“The real race issue with the Christmas adverts is that the diversity and inclusion stops at the marketing. It goes no further”.
It’s all well and good making your adverts inclusive, but it’s pointless when store shelves don’t reflect that external messaging through their product offering. So it’s time for high street retailers and supermarkets to wake up and practice what they preach in advertising by showing this representation in their stores and product ranges too.
It’s the main reason I set up Afrodrops; as a black man, me or my children can’t just walk into a supermarket and pick up shampoo. So what does this say to people like me? It screams “we don’t see you” – in 2020!
Sainsbury’s reacted to its “Gravy Song” ad backlash by saying: “At Sainsbury’s, we want to be the most inclusive retailer. That’s why, throughout all our advertising we aim to represent a modern Britain, which has a diverse range of communities.”
I can only believe this is true when diversity is also part of their product range, and black people can pick up everyday beauty and haircare items alongside the aisles with 100s of products that don’t cater to them currently.
It really is great to see more representation across the board for retailers’ Christmas adverts this year. I think this is in part due to the big BLM movement and general social improvements and conversations around different cultures in Britain; this has improved significantly in 2020. Sure, there’s still a way to go. But to see Sainsbury’s, McDonalds, John Lewis all feature people of different colours, cultures and backgrounds is amazing.
And it is sad to see the racial backlash from a very small group at Sainsbury’s for featuring a black family. But what actually saddens me and distracts from the real, core issue, is that this is just the marketing and advertising. Part of me even questions if the diversity box has been ticked just to create a bigger online conversation and get people talking about the ad and notices – good or bad!
Supermarkets and high street stores all “proudly” celebrated Black History Month in October, but it’s now time to prove it and put their money where their campaign and advertising budgets are going.
It’s time for this diversity to trickle through more than just the marketing. When will we see an ethnically diverse merchandising and buying teams that are considering products for all?!
When I worked for a large online healthcare beauty brand five years ago and asked, “Why don’t we stock any afro-centric products online?” I was told, “It’s not an area we know much about.”
However, a lack of education is no longer an excuse. Retailers and supermarkets need to diversify their hair care specialists and buying teams to get that much needed product on to high street shelves because representation is important. Representation in adverts is great, but it’s not enough to just do this alone in marketing.
Luke Carthy, who is the founder of Afrodrops comments on the recent Sainsbury’s Christmas ad backlash