Diversity in Advertisements

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In January 2018, L’Oréal Paris made history by casting a model wearing a hijab to star in a major haircare campaign. But, L’Oréal is not the only entity to diversify their campaign. Vogue recently featured hijab-wearing Halima Aden on the cover of the magazine.

These two cases raise the question of whether diversity in media and advertising affects consumers. The short answer is “yes.”

Sociologist Mary Jo Kane, of the University of Minnesota, has commented that the media are one of the most powerful forces in shaping ideas and attitudes, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. A number of studies support her claim.

Elizabeth Daniels, of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, conducted a series of studies focusing on people’s reactions to the depiction of female athletes in the media. Girls who viewed hypersexualized images of women reported negative body image and anger over the objectification. Boys, on the other hand, were likely to view the women as sex objects.

Importantly, Daniels also found the opposite to be true. When girls and women see female athletes depicted in strong, athletic poses, they are likely to report positive body image and view the athletes as role models. Boys and men who view those images are more likely to value women’s accomplishments.

The effects of the media and advertising are applicable for other diversity forms, too, such as race. Riva Tukachinsky, of Chapman University, and her colleagues observed that the media can influence Whites’ race-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as racial minorities’ self-concept.

Collectively, these studies show that people pay attention to who is included in advertisements and how they are portrayed. That is what makes the inclusion of women wearing a headscarf in prominent fashion magazines and in advertising campaigns is meaningful.