facebookIcon tracking


How to Build a Culture and Process for Developing Truly Inclusive Creative

Published: August 25, 2020

Author: Lauren Dawson

Director of Creative Strategy Becca Debono also contributed to this post.
In our last post, on the importance of inclusive creative, we explained the stakes of committing to more diverse and inclusive creative development. Today’s post will explain how to follow through on that commitment – a step many brands are scrambling to figure out in a time of broad, sweeping statements on recognizing the need for a change in advertising.
Ready to lead the change? Let’s get started.
Step #1: Diversify Creative and Strategic Teams
It’s not enough to simply diversify your creative imagery. You have to provide a seat at the table for diverse groups of people in order to have a real and authentic impact, allowing them to bring new ideas from unique worldviews. Building teams with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and points of view is an important part of creating an authentic representation of people throughout your marketing. Providing those opportunities for diverse voices to be heard from the beginning of the creative process ensures people from all walks of life are both present in the creative and represented in ways that defy negative stereotypes.
Doing better at diversifying teams isn’t just about representation; it’s also good for the bottom line. A McKinsey study shows a direct correlation between leadership diversity in big companies and economic profit margin. Take a look around at your next team meeting: do you see any people of color? Do you have women from diverse backgrounds making decisions? Do their ages or gender identities vary? In some cases, you won’t be able to check every single diversity box, but you should always make it a point to strive for diverse representation if you want to truly benefit from diversity within creative and strategic teams.
Step #2: Conduct a Diversity Audit
It’s time to take a look in the mirror and conduct a diversity audit on your brand’s creative. Assess your brand asset library with the following questions:

  • Are there any people of color? If so, how are these images being used in any of your advertisements or websites? What’s the diversity ratio?
  • Are we reinforcing stereotypes in the stories we tell?
  • Are there any groups of people that we’re completely ignoring? 
  • Have we created a habit of only speaking about the brand? In what ways could we relate more directly to our audience?
  • Is any of our DE&I marketing contradictory to our internal practices (i.e. are we practicing what we preach)? Consider any impact the brand could make beyond marketing.

As part of your audit, consider using Facebook’s Ad Library and Moat to take a glance at what your competitors and other brands in your industry are running. Take note of which competitors are embracing diversity. By conducting a diversity analysis, you will be able to gauge where you stand and how your industry is approaching diversity within marketing creative.
To round out your DE&I audit, be sure to document your current benchmarks (e.g. X% of marketing imagery features POC and/or Hispanic, X% is male and/or female, etc.) so you can revisit them and track your progress with data.
Step #3: Incorporate More Diverse Imagery
Perhaps your diversity audit performance fell short, and you realized your brand is lacking overall representation within ad creative. Maybe you have an upcoming photoshoot, and you made it a point to hire a diverse set of models. Or, maybe you want to include more diverse imagery right away, but you don’t have the ability to conduct an entirely new photoshoot right now. Good news: you don’t always need an entire photoshoot to get new assets. In fact, there are plenty of stock photo resources available that focus on diverse imagery:

  • Nappy (which provided the image below) is a collection of free and proprietary (purchasable) stock photos of black and brown people; it includes a search function that allows you to be specific based on what you’re trying to represent within your ad.
  • Picnoi is another resource where advertisers, marketers, designers, etc. can easily search and find images of people of color. 
  • Tonl has curated premier diverse stock photography that represents the true world we live in. With a range of categories that represent different narratives as well as categories such as travel, taste, and tech (just to name a few), it lets advertisers explore photos that help amplify inclusivity in creative. 
  • Broadly, by VICE, took inclusivity a step further by curating a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models with a focus on people of color with their Gender Spectrum Collection.

Note: this list is in no way comprehensive, but is a great place to start if you’re searching for inclusive imagery that may work for your brand. As always, we recommend sourcing original brand photography when it’s possible.
Step #4: Temperature-Check Your Ideas
So you’ve conducted a DE&I audit, and perhaps you even have a few ideas or concepts to start on. Here’s a few tips to check your ideas to ensure your message is on point.

  • Consider your audience: how would the people you’re conveying describe themselves? Are you reinforcing any negative stereotypes?
  • Avoid tunnel vision: actively solicit feedback from people who were not part of the ideation process to gut-check the creative from neutral perspectives.
  • Humanize it: what would your friends think if you posted the same content on your personal social media?

Step #5: Be Accountable
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve demonstrated some serious commitment to progress! In this next and final step, we want to remind you that building diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t simply a box you can check. Real change takes time and commitment and goes far beyond skin color and gender (consider: age, geography, family dynamics, etc.). Make a commitment to check in on your diversity benchmarks and set goals to hold yourself and your team accountable. (And don’t think you need to substitute diversity for performance; the two are compatible.)
Achieving real and authentic diversity in advertising takes time, and it’s no secret our industry has a long way to go. We believe these are good first steps to creating truly inclusive work and stand firm that as marketers, we have an impact on our society and culture, and therefore we have a moral imperative to address the representation of people from all walks of life. With these strategies, we can begin to understand the ways in which our creative and marketing teams have addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion while developing a strategic approach to ensuring diversity is considered moving forward.

1 S Wacker Drive
Suite 2250

Chicago, IL 60606(650) 539-4124


Want to become a client?

Contact Us decorative arrow

Want to join the team?

View Our Openings decorative arrow

Find us on social media.

Press inquiries.

Email Us decorative arrow

Expert insights for your inbox. Subscribe to our content.

Accept No Limits.