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Why Inclusion Is The Future of Advertising

The goal of advertising is to make an emotional connection with your audience. Consumers like to be a part of the culture that the brand creates, which is why the Coca-Cola “Share a Coke” campaign was so successful. By putting names on cans, the company was able to speak directly to their customers and make them feel connected. On Valentine’s Day, brands have an opportunity to take inclusion a step further, in order to engage with their audience in a way they never have before.

Millennials are a diverse group that like to feel connected to each other. If a brand can facilitate that connection, they’re more likely to develop a relationship with the consumer. Over the last few years, commercials have become inclusive in their attempts to speak to a more diverse audience. Mark Truss, director of brand intelligence at JWT, believes that “ads can often serve as a beacon for societal norms” and in an era where equality is such a dominant part of the public consciousness, inclusivity in advertising is more accepted than it ever has been before. We’ve already seen a City Gym commercial following a trans man on his path to belong. Folic Magazine is challenging the normative views of beauty in society with their inclusion of children with Down Syndrome. Even Axe has rebranded themselves by challenging the masculine identity–which they once worked to reinforce–by encouraging their audience to identify however they identify themselves.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Teleflora has released a new ad asking “What is love?” that  depicts multiple interpretations of the answer. We see a mother and child, traditional lovers, and friends–but also couples of various age, race, and sexual orientation experiencing what love is for them. The ad ends with the answer: “love is our greatest gift,” and by answering the question in the end, we see that every version of love we’ve just witnessed, fits into their message. It’s an incredible piece of marketing, because inclusiveness makes us feel good about what we’re watching and the numbers back it up.

A Wells Fargo ad featuring a same-sex couple learning sign language before adopting a hearing-impaired child was the most digitally engaging TV ad in the second week of June 2015. Tylenol’s presentation of diverse family units was the most digitally engaging ad in the third week of June 2015. A Chobani yogurt commercial featuring a lesbian couple ranked third most engaging for that week as well. Inclusivity strikes a chord with today’s audience and ads that welcome diversity and inclusiveness engage with their audience in a very powerful way.

In a study JWT conducted for Buzzfeed, it was determined that 72% of respondents thought that brands with ads that present gay and lesbian couples are “brave,” which Mark Truss believes “translates to leadership.” By participating in inclusion, brands exude leadership, positively influencing consumers at time of purchase. The study also states that 80% of respondents believe that depicting gay and lesbian people in ads is a reflection of today’s society. This realistic depiction leads to more authentic interactions, which brands crave.

Unfortunately, only 36% of Americans have seen an ad featuring members of the LGBT community because brands are hesitant to participate in this new practice. To many, Valentine’s Day is an inundation of tradition social norms, but it doesn’t have to be. Teleflora is changing the way people think about love, but it’s also an important step for inclusive advertising, which will only increase as more brands see the benefits. As Truss believes, “identifying cultural shifts and leaning into them…can be very powerful.”