Consumers say brand advertising must capture their true lifestyles and cultures to be relevant, according to new Getty Images research

August 17, 2020 • Company News

Almost eight in ten people globally expect that companies and brands will be consistently committed to inclusivity and diversity in their advertising and say brands still need to go further to achieve genuine representation

London – 17 August, 2020: Nearly 80 percent of people globally have said it isn’t enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances in advertising but that they expect companies to do a better job at capturing people’s true lifestyles and cultures. This is according to new research by Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications and pioneer in the field of visual trend methodology. The findings have been revealed in a second wave of research for Getty Images’ creative insights platform Visual GPS, completed in conjunction with global market research firm YouGov.

The Visual GPS Summer Update also reveals that people (six in ten) prefer to buy brands that are founded by or represent people like themselves. These results hold steady across generations and gender, with only modest differences across global regions.

“The first Visual GPS study conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important  representation is to people and we continued to track this through the last four months,” said Dr Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at Getty Images. “The Summer Update shows that amid the COVID-19 pandemic and despite massive changes in people’s lives, the demand for more diversity in visual communications has only increased.”

The company reports similar findings in its global customer search data, with searches increasing year over year for ‘diversity’ (up 133 percent), ‘culture’ (up 115 percent), ‘real people’ (up 115 percent) and ‘inclusion’ (up 126 percent). Additionally, from May to June alone customer searches on the Getty Images site for diverse images increased by 200 percent and searches for images around unity and equality increased by 500 percent, trends the company believes were further intensified as a result of  anti-racism protests throughout June.

“Our data and research tells us there’s a clear appetite to tell, hear and see inclusive stories, but brands and businesses must go beyond tokenistic inclusion to intentionally create advertising and business communications which truly capture people’s authentic lifestyles and culture,” said Dr Swift. 

These Visual GPS findings around representation have resulted from a larger body of ongoing quantitative research that deals with global issues, by industry segment, related to use of visual content. This update is the latest effort by Getty Images to address underrepresentation and misrepresentation of different groups in visual communications. The company has spent over a decade working to break down stereotypes and create more authentic content which it has done through commercial imagery collections including, Nosotros, The Disability Collection and Project ShowUs.

Grounded in 25 years of Getty Images research into visual representation, Visual GPS explores how consumers are influenced by four key “Forces”—Technology, Sustainability, Realness and Wellness—and what that means in terms of their decision making. The new insights stem from the second global survey Getty Images has undertaken in partnership with YouGov, for which over 5,000 consumers were surveyed across 26 countries and in 13 languages.

Findings around Bias and Discrimination

The Visual GPS Summer Update found that most people encounter bias, with six in ten (62 percent) feeling they have been discriminated against. Notably, this particular sentiment is more common among Gen Z relative to other generations, among women relative to men, and by consumers in the Americas, relative to Europe and APAC.

Respondents in North America, relative to Europe or APAC said they experience discrimination based on the colour of their skin (57 percent) and more so than any other region, discrimination is seen as being based in people making assumptions about their background (53 percent).  In Europe, those who feel discriminated against on the basis of race/ethnicity are most likely to say this is because of assumptions being made about their nationality or country of origin (56 percent).

Of people who feel they have been discriminated against, only 14 percent say they are well-represented in advertising, and business communications are only marginally better at 15 percent.

“There’s clearly room for improvement when it comes to representation, as evidenced by Visual GPS findings, which also suggests significant opportunities,” said Dr Swift.

“We recognise our challenge and opportunity in supporting our global customer base toward content choices which reflect consumer preference. This research will form the basis for a number of tools which will help brands and businesses on this journey.” 

To partner the new report, Getty Images has released an Inclusive Visual Search Guide. Developed off Visual GPS research findings, the tool has been designed to assist brands and businesses in making intentional content choices which drive authentic and inclusive representation in visual communications.

For more information on Visual GPS creative insights, please visit

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