Something I consider as hugely important in society today is the issue of social inclusion. As a marketer, it is worth highlighting that there is a key role to play in tackling this issue as there is the ability to influence how consumers think and behave. Society is made up of a wide range of diverse people, and it is important that everybody is equally represented as we are all part of one society regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, wealth, health or sexual orientation. There is a need for a greater representation in advertising of those representing minority groups in order to break down the barriers they may face resulting in them being treated differently.

We are all made aware of the issue of social inclusion at various points every year, such as recently in the Children in Need campaign. This year has also been the year of the Olympics and the Paralympics, with the Paralympians characterised in adverts as ‘super humans’, a term carried over from the London 2012 Paralympics. Everybody is represented equally in the Olympics and Paralympics, with the Paralympian Ellie Simmonds and Olympian Susie Rodgers both appearing in the same Samsung advert for their ‘School of Rio’ campaign. On the Samsung website, they claim that the aim of these adverts was to ‘shine a light on the athletes that push the limits of what is possible’. This is in line with the Samsung brand which has an innovative approach to technology at its core. There is also a humorous theme to these adverts as different athletes attempt to teach the comedian Jack Whitehall how to swim, cycle, play rugby and so on.

MARS Chocolate, who won Channel 4’s Superhumans wanted competition for the £1 million advertising slot available for the Paralympic Games, also chose a similar innovative approach to equal representation in their adverts. Appropriately named ‘Look on the light side’, these adverts used real tales of social mishap delivered by actors with disabilities and good humour, staying in line with the message of the Maltesers brand and the cheeky tone that has run throughout their recent advertising campaigns.

The risk that was taken with this campaign was that some people would call the ads insensitive, but the majority described them as ‘brilliant’. MARS do not claim to be experts in disability however, they did seek guidance from the charity Scope that aims to encourage everyday conversation surrounding disability. They also conducted focus groups as they were at first hesitant about using a humorous approach, but the outcome of the group was that ‘humour can be a powerful force for positive change in overcoming taboos’ (Marketing Week, 2016) which, in essence, describes what these advertisements are all about. Michele Oliver, the Vice President of Marketing at MARS, states that they wish to be a beacon for other marketers to follow in promoting more diversity through their advertising campaigns:

As one of the UK’s biggest advertisers, we have a responsibility and a role to play in reflecting diversity in everyday media.’

- Michele Oliver, MARS website

Where there is greater risk taken, there is also the chance for a greater reward. Customers may be more enticed to engage with the MARS brand as a result of them using it ‘for good’ which is a key principle of the MARS brand.

The success of this campaign will have a long-term impact as it has prompted MARS to change the brief they give to their casting agencies.

Therefore, we must not just think of this issue at the highlighted points in the year. The key to including and advocating social inclusion as a marketer is longevity. Promoting equality is for life, not just for a moment, avoiding ‘tokenism’, i.e. only making a small gesture to contributing towards a more diverse representation in advertising. 

It is also really important that we are all aware of the legal requirements when undertaking advertising. The Committee for Advertising Practice set out clear guidelines for disability, children, religion amongst many others. For advertisers who breach these, the Advertising Standards Agency have stringent penalties. With regards to using humour, CAP remind marketers to be mindful of using a light-hearted approach as it can cause offence.

For more information on these guidelines, please to go the CAP website www.cap.org.uk.

Roderick, L. (2016). Mars 'embraces diversity' with campaign at overcoming disability taboos. Available: https://www.marketingweek.com/2016/09/06/mars-looks-to-avoid-tokenism-as-it-uses-humour-for-three-part-paralympic-campaign Last accessed 1st Dec 2016.