Multicultural Creative: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Advertisers and marketers have made significant progress in their representation of ethnic consumers in advertising and marketing campaigns over the years. However, there’s still room for improvement. Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to creative for multicultural marketing campaigns.

The Good:

  • Increased representation: More and more, advertisers are featuring ethnic consumers in their advertising campaigns, which helps to promote diversity and inclusivity.
  • Better understanding of cultural nuances: Some advertisers have made a conscious effort to understand and accurately represent the cultural nuances of ethnic consumers, which can be a powerful tool in connecting with this audience.
  • Positive representation: Advertisers are starting to move away from stereotypical or negative representation of ethnic consumers, instead focusing on positive and empowering images.
  • Insightful Creativity:  As budgets have gradually increased for DEI and multicultural campaigns we are starting to see insightful creative execution that is approaching the quality found in mainstream advertising promotions.

The Bad:

  • Tokenism: Some advertisers still rely on tokenism, where a single ethnic consumer is featured in an advertisement in a tokenistic or superficial way, rather than as a fully realized and multi-dimensional character.
  • Stereotyping: Despite progress being made, advertisers still sometimes fall back on stereotypes when representing ethnic consumers, which can be damaging and reinforces negative prejudices.
  • Translation vs. Adaptation:  Too often ads are simply translated from mainstream ads vs. copy that is appropriately adapted to each target audience.

The Ugly:

  • Cultural appropriation: Advertisers have been known to appropriate cultural elements and symbols from one culture for their own use, which can be insensitive and offensive to members of that culture.
  • Lack of diversity in creative teams: There is still a lack of diversity in the creative teams behind many advertising campaigns, which can lead to a lack of cultural understanding and sensitivity when it comes to representing ethnic consumers.

In conclusion, while there has been progress in the representation of ethnic consumers in advertising and marketing, there is still a long way to go. It’s important for advertisers to work to understand and accurately represent these consumers in a positive and sensitive way, and to strive for diversity and inclusivity in their creative teams.  The bottom line is without data driven insights effective creative execution is next to impossible produce.


Published: March 19, 2023


John Stevenson

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