Assistant professors Robin Spring and Fang Yang have co-authored the article “Pro Tips for Advertising Educators: How Ethnic Diversity Can Solve Creative Problems” published in the current issue of the Journal of Advertising Education.
“Racially insensitive advertising continues to offend large segments of consumers,” they write in their article. “Ethnic diversity in the advertising industry could be a solution.”
In their research, Spring and Yang conducted depth interviews with 17 advertising professionals representing different ethnicities, genders and professional advertising roles. Three themes regarding the benefits of diversity on advertising teams emerged: 1) innovation and creativity are enhanced, 2) a diverse team has a better understanding of human stories that make up so much advertising content, and 3) a diverse work environment is good for talent retention.
Given this, the questions in the study addressed why there is still a problem of lack of diversity and culturally insensitive ads. Participants were mixed about whether there is a “pipeline” problem in which new advertising professionals come from the same sources. But a lack of mentoring of minority employees and an unconscious bias were commonly sited as problems within the advertising industry.
As a result of the study, Spring and Yang offered suggestions to the industry professionals and to advertising educators. For professionals, the biggest suggestions were more intentionally raising minority interest in the advertising industry and for the top managers at companies and agencies to make diversity a priority.
To educators, based on the comments of respondents, Spring and Yang stress an emphasis on liberal arts education, including the social role and impact of advertising, as well as strong preparation in advertising skills and experience in teamwork and collaboration.
“Learning from mistakes to find a path forward will not only alleviate cultural insults but also celebrate the multicultural world in which we live,” Spring and Yang write in the conclusion of their article. “Advertising is a reflection of society; the reflection must be authentic.”