The representation of phenotypic diversity in audiovisual advertising in Spain: professional perspectives and implications for the cultural dynamics of inclusion



Visual and audiovisual advertising is an influential social language that transforms representations of reality into cultural references, with direct implications for the perception of diversity. However, despite its impact on the fabric of society, few studies have tackled the representation of phenotypic variability in advertising by combining academic and professional perspectives on the phenomenon in Spain. Our study explores this matter through systematic data collection from 834 TV adverts, coding data on 359 on-screen characters, and in-depth interviews with 38 advertising professionals. The conclusions of the study show, among other findings: (a) the low level of phenotypic diversity in television advertising; (b) the under-representation of certain groups; and (c) the complexity of decision-making between clients and agencies, who have to reconcile risk aversion with the effectiveness required for any advertising campaign. This research can be of use for companies in the advertising sector (giving them improved knowledge of specific targets) and policymakers (by helping to promote better intercultural dynamics and the integration of minority groups).


audiovisual advertising, sociocultural representation, diversity, cultural dynamics of inclusion


ALLAN, K. and COLTRANE, S. (1996). “Gender displaying television commercials: A comparative study of television commercials in the 1950s and 1980s”. Sex Roles, 35, 185-203.

AMBWANI, V. P.; HESLOP, L. and DYKE, L. S. (2011). “Implementing diversity strategies: The challenges facing minority focused advertising agencies”. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 30 (4), 332-349.

ANDERSON, S. P. and GABSZEWICZ, J. J. (2006). “The Media and Advertising: A Tale of Two-Sided Markets”. Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, 1, 567-614.

APPIAH, O. (2007). “The Effectiveness of ‘Typical-User’ Testimonial Advertisements on Black and White Browsers’ Evaluations of Products on Commercial Websites: Do They Really Work?”. Journal of Advertising Research, 47 (1), 14-27.

APPIAH, O. and LIU, Y. I. (2009). “Reaching the Model Minority: Ethnic Differences in Responding to Culturally Embedded Targeted- and Non-Targeted Advertisements”. Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 31 (1), 27-41.

AVRAHAM, E. and FIRST, A. (2010). “Can a Regulator Change Representation of Minority Groups and Fair Reflection of Cultural Diversity in National Media Programs? Lessons From Israel”. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54 (1), 136-148.

BANKS, P.A. (2020). Race, Ethnicity, and Consumption: A Sociological View. New York: Routledge.

BECCARIA, F.; ROLANDO, S.; TÖRRÖNEN, J. and SCAVARDA, A. (2018). “From housekeeper to status-oriented consumer and hyper-sexual imagery: images of alcohol targeted to Italian women from the 1960s to the 2000s”. Feminist Media Studies, 18 (6), 1012-1039.

BEARD, F. K. (2017). “The ancient history of advertising: Insights and implications for practitioners: What today’s advertisers and marketers can learn from their predecessors”. Journal of Advertising Research, 57 (3), 239-244.

BEATTIE, L.; KHAN, F. and PHILO, G. (2013). “Race, advertising and the public face of television”. In: G. PHILO (Ed.). Message Received Glasgow Media Group Research 1993-1998. Abingdon, New York: Routledge, 1st edition, 149-170.

BERMEJO, J. and MARTÍNEZ, E. (2013). “Effects of ethnic presence in the commercial and public service advertising: Perception and attitudes on national non-immigrant population in Spain”. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 33, 1-19.

BOULTON, C. (2016). “Black Identities Inside Advertising: Race Inequality, Code Switching, and Stereotype Threat”. Howard Journal of Communications, 27 (2), 130-144.

BURTON, J. L.; MCALISTER, L. and HOYER, W. D. (2015). “How do consumers respond to storylines in television advertisements? A principal-components analysis tool helps decipher moment-to-moment evaluations”. Journal of Advertising Research, 55 (1), 51-61.

CARO ALMELA, A. (2007). “Fundamentos epistemológicos y metodológicos para un estudio científico de la publicidad”. Pensar la Publicidad, 1 (1), 55-82.

CEA, M. Á. and VALLES, M. (2011). Evolución del racismo y la xenofobia en España. Madrid: Observatorio español del racismo y la xenofobia, Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración.

CROCKETT, D. (2008). “Marketing blackness: How advertisers use race to sell products”. Journal of Consumer Culture, 8 (2), 245-268.

DICKINSON-DELAPORTE, S.; MORTIMER, K.; KERR, G.; WALLER, D. S. and KENDRICK, A. (2020). “Power and responsibility: Advertising self-regulation and consumer protection in a digital world”. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 54 (2), 675-700.

EL HAZZOURI, M. and HAMILTON, L. K. (2019). “Why Us?! How Members of Minority Groups React to Public Health Advertisements Featuring Their Own Group”. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 38 (3), 372-390.

HENRY, E.E. (2020). “The Otherness of Talk: Raciolinguistics and the White Foreign Body of English in China”. Anthropological Forum, 30 (4), 377-397.

HETSRONI, A. (2012). “An Introduction: Advertising - truth, trust and belief”. In: A. HETSRONI (Ed.). Advertising and Reality. A global study of Representation and Content. London, New York.: Continuum, 1-8.

JHALLY, S. (1990). “Image-based Culture. Advertising and Popular Culture”. The Word and I, article 17, 506-519.

JIMÉNEZ-MORALES, M.; MONTAÑA, M. and VÀZQUEZ, M. (2019). “Discursive strategies in child-directed audiovisual advertising of low nutritional value products: Happiness, courage and obesity”. Palabra Clave, 22 (3).

JOHNSON, P. L. (2012). “Every Good Marriage Begins with Tears”. Visual Anthropology, 25 (3), 228-230.

KEHOE, C. (2016). Reflecting modern Britain? A study into inclusion and diversity in advertising. London. Retrieved from

LORITE, N. (2016). “Diversidad sociocultural y publicidad audiovisual: estudio multimodal desde la mirada de la cámara”. In: BONIN, J.; LORITE, N. and MALDONADO, E. (Eds.). Publicidad, propaganda y diversidades socioculturales. Quito: Ediciones CIESPAL, 33-66.

LYNCH, J. and WEST, D. C. (2017). “Agency creativity: Teams and performance: A conceptual model links agency teams’ knowledge utilization, agency creativity, and performance”. Journal of Advertising Research, 57 (1), 67-81.

MALTA, R. B.; SANTOS, C. A. and SANTOS, E. A. D. S. (2021). “Bodies that Sell Goods: Cosmetic Catalogs and Asymmetries to the Current Inclusive Advertisement”. Athenea Digital, 21 (2), 1-25.

MARCOS, M.; IGARTUA, J. J.; FRUTOS, F. J.; BARRIOS, I. M.; ORTEGA, F. and PIÑEIRO, V. (2014). “La representación de los personajes inmigrantes en los programas de ficción”. Revista de Comunicación Vivat Academia, 127, 43-71.

MUELA-MOLINA, C.; ROMERO-RODRÍGUEZ, L. M. and GARCÍA-ARRANZ, A. (2020). “The Irresponsible Self-Regulation of Media in Spain: High-Grade Alcoholic Beverage Advertising in Sports Radio Programmes”. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 23 (1), 1-11.

NAPOLI, P. M. (1999). “Deconstructing the diversity principle”. Journal of Communication, 49 (4), 7-34.

PATIL, D. (2014). “Cultural diversity in television advertisements in entertainment channels”. Media Watch, 5 (1), 119-126.

PERELLÓ-OLIVER, S. P. and MUELA-MOLINA, C. (2016). “Advertising self-regulation system in Spain from the perspective of consumer protection”. Prisma Social, 17, 24-45.

PERELLÓ-OLIVER, S. P. and MUELA-MOLINA, C. (2019). “Advertising self-regulation (asr) in Spain. An analysis of complaints and resolutions”. Journal of Marketing Communications, 25 (5), 553-569.

PERELLÓ-OLIVER, S.; MUELA-MOLINA, C. and ROMERO-RODRÍGUEZ, L. M. (2020). “Alcohol and betting radio advertising in Spain. A comparative analysis of the minor’s protection time slot from a media responsibility perspective”. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17 (23), 1-15.

SANTIA, M. and BAUER, N. M. (2022). “The Intersection of Candidate Gender and Ethnicity: How Voters Respond to Campaign Messages from Latinas”. International Journal of Press/Politics.

SHANKAR, S. (2015). Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

SHELDON, W. A. (1954). Atlas of men, a guide for somatotyping the adult male at all ages. Oxford, England: Harper.

SOLLORS, W. (2008). “Ethnicity and Race”. In: D. T. GOLDBERG and J. SOLOMOS (Eds.). A Companion to Racial and Ethnic Studies. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 97-104.

STEINGRESS, G. (2012). “Parejas mixtas e hibridación transcultural en España. Reflexiones sobre un nuevo fenómeno desde perspectivas comparativas a nivel europeo”. Papers, 97 (1), 11-37.

TAYLOR, C. R.; MAFAEL, A.; RAITHEL, S.; ANTHONY, C. M. and STEWART, D. W. (2019). “Portrayals of Minorities and Women in Super Bowl Advertising”. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 53 (4), 1535-1572.

STOLCKE, V. (1995). “Talking Culture. New Boundaries, New Rhetorics of Exclusion in Europe”. Current Anthropology, 36 (1), 1-24.

YUDELL, M.; ROBERTS, D.; DESALLE, R. and TISHKOFF, S. (2016). “Taking race out of human genetics”. Science, 351 (6273), 564-565.

Author Biographies

Jorge Grau-Rebollo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Profesor titular. Departament d'Antropologia Social i Cultural.

Nicolás Lorite-García, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Profesor titular. Departament de Publicitat, Relacions Públiques i Comunicació Audiovisual.




Download data is not yet available.