Christmas ads and diversity: another year, another ‘white’ Christmas?

Christmas ads and diversity: another year, another ‘white’ Christmas?

Each year in the lead up to Christmas, the industry waits with bated breath for the blockbuster Christmas ad showdown. In recent years, brands have made a more concerted effort to diversify their advertising output. Yet, despite this, the protagonists for the most hotly anticipated festive campaigns in 2019 were all white actors. Commentators have since suggested that brands are only just scratching the surface with their diversity efforts.

Where are we at?

From the 19th century onwards, inspired by the conservative traditions of the Victorian era, a superfluous array of white families hosted most Christmas ads; a dashing husband, a doting wife and rosy-cheeked children surrounded by Christmas imagery. The representation of minority groups has been far more sparse.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Christmas creative has escaped from the traditional mould as an increasing number of brands put diversity at the top of the agenda.

For example, Ikea’s ad this year presented a mixed-race family. It was widely applauded for putting grime music – the sounds born out of underground black culture – at the heart of its first Christmas campaign. Careful not to appear too ‘woke’, the concept was a graceful nod to this historically sidelined art.

“Christmas is the time of year when brands look to engage everyone in the Christmas spirit – often tugging at heartstrings,” commented Chris Kenna, founder of Brand Advance – a dedicated global diversity media network. “There have been some real leaps forward this year, such as Ikea’s ‘Silence the Critics’ advert which engaged BAME and grime – a great example of a Christmas advert being culturally relevant and authentic.”

Argos was another brand which put diversity on the top of its agenda with ‘Book of Dreams’ – an invigorating tale of a father and daughter playing the drums to a fictional, rapturous crowd.

But beyond these, you’d be in a hard placed to name others that made similar efforts in the run-up to Christmas in the UK. While the stage has been opened for minority groups, getting the part of the main protagonist isn’t so easy, as far as Christmas ads are concerned.

The leads of most hotly anticipated Christmas ads this year were all white actors, including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, M&S, Greenpeace, and Homebase, with people of other minorities were often dotted sporadically in the background.


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