Findings show progress is stalling and urges industry prioritization of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Publish Date: Feb 14, 2024

United Nations Headquarters, New York – 14 February – The Unstereotype Alliance, an industry-led coalition convened by UN Women to eradicate harmful stereotypes in advertising content, today launches the State of the Industry 3 report – an analysis of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion progress across the global advertising industry. 

The new report, which examines progress throughout 2023 since the State of the Industry 2 report, finds that improvements in workplace representation and inclusion have been marginal. It reveals that, the progressive portrayals of people in advertising content have only improved slightly according to the Unstereotype Metric data from analytics company, Kantar.  However, it also reports that Unstereotype Alliance members continue to outperform non-members. 

The report highlights growing reticence of overtly promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives due to potential criticism from conservative commentators, yet members of the industry collective are leading with consistent follow-through on long-term DEI commitments and pledges made in previous years. Despite increased reporting of backlash against progressive brands, consumers continue to hold expectations of brands to represent diversity in their advertising and in workplace initiatives.

The analysis, which includes an assessment of progress within workplaces, advertising content and consumer sentiment, also highlights the potential threats posed by the introduction of generative AI in the creation of ad content – warning that it may further exacerbate preexisting stereotypes, social inequities, and a culture of exclusion.

Other key findings include:  

Fostering workplace equality

  • The representation of people of colour working in advertising has increased globally by only a few percentage points or remained unchanged.  According to a recent ANA study, people who identify as African American/ Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, or multiracial individuals has risen by 3%. The UK Creative Industries 2023 Census reports finds that the representation of Asian, Black, Mixed, Arabic or individuals selecting “other” within the creative workforce in the UK remains unchanged, at 15.6%.

  • The representation of individuals of different sexual orientations has increased, albeit incrementally. 

  • Shortfalls are significant in the representation of non-binary people, people living with disabilities, members of the LGBTIQ+ community, and older adults working in the industry. According to the UK Creative Industries Census 2023, just over 1 in 10 are aged 45 and older.

Achieving unstereotyped advertising & mobilizing public action: 

  • Gender Unstereotype Metric data from Kantar shows that screen time of women in ad content has increased, and markets where the Unstereotype Alliance has a presence are more likely to give 50%+ screen time to women. 

  • Data shows that people of different skin colours and tones has increased slightly but remains low at 29% (an increase from 28% in 2022), although ads in markets with Unstereotype Alliance presence are more likely to feature ethnic origin diversity and skin colour diversity than non-Unstereotype Alliance members.

  • The representation of people with disabilities in ads continues to lag – with just 1% featuring people from the community identified in Gender Unstereotype Metric analysis.  

  • Findings across several sources indicate that representation of the LGBTIQ+ community in ads remains low, at 3% globally. 

  • A Numerator survey of 1,200 consumers found that 63% of surveyed consumers said diverse representation in advertising is definitely or somewhat important to them, and 47% of those surveyed said they are likely to buy from a brand that includes diversity in its ads.

Recommendations for change include consistent commitments to DEI goals in the workplace and the marketplace, increased efforts to support local and underrepresented communities, embedding social purpose within brand values and strategy, and leveraging Unstereotype Alliance guidance when responding to criticism. 

Sara Denby, Head of the Unstereotype Alliance Secretariat, UN Women said: “I am proud that Unstereotype Alliance members continue to lead the charge and fulfill their pledges for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the ad industry – efforts that we know produce more progressive ad content. The support of underrepresented communities has truly become part of the fabric of our members’ brands.  But this report sounds a clear alarm – our work is under threat, almost four short years since the murder of George Floyd and our collective affirmation that Black Lives Matter. We must not be deterred from working for the equality and authentic representation of all people in our content – it is truly more urgent than ever before.”

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), said: “Despite a challenging year ahead on multiple fronts, the advertising industry must double down on its efforts and stay the course in improving diversity, equity and inclusion in our work and in our workplaces. We have a long way to go to meaningfully move the needle globally, but the first step is building awareness of the problem including through this report. Ongoing efforts by Unstereotype Alliance members are very encouraging and bring us a step closer towards building an industry of true inclusion in the years to come.”

Caroline Frankum, CEO of the Profiles Division at Kantar said: “We know from our research that progressive representation of individuals in advertising: be that based on gender or wider diversity considerations, is good for business. In 2023 we continued to see progress in the positive portrayal of women in advertising. We, at Kantar, celebrate this progress. Sadly, we see in broader societal trends that gender equity took a backward step in the years following the pandemic, so to see the world’s biggest advertisers hold steady in their pursuit of gender equality is a positive sign for our society. We commit to continuing to informing and progressing the equality debate through our partnership with Unstereotype Alliance and elsewhere. “   

The report was launched at the Unstereotype Alliance Global Member Summit at United Nations Headquarters and comes on the heels of the announcement of the Unstereotype Alliance Charter of Accountability - a new framework to ensure progress is measured and tracked across the membership and reported up through UN Women against the Sustainable Development Goals. Proprietary tools for Alliance members including an expanded 3Ps framework and a new guide for inclusive media buying and planning were also released, to help accelerate members’ unstereotyped work. 

About Unstereotype Alliance

The Unstereotype Alliance seeks to eradicate harmful stereotypes from advertising and media to help create a more equal world. Convened by UN Women, the Alliance collectively acts to empower people in all their diversity (including gender, race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and more) by using advertising as a force for good to drive positive change all over the world. Since the Unstereotype Alliance’s formation in 2017, national chapters have launched in 12 countries across five continents to tackle culturally nuanced stereotypes on the ground (

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