed it knew nothing about the entry and had no plans to create the ad entered.

Nevertheless, Karen Fraser, director of advertising think tank Credos and one of the judges of this year’s competitions says the award is having an impact. “Channel 4’s awards have completely changed the way that UK advertising approaches diversity in its work. Although the industry fully embraces representation of people from all different backgrounds in advertising, the competition has provided a further incentive to create the very best work.”

Channel 4 has committed to running the awards until 2021 and says it hopes to guide brands and agencies to create more inclusive and diverse campaigns.

In 2017, Lloyds Bank’s won the award for its portrayal of mental health while Maltesers won the inaugural award in 2016 for its humorous campaign around disability.