If you have a target demographic, think about how you depict that demographic. If your demographic is split, it might be in your brand’s best interest to have a split campaign—maybe that means one commercial targeted at men and another at women, or one targeted at a younger audience and one at an older one. Coca-cola’s 2015 Super Bowl ad targeted a wide variety of demographics in a single commercial that they then spun off into individual commercials, targeted more specifically through outlets most associated with that demographic and through online targeting. If you’re advertising online, you already have the capability to target specific demographics. Why not create commercials specific to those demographics?
Fair and accurate depiction of a person or group of people in filmmaking—probably not the first thing on your mind when you think of commercial filmmaking. Documentaries…maybe. Commercials? Nah. But I think it’s more important to accurately depict a person in a commercial than in a documentary. First, how many people are inundated with documentaries as much as they are commercials? Second, documentaries are created to express an opinion, one that the viewer may or may not agree with. Commercials try to connect with us as individuals, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
There’s an entirely commercial way to look at this. Commercials exist to sell a product, grow a brand, protect a brand, engage the consumer, or educate potential clients. If your target demographic is, “women between the ages of 28 and 38 that live in urban areas and gross between $38,000 and $58,000 a year,” and your commercial features an 18 year old girl that doesn’t have anything in common with that demographic, your commercial isn’t just weak—it could actively harm your brand. An overly racist ad by Axe was banned from the 2015 super bowl. That’s not just money lost on producing a commercial—that’s money lost from alienating consumers.
And there are more important ethical considerations to take into account. Before Bruce Lee, the vast majority of Asian characters in Western movies were bookish accountant types, almost exclusively played by white men wearing heavy makeup. It’s 2015, there’s no way that would fly now, right!? Except…it did. In the recent film Aloha, Emma Stone played a half-asian girl. And the character’s race was directly relevant to the story. Emma Stone is a talented actress, but there are a plethora of beautiful, talented half-asian actresses that would have fit the role.
On the flip side, there are commercials, films, and tv shows that make it their raison d’être to accurately depict characters without resorting to tropes and clichés. The recent tv show Sense8 doesn’t hold back in dealing with race, gender, and LGBT issues. Really, it was my impetus for writing this. I highly recommend it.