Although there have been numerous studies about underrepresentation and misrepresentation of people in advertising, most have focused on traditional channels such as television, print, and radio, rather than on digital channels. In this paper, we seek to contribute to the body of knowledge by utilizing a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore people’s attitudes toward diversity in online advertising, the current state of representation, and the impact of diversity on digital campaign performance. Our work includes a consumer survey, analysis of Facebook ads, and brand lift studies.
The findings reveal that certain groups are underrepresented in online advertising and that stereotypes continue to be present in campaigns. The research also suggests that people want more inclusion in online advertising, that more frequent and positive portrayals of underrepresented and diverse groups has a measurably positive impact on business outcomes, and that today’s advertisers have a powerful opportunity to communicate and change behavior.