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City Hall launch comp to increase diversity in advertising

REPRESENTATION: Women We See campaign

CITY HALL and TfL are launching a new competition to support advertisers to create more positive and inclusive campaigns after research showed that Londoners do not feel represented by advertisements in the capital.

Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, today (Jul 16) launched the competition inviting brands to create adverts that reflect London’s diversity, feature women from all backgrounds and move away from harmful gender stereotypes.

Sponsored by TfL advertising agencies, Exterion Media and JCDecaux, for the first time ever, this competition gives brands the opportunity to win £500,000-worth of prominent advertising space across the TfL network – one of the biggest advertising estates in the world, seen by people on the 31 million journeys taken on TfL’s network every day.

The winning brand will have the chance to reach a huge audience across the capital and lead the way in driving positive change in the industry. There is also the chance for two shortlisted campaigns to receive a prize worth £50,000 in digital advertising.

The launch of this brand new competition comes following new research, commissioned by City Hall, which revealed Londoners don’t feel the women they see in adverts are representative of women in the capital.

Findings from the new report, ‘The Women We See’, showed that 75 per cent of Londoners feel that adverts should reflect the diversity of the city’s population, yet fewer than one in four thinks adverts are culturally diverse. It also highlights that women and girls feel pressured to achieve a specific beauty standard as a result of the women they see in adverts around the city.

The study focused on adverts in a range of public spaces that people would encounter in their day-to-day lives in the capital, and highlighted a discrepancy between the women we see in London, and the women we see in adverts.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that less than one in three people feel that adverts in London are relevant to them, and highlighted the extent to which people from different cultural backgrounds, age groups or sexual orientation feel ignored.

The group feeling the least represented were women over the age of 55. Fewer than one in four respondents could recall seeing an advert featuring someone with wrinkles, and older research participants reported feeling ‘invisible’ and ‘irrelevant’.

Those surveyed felt advertising was focused on able-bodied people, with just 18 per cent of survey participants able to remember ever seeing an advert featuring a disabled person. The majority of men and women also said they did not see enough images of disabled people. Members of the LGBT+ community who were surveyed felt excluded, with only one in three feeling their sexual orientation was well represented.

When researchers spoke to women and girls using the transport network and travelling around the city, they regularly reflected on the fact that adverts in public places often featured beauty products, clothes, gyms and health products alongside messaging that made women and girls feel pressured about their own body image.

The respondents were also critical about the use of photoshop, with 42 per cent of women saying the use of photoshop is unacceptable and 69 per cent saying they think companies need to be more transparent and state when photoshop has been used in their adverts.

The new competition is the latest move from City Hall to encourage more positive advertising campaigns, following a ban on adverts on the TfL network which could reasonably be seen as likely to cause pressure to conform to an unrealistic or unhealthy body shape, or as likely to create body confidence issues, particularly among young people. In addition, City Hall also worked with TfL to establish the Advertising Steering Group to monitor TfL’s approach to advertising and to keep its policy under regular review.

The research also showed that advertising across London transport was rated the most positively of all channels in terms of the quality, diversity and portrayal of different audiences – only seven per cent of Londoners stated that they found advertising on transport ‘problematic’.

Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “London is one of the most diverse cities in the world and our diversity is one of our greatest strengths, so it’s important we challenge the disparity between the women we see in our advertising and the women we see around us in our city.

"It is particularly concerning that some women feel pressurised by images they see in adverts around the city, and others feel completely overlooked or ignored. I want young women and girls from all backgrounds in London to feel empowered and valued when travelling around our great city.

“That’s why today we are launching a new competition to work with the advertising industry to tackle the way we represent women in advertising. As part of the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, we want to ensure that women that are at the heart of our city’s success get the representation they deserve.”

Selma Nicholls, Founder of Looks Like Me and competition judge commented: "It is critical that we continue to represent society fairly, so women and girls from all backgrounds see advertising content that authentically represents them. It's time to celebrate our brilliant diverse city, create inclusive content that resonates with our audiences, so women and girls proudly say she looks like me."

The competition will be open for entries from Monday 16 July – Monday 22 October 2018 and is available to apply via the London Gov website.

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