TfL offers brands £500k of free ad space to give women the ‘representation they deserve’

The competition comes after new research reveals Londoners don’t think the women they see in ads are representative of those in the capital.

Transport for London (TfL) and City Hall have launched a competition for brands to create adverts that better reflect women in London.

Sponsored by TfL advertising agencies Exterion Media and JCDecaux, the winning brand will win £500,000 worth of free advertising space across the TfL network, where 31 million journeys take place every day. The two runner-up campaigns will also receive £50,000 worth of digital advertising.

The competition, which has the same theme as this year’s Channel 4 diversity in advertising award, comes following research commissioned by City Hall, which reveals Londoners don’t feel the women they see in adverts are representative of women in the capital.

Three-quarters (75%) of Londoners feel ads should reflect the diversity of the city’s population, yet fewer than one in four (22%) think ads are culturally diverse.

Meanwhile, 51% of women do not feel their body shape is represented in the ads they see around London, while 68% say women are often shown in revealing clothes when it’s not relevant.

It is particularly concerning that some women feel pressurised by images they see in adverts around the city, and others feel completely overlooked or ignored.

Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport

While Photoshopping is largely regarded as being ‘unacceptable’, with 42% agreeing, 35% say they don’t have a problem with retouching and alterations.

However, seven in 10 (69%) think brands should state when they’ve used Photoshopped images – something that France began doing last year, with hefty fines imposed upon advertisers that break the rules.

It may come as no surprise that men aged 18 to 34 feel best represented by ads in London (69%), while women over the age of 55 feel the least represented. More than half (55%) of this group say they feel ‘fairly badly’ or ‘very badly’ represented, while just 9% feel ads are relevant to them.

READ MORE: Channel 4 launches £1m diversity award as it looks to change the portrayal of women in ads

The research highlights an issue with ethnic diversity as well. Over half (51%) of BAME Londoners say their ethnicity is not well-represented in London’s advertising compared to a fifth (22%) of white Londoners.

Similarly, the LGBT London community feels adverts lack gender and sexual diversity or gender neutrality, with just 35% feeling well-represented.

Meanwhile, just 18% of respondents can recall seeing an ad featuring a disabled person, with 65% of women and 51% of men saying they do not see enough images of disabled people.

protein world
This ad for Protein World was widely criticised for making women feel insecure about their body shape.

“London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and our diversity is one of our greatest strengths, so it’s important we challenge the disparity between the women we see in our advertising and the women we see around us in our city,” says Heidi Alexander, deputy mayor for transport.

“It is particularly concerning that some women feel pressurised by images they see in adverts around the city, and others feel completely overlooked or ignored.”

One such example is Protein World’s ‘Beach Body’ campaign, which was widely criticised for suggesting people with a body different to that of the model in the ad were “not good enough” or in some way inferior.

Alexander adds: “I want young women and girls from all backgrounds in London to feel empowered and valued when travelling around our great city.

“As part of the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, we want to ensure that women that are at the heart of our city’s success get the representation they deserve.”

The competition will be open for entries between 16 July and 22 October.