From outright racism to representing people of color in advertising, North American advertising has come a long way. While the evolution that encouraged the representation of people in color might seem natural and even inconsequential to some, it holds a great truth.
Advertising relies on semiotics – the art of using symbols to create meaning and propagate a message, which affects people of color in real life too.
Let us explore how semiotics and the representation of people of color have changed over the years.
During the 1970s, were in the advertising industry. Lack of voice in the board room caused a lack of representation and misrepresentations. Ultimately, people of color, especially African Americans, were limited to becoming subservient to White people through formers’ representations as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus.
As the American dream reached its apex, people of color from different nations came to the USA with high hopes. As more people of color entered the advertising industry, representations increased.
IBM featured an Asian man who seems to be in his early thirties. He reflects positive values that are associated with Asian communities: hard work, humility, and highly tech-savvy.
Verizon featured a native African American artist with the copy that reads, “Jazz. Rock. Trip Hop. Uptempo or down.”
It depicts that to reach the right audiences effectively and engagingly, advertisements have to represent their brands through the right characters.
No longer is representation about representation alone. Brands are capitalizing on their increased representation of people of color by boasting about having more people of color in advertising.
Avon now hires more women of color in their campaign titled “This Is My Color” to increase representation for people of different colors in advertising.
Wildlife Conservation Society, an American-based NGO, depicts people of color to convey and encourage the protection of wildlife.
While the representation of people of color in advertising has come a long way, controversial campaigns like Gucci’s black face sweater are a grim reminder that a lot still needs to be done.
Overall, the advertising world has become more open, tolerant, and colorful than it once was, which calls for celebration and gives hope for the future.