Inside Entertainment Issue 7

Brands Can Lead The Way

Creating A More Inclusive World By Empowering Diverse Content Creation

Table of Contents

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  4. 4
  5. 5

Section 1

Doing Good Is Good Business

71% of consumers report they prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their values.
With this level of importance linked to purchase decision making, it’s more important than ever for brands to align their social responsibility with their primary business goals. (5W Public Relations) When it comes to the marketing that companies use to connect with consumers, audiences also report a high level of expectation that the messaging match the mission. 61% of Americans find diversity in advertising important, and 38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands that do well with showing diversity in their ads. Unfortunately, for a vast majority of consumers, brands are falling short of the mark. Research conducted by Adobe found that 66% of African Americans, and 53% of Latino and Hispanic Americans, feel their ethnicity is portrayed stereotypically in advertisements.

In a world that has moved past being defined as simply black and white, it’s even more important– and more challenging–to deliver authentic and impactful messaging to key target consumers based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other factors that are part of our makeup
as human beings. How do marketers connect
with consumers through inclusive and relevant messaging in a world where awareness has lagged in understanding the true breadth of diversity in the people they need to reach?

Section 2

Empowerment Creates Opportunity

One model marketers can look toward can be found in entertainment. Content far outpaces advertising in understanding that what goes on screen needs to reflect the makeup of our communities. For the first time ever, in 2020 both lead characters and total cast diversity in feature films aligned with U.S. population totals as producers made strides to align stories with the audiences consuming their content.


Conversely, traditional advertising is seen as consistently underdelivering on representation. This can lead to consumers becoming disenchanted with brands that focus on their own messaging and miss the mark on reflecting the diversity of their consumer base in their advertising. This is true for race and ethnicity and, even more so, for sexual orientation around which the highest concentration of consumers have stopped supporting a brand due to advertising that is not inclusive of the community.

In many ways, entertainment has embraced an idea that is at the core of every inclusion initiative: empowering and representing the voices of every community member, whether that is an employee base, a consumer base or an audience base. By investing in content creators seeking to tell their own authentic stories, and finding genuine ways to align with those characters and narratives, brands benefit by both amplifying important new voices and reflecting their diverse consumers within their marketing efforts.

Source: MarketingCharts; Adobe


Section 3

Representing Where It Counts

The greatest insight into how to create inclusive environments behind the camera and diverse content in front of it comes from those who have successfully walked the path.

Actions speak louder than words. Content creators of color are paying careful attention. For every feel good social media like, share or meme, they want to know that you’re all in for the long haul on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. They want to see the ways in which your brand amplifies a diversity of voices supported through partner organizations and within your own company. Authenticity matters.
— Michelle Byrd, Associate National Executive Director, Producers Guild of America

Often in the music industry we see up-and-coming Latin artists hungry to work with brands that are aligned with their values. This is especially true when they’re looking to expand their success from Latin America into the U.S. market. Brands that truly believe in diversity and support budding musicians early on, are rewarded with loyalty from these artists throughout their career. The connection created when brands believe in young artists and young artists believe-in brands, leads to shared rewards that pay out significantly over the years as musicians become household names.
— Melanie Galarce, Sr. Director of Business Development, Latin Recording Academy

Brands know they need to be consumer first throughout their business in order create the authentic connections that build customer loyalty. The question is how best to do this. One effective way is to empower a more diverse set of creators to produce more representative content that allows audiences to see themselves on screen. Creating and being a part of inclusive content shows that the brand cares about the artists, the art itself and the diverse consumers looking to see themselves reflected in today’s popular entertainment.
— Jordan Usdin, BEN Senior Director, Client Development

When we celebrate joy, when we celebrate excellence, especially queer excellence… there is change happening. One in 6 kids, Gen Zers, identify as LGBTQ, that’s huge. I always look at it from an optimistic perspective. The more we create these stories, the more we champion these stories, the more we elevate these stories, it’s just going to be better. And, at the end of the day… as a marketing executive for over 20 years, we know money matters and money talks. And we know the LGBTQ consumer economy is over $9 Trillion. Pride isn’t just June. If you are not marketing to us, if you are not supporting our organizations… people are going to call you out. There’s something to be said about aligning ourselves with the right brands, the right organizations that can champion the good work that everyone’s doing.
— Paul Dien, President and Chair, It Gets Better

What makes the content landscape so exciting today is not the pure volume, but rather, the authenticity of the light being shined on voices and characters that reflect the world we live in. With more diverse creators rising to positions of power, it’s no longer about breaking ceilings, instead it’s about dropping down as many ladders as possible to create a path for the next generation. If there is one thing that audiences around the world have shown us is that regardless of language, culture, sexual orientation, geography or beliefs, storytelling remains a unifying force and as long as these stories are given an opportunity to be told, the world is watching, and brands cannot afford to be left out of that conversation.
— Will Park, BEN Vice President, Brand Integration

For brands to support the production of more inclusive content they need to take a stand on big issues. They can’t waffle on what lives and values matter. It’s up to everyone to validate and support underrepresented voices. If you are that voice remember that your opinion is valuable. That doesn’t mean everyone agrees on everything, it means engage in the conversation. Don’t shy away from the questions because most times the answer is in the grey area. Personally I am committed to trying to stay in touch with the community by serving on panels and boards. Listening in on panels and people that represent groups whom I want to be an ally to if I’m not a part of. And subscribing to what I have heard referred to as the Noah’s ark approach, meaning try not to have only one representative of a group when possible.
— Randall Winston, Producer, Director
(Mixed-ish, Grace & Frankie, Home Economics, Roseanne, Scrubs)

Section 4

The Necessity of Change

With his release of Montero, Lil Nas X sparked and furthered
an important and widespread discussion of safe sex driven by the bold, unmissable Durex placement in his video for “That’s What I Want”. At BEN we are incredibly proud
of the work we did creating this connection between brand and creator. We are always committed to empowering diverse creators and helping bring works of art to life that deliver powerful and authentic brand messaging within the content.

— Erin Schmidt
BEN Chief Product Placement Officer
Section 4

The Necessity of Change

Ultimately what may be the most compelling reason for brands to put their messaging inside diverse and representative content is that audiences vote with their wallets in supporting these stories. In short, taking active steps is no longer a recipe for small success, it is necessary for brand survival in a larger and more diverse world. For the second year in a row, films with 41%-50% minority casts were the biggest successes at the Box Office. Audiences again voted with their wallets in 2020 proving that representative content isn’t just appreciated by consumers, it’s expected.

This aligns with the fact that audiences themselves are more diverse than ever. In 2020, for the first time, Caucasians fell below 50% of movie ticket sales with Hispanic Americans accounting for 29%, African Americans accounting for 14%, with Asians and other ethnicities making up the other 8%.


(IN 000,000s) BY DECILE

Meanwhile streaming platform audiences are also on the path to being comprised of a majority of racial minorities. As of the Summer of 2021, streaming platforms are already comprised of 40% non-white viewers.


These numbers represent both an opportunity and an imperative for brands. At a time when diverse groups are tuning out ads altogether – and especially those that do not accurately or appropriately reflect them – working with creators who can authentically weave their products into diverse and inclusive storylines becomes essential.

ben digital issue 5
ben digital issue 5



Diverse audiences feel brands are falling short of the mark in their advertising


Inclusive messaging isn’t just expected, it is essential to continued business growth


The strides being made in entertainment provide a model for marketers and an opportunity for collaboration


Authenticity is essential and can be achieved by empowering diverse creators


Brands that integrate into diverse content through product placement drive preference by connecting with audiences looking for characters and stories that reflect their lives and experiences

Click here to download a PDF version of this report.

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