An Inclusion Rider for Brands

“I have two words to leave you tonight, ladies and gentleman: inclusion rider” France’s McDormand said on Sunday closing her acceptance speech for best actress Oscar. It left some scratching their head questioning what that is exactly. Well, according to NYTimes it is a clause an actor can stipulate in their contract enforcing quotas for casting / auditioning of cast and crew requiring numbers to reflect a real world split of gender, ethnicity, people with disabilities and/or sexual orientation.
The concept was first explored in a TED talk in 2016 by Stacy Smith, and now has been catapulted into the spotlight thanks to the visibility it has been given at the award ceremony. Here’s that TED talk…Stacy Smith

In today’s world, big brands have as much of a role to play, if not more, than movie stars do. Big brands are the A listers on our tv screens or popping up in our social media feeds. The images and discourse a brand pushes into the content stratosphere that surrounds people in their daily lives through advertising influence attitudes and behaviors in culture and society.

So shouldn’t big brands take action to drive inclusivity just as Hollywood A listers are being encouraged to?

A major initiative that big players such as Mars, Unilever and Alibaba have signed up to is the Unstereotype alliance. Having been at Unilever when this was launched I saw how brilliantly practical it is in nature. Simple values to apply when a brand and its partners create new advertising or cast for new executions encourage great training for all brand managers to make the impact however small. If brand managers, and all their creative partners all commit to the principles of inclusivity then every small action will make one massive change for the better. More about Unstereotype

What is also refreshing to see is that this push helps inspire creative work to go against the grain and push those boundaries. Why shouldn’t it be dad who cleans up the kids mess? Why can’t transgender people feature in beauty advertising? Many women today are the breadwinners, so why not portray that and disrupt the sea of creative sameness that is out their in advertising. Being a trailblazer won’t be met without some resistance but brands that make the effort gain attention and more importantly project a progressive view of people and fuel what is the new normal.


Take Campbell’s soup ad as an example. The ad features two gay dads and was met with some resistance from some, but the reaction for most was positive even encouraging people to come to their defense in social media…Campbell’s 
While there maybe no formal written contract to enforce inclusion that is directly applicable for brands, there is certainly a commitment that brands are making to reflect society as it is and champion underrepresented groups where it can. A healthy brand is an inclusive one and I’m happy to note that brand managers far and wide are being groomed to commit to our own version of an ‘inclusion rider’.

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