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Hollywood is changing, and diversity is finally making its way into the business more prominently. With diversity issues being brought back to the forefront of political news, it is important for brands to know how to navigate this new marketing climate. Putting out advertising material in the wake of serious political events can cost a company its reputation. Brands need to continue to release marketing content while respecting social values. To do this effectively, they need to align themselves with the movements and show support.
One of the best ways to do this is to partner with shows and films that have diverse casts and crews. Product placement in television and movies is a great way to partner with productions and has proven to be a financial success for many brands. Additionally, promoting diversity on screen is beneficial to a company’s reputation and is essential to breaking down systematic oppression in the United States. But how can brands pull this off successfully if they’ve never done it before? In this blog, Hollywood Branded will dive into the history of diversity on screen and how your brand can benefit from partnering with diverse productions.
Since the inception of Hollywood, white male actors have dominated the screens. Just turn on the classic movie channel every once in a while, and you’ll see the abundance of white men on screen. Women were often given smaller roles and were seen as helpless or weak.
People of color were infrequently seen on screen and often played roles as slaves or workers for wealthy white families. LGBT actors were missing from big Hollywood productions altogether for many years.
As Hollywood and the entertainment industry have evolved, more people identifying with minority groups have been able to secure more serious roles, but they are still outnumbered and underrepresented compared to white men.
Diverse representation on screen is extremely important to the way our society sees people. In a quote pulled from a Vice article, Obama stated that, “minorities realize—supported by research—that the media influences not only how others view them, but even how they view themselves.”
Lack of representation on screen is detrimental to youth development. A 2011 study conducted by The Opportunity Agenda looked at representation on TV and its impact on children’s self-esteem. In a survey of almost 400 black and white boys and girls, “researchers found that the only demographic that didn’t experience lower self-esteem after watching TV was white boys.”
This tells a lot about which group of people have felt the most empowered by Hollywood productions and pop culture over the years. It is evident that white men benefit the most from society’s portrayal of them on screen, but it is most important to analyze the statistics of underrepresentation in Hollywood.
The University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted recent studies about diversity on screen in the 21st century. USC’s study looked at films between the years 2007 and 2016, while UCLA’s report only looked at the year 2019.
USC’s report looked first at race representation on screen. It would surprise many to know that from 2007 to 2016, none of the percentages for race representation changed, except that white representation dropped by 6.8%. As of 2016, 70.8% of characters on screen were white, 13.6% are black, 3.1% are Hispanic, 5.7% are Asian, and 7% are identified as other. Additionally, of the top 100 films in 2016, 47 had no black characters, 66 had no Asian characters, and 72 had no Hispanic characters. On TV, only 2.2 out of 10 lead actors are people of color, according to UCLA’s report.
As shown in the figure above; out of 1,281 roles analyzed, 614 were white male, 373 were white female, 86 were black male, 29 were black female, 41 were Latino male, 25 were Latino female, 32 were Asian male, 12 were Asian female, 27 were mixed-race male, 37 were mixed-race female, 5 were indigenous male, and there were no indigenous female roles.
The next category that was analyzed was actors that identified as LGBT being represented on screen. USC reported that out of all the films they analyzed, only one actor was transgender in the year 2014 and 2016 separately, and there were no transgender actors represented in any other years. In 2016 there were only 51 total LGBT exposures. 35 of those were gay actors, 9 were lesbian, and 6 were bisexual. One of the most shocking facts from this section is that of the top 100 films in 2016, 76 had no LGBT characters, translating to less than ¼ of the films having LGBT representation on screen.
Continuing on by analyzing gender discrimination, studies from the USC report show that in 2015 there were only 32 total films that had a female lead, and the total ratio of Male to Female characters on screen is 2.3:1. This means only 31% of 39,778 total speaking characters in the study were female.
As a young white female, I often felt out of place if I did not play the role of a damsel in distress when playing pretend with my friends. I felt less beautiful and less feminine than my friends who often took on the role of the princess.
I can attest that the way women are portrayed on screen can greatly affect a young girl’s development. Despite this, I can recognize that I am still more privileged than others. I cannot imagine what it may have been like for young transgender children to grow up without any understanding of different gender identities.
For the sake of healthy mental development, these numbers need to change for the better in the near future. We as a society need to support new diverse filmmakers and diverse talent in Hollywood.
Not only are the statistics surprising, but they are also unacceptable and detrimental to our youth. PBS articles showed that teenagers have reported mental health problems after growing up without much positive representation on screen.
Their self-esteem is weakened, and their need to identify with pop culture makes it difficult for them to appreciate who they are if all they see is negative stereotypes. Kimore Willis, a junior at Etiwanda High School in California interviewed by PBS, said, “It just makes you feel like, ‘Why don’t I see anybody like me?’ [It] kind of like brings your self-esteem down.”
Mental health issues like these have also been studied by The Journal of Social Issues. The study showed a strong relationship between low self-esteem and viewing negative media stereotypes. Not only does it negatively affect mental health, it can also cause confusion in children at a young age about their identity and aspects of their racial group.
Additional studies show that from a young age, around 2 years old, kids develop ideas about people based on TV show characters and can easily sort them into groups of good guys and bad guys. Often because of poor representation, they put minorities into the bad guys group.
These mental health issues often stem from the way characters are written and portrayed instead of how they are cast. If a young black child only sees violent or negative representations of themselves on screen, their self-worth and identity will suffer as a result.
The negative effects on mental health don't stop at racial identity. Women often grow up feeling inferior and are told they need a man to protect them because that is how life works in fairytales. LGBT-identifying people often feel broken or like there is something wrong with them. Not only do we need to change how we cast productions, but we also need to change how minority groups are represented in a story.
The media has a bigger impact on our lives than we may realize. An increase in diverse media is essential to solving these social issues. Representation on screen promotes good mental health and equality in other industries.
If brands and companies funded and supported minority filmmakers and actors, other companies and industries would follow and work to limit oppression in their workplaces. The key to this is effort and initiation from people to work for change.
It is important to see how much underrepresentation there actually is, but when nothing is done to change it, they just become numbers that are forgotten. This means Hollywood needs to do a better job, but so do companies who support Hollywood productions.
Partnering with diverse productions is one of the best ways to set a positive reputation with your brand and also work to break down social constructs in Hollywood. While it may be a difficult task, there is no shortage of benefits to the brand.
Inclusive Marketing is any type of marketing that’s purpose is to promote inclusivity, whether it be within your brand, in your respective industry, or in society. It can also be various different strategies, from video ads aligning support with a non-profit to product ads that are including minority groups. Product placement within diverse productions is a great way to promote inclusivity within the industry and your company.
An article in O’d Wyer PR went into detail about inclusive marketing, its importance, and how to implement it successfully within your company. According to their article, this strategy can also take your company to new heights, stating that; “Inclusive marketing gives brands the opportunity to attract more consumers, thereby increasing sales, brand awareness, and store or website traffic.”
Now more than ever, consumers are choosing to support brands based on political beliefs. O’d Wyer also cited research from Accenture that shows 51 percent of younger Millennials are more likely to buy from companies that demonstrate social awareness.
Additionally, Generation Z consumers are being called the "conscious buyers," often researching company politics before buying their products. They will make up 40% of the market by 2021.
Inclusive marketing is becoming essential for the survival of brands and companies. Without it, consumers may shy away from supporting your brand, and business will drop. Your brand needs to learn how to best implement inclusive marketing.
So, how does a company go about implementing inclusive marketing? First, it is important to be authentic and to only align with movements your company’s values match with. Consumers can sense when a brand is trying to save face or make political ads to boost business. Take Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner partnership ad as an example of what not to do.
The beverage giant created a video ad that portrayed Jenner as joining a protest and bringing peace to the event by offering an officer a Pepsi. While the basic idea of this ad was positive; bringing people together can be key to solving conflict, the execution came off as ignorant and tone-deaf.
The company quickly removed the ad and apologized for its mistake and lack of awareness. As soon as this happens, some companies start to play the blame game and fire employees in charge of the campaign to save face. This is a mess best avoided by first promoting inclusivity internally.
This brings us to point 2; you have to hire a diverse team if you are going to successfully promote inclusivity. You can’t boost inclusivity marketing if your company doesn't have a diverse team; that would be a forced and ingenuine move. Not only will hiring a diverse team help you promote inclusivity, but it will also help you avoid negative mistakes that could be caused by ignorance or miss-education about a social issue.
Promoting diversity will help you align with and understand a new group of consumers that you can target. If you’re not sure which movements or issues you’d like to align with, you should start by considering your consumers and target audience and how they identify. If you’re hitting a wall, ask your team.
Now you have a good understanding of how to effectively implement diversity within your brand. So, remember, getting started with inclusivity marketing isn't easy, and it will take time to implement a diverse team to do it well. However, it is essential to the success and survival of your company to start working to promote diversity in your workplace. One of the easiest ways to get started is product placement in a diverse Hollywood production. To view a list of upcoming TV shows and Films, check out this blog: 30 Upcoming Diverse Productions Your Brand Should Partner With.
If your company has not worked in product placement before and isn't sure how to move forward, our company is always willing to take on new clients and help them get in touch with productions they want to work with.
If you are interested in learning more about product placement and how it works, read some of the below blogs our team has written:
If you'd like to read more on diversity in Hollywood, read these blogs from our team:
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