People of color in over half of Dutch ads, but mainly as extras
More than half of Dutch advertisements feature people of color, but mainly in minor roles as extras. When a person of color does have a larger role, they have relatively little talk- and screen time, according to a study into stereotyping and diversity in 420 Star commercials from last year. The study was done by research agency Kantar on behalf of the trade association for communication consultants VEA, the Volkskrant reports.
The researchers found that 56 percent of advertisements feature a person with color. But culturally diverse actors only play the leading role in 16 percent of commercials. In half of the ads they appeared in, they played a supporting role, an in two thirds they were only a background character. People of color are also very rarely in an commercial by themselves - in 94 percent of ads, there is a white person at their side.
For comparison, white people play a leading role in 90 percent of Dutch ads, a supporting role in 88 percent, and a background role in 93 percent of commercials.
"What we notice is that advertisers realize at the last minute we have to do something about diversity. And then they quickly arrange an actor with colored skin, but they can no longer play the lead role," Marion Koopman, chairman of the VEA said to the Volkskrant.
Last week the VEA already published an open letter, acknowledging that the industry dropped the ball and that commercials do not show a representative image of the Dutch population. "We barely noticed for decades that the work we create is not a true reflection."
This study was launched in the fall of last year. It's publication was accelerated, given the the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests over the past weeks. The VEA also announced a second study to map out how diverse advertisers' team are. The trade association will also start giving training about how to recognize prejudices.
The researchers also found that while men and women appear in ads equally often, men are more often given the leading role and have more speaking time. Men are often portrayed as technical and strong, while women are portrayed as caring, especially when it comes to children and her own appearance. Other groups, such as people from the LGBTQ community and people with disability, rarely feature in Dutch ads.
"We show that the dominant norm is mainly young, male and white. We thereby unwittingly mold the reality of many people, who do not recognize themselves sufficiently. We have a responsibility and interest to do better," Koopman said.