Marketers must keep it real when portraying diversity, says YouTube

YouTube’s newly appointed global director of diversity believes brands need to “switch it up” but not move too far away from the reality of the role the consumer plays.


Marketers must “switch it up” but not entirely disrupt the reality of what the consumer relates to in order to stay diverse, says Google’s newly appointed global director of diversity Baroness Oona King.

Speaking at an event hosted by YouTube last week, King said brands should switch round stereotypes, but not in a manner that moves entirely away from a representation the viewer resonates with.

“There are lots of things we could do, but the first one is just be aware, be aware of stereotypes you might consciously or unconsciously be perpetuating. And take small steps that don’t cost you anything and can really make a big change,” she said.

She cites the example of a detergent ad she has recently watched, that maintained traditional stereotypes. The ad features a mum at home in the kitchen, the father doing work and the son arriving home from football practice. When he arrives home he, hands his muddy kit to his mother to wash.

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King said the brand could have changed the roles around and had the son hand the kit to his father, but instead she believes it is better to stay true to what the audience is actually doing and perhaps change the gender of the child playing football to a girl instead.

“Brands shouldn’t entirely disrupt the reality of what the consumer is, because it is something like 90% of people that do the washing are women. But marketers should switch round these stereotypes. It’s really not hard to make it a girl playing football instead of a boy,” King said.

She also said without “giving Channel 4 a plug”, having come from Channel 4 herself, that the broadcaster has done “amazing” work for diversity with its recent competition for £1m in advertising revenue for an ad that featured disability. She praised the winner Malteasers for its representation of diversity and over coming disability taboos.