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Black Lives Matter Impact On Advertising

2020 marks a year of significant change which will be remembered for years to come and forever change consumer behavior and global temperament. It is truly an exciting time for the world as racial injustice takes the main stage and COVID fears remain prevalent as cases surge. Black Lives Matter now has a strong voice and a clear message outlined in the thirteen guiding principles which should be integrated into personal and professional communities.

The advertising community is evolving but not fast enough. Prehistoric visuals promoting unrealistic human expectations and broken recruitment models limiting company diversity are skewing reality. The cosmetics industry is a great example of this! Companies like Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal and Unilever have offered skin whitening cream due to the demand for lighter skin tones in the Asian market. While there was market demand, this falsity has been reinforced by media and has caused a social divide.

Recently these same companies have dropped any white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening language from their messaging but aren’t terminating the products all together. This comes only after the owners of Cream of Wheat said they will review their branding for Uncle Ben’s Rice and Mrs. Butterworth’s. Quaker Oats took a bigger stand with the retirement of Aunt Jemima altogether. It is yet to see how the global beauty industry that generates $500 billion in sales a year (source: McKinsey & Co.) will be impacted. With COVID expected to impact US sales by up to 35%, due to the non-essential product lines, it’s likely that these brands will tread lightly.

Potential long-term BLM and COVID impacts on the advertising community:

  1. More brands will audit their messaging: Cultural audits will play an important part when allocating brand budget

  2. Some brands will pull products all together: Product lines will be pulled but only if enough pressure is applied

  3. Hate speech as an optimization metric: This measurement metric has been available for years but only with BLM will it become a priority KPI

  4. Brands will continue to jump on the BLM band wagon: False empathy will continue to crowd the space as brands look for any possible way to drive sales

  5. Advertisers will pull out of any BLM content: Advertisers have always watched news content carefully, with the controversy around this topic others will continue to pull out all together

  6. Some brands will back the movement: Brands with deep pockets will threaten to pull spend if unfair business practices don’t evolve

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