Note from BW of Brazil: Needless, advertising in Brazil leaves much to be desired if were expecting a fair representation of the Brazilian population. It ain’t hard to tell. Numerous studies have shown that Brazilian advertising, as well as its media in general, has no problem representing the country as an extension of Europe in terms of race. But I must admit, in recent years, there has been some change. I’ve noticed more advertisements that feature black people, specifically black women, in a variety of settings. Not to jump to an conclusions because the standard remains white skin, straight hair, but the change is noticeable. But even with these improvements, I support the creation and support of specifically black media outlets as I have no reason to believe that the white media has any interest fully in representing black perspectives on their airwaves. As such, I hope to see more collectives such as the Tela Preta group and many others who are taking it upon themselves to bring black representation to an audience that is increasingly demanding to see themselves represented.
Despite evolution, advertising still reinforces stereotypes about the black population, study says
By Larissa Infante
Research shows that the advertising market in Brazil started to invest in greater representation, but still needs to improve.
The black population represents 54% of Brazilians. Still, the group is one of the least represented in advertising and the media. According to the study “TODXS – Uma análise de representatividade na publicidade brasileira” (ALL – An analysis of representativeness in Brazilian advertising), made by advertising agency Heads in partnership with UN Women, Brazilian advertising still reinforces stereotypes and still does not represent the real diversity of society. This is the case of Núria Kiffen, 22 years old. Born in Angola and raised in Brazil, the actress says she almost gave up her career because she did not see herself on the screen. “I thought about giving up, because I would look around, turn on the television, watch soap operas and ads and not be represented,” she said. Kiffen only returned to the profession recently, with the help of a black collective. “I am in the process of empowerment, much influenced by black women who often speak on the internet,” she said.
According to the study, which occurs every six months and is currently in the seventh wave, there is in fact an effective impact of the discussions on gender equality and race in Brazilian advertising, but the progress is still far from representing the ideal. “Discussions are having an effective impact on brand communication, but on the other hand, we are still very far from an ideal of equity and representativeness of Brazilian society as a whole. Also because 55% of the Brazilian population declares itself to be black,” said Bárbara Ferreira, planning manager at Heads.
A total of 2,149 commercials were monitored on the country’s largest television channels for a week. The best result was among the black women protagonists, that reached a 25% share in the advertising pieces. “This is a fact we celebrate because, in relation to the first wave, the representation of the black woman was only 4%. This is a fact that shows that there is, yes, a process of evolution and change, but that happens at a slower speed than we expected,” Ferreira reported.
For men, the jump was lower: from 1% in the first wave to 13%. Research has shown that the number of black actors in supporting roles is much higher than in prominent roles. For the manager of the agency, one of the factors for the disparity between men and women is the fact that some empowerment movements, carried out by women, had a direct impact on the representativeness of the communication of some industries. “The women’s empowerment movement has brought discussions and became an agenda that has also accompanied the discussion movements for the empowerment of black women,” she said.
Another point of the study was the permanence of stereotypes in advertising. Although the number of commercials that empower women is greater than those that stereotype, there are still a large number of stereotypes, especially in the female sphere. Ferreira says that black women are three times more stereotyped than men. “When a person receives 5,000 messages a day, she is not able to reflect on all those messages. Advertising interferes with how we perceive what is beautiful, ugly, about our own reality and how we judge it,” she said.
Tela Preta video inspired by the original Globo TV video from 1987
For the master in communication and culture of the University of São Paulo, Carlos Augusto Martins, the image of the black in publicity is linked to classic stereotypes, like as the manual worker, the athlete or the sexualized mulatta. For the researcher, this vision originated in the nineteenth century, when blacks were in advertising being sold as merchandise or even in advertisements of fugitives. “In recent years, it is possible to notice a decrease in advertising linked to such stereotypes, which does not mean that the image of the black has come to be valued. To a large extent, in advertisements in which blacks don’t appear stereotyped, they end up having a purely neutral image,” he said.
Martins points out that advertising, as well as other segments of the media, ends up acting on the feedback of racism, which helps reflect the prejudice present in society. “The ideal would be publicity that gives visibility to the true racial composition of the Brazilian population, failing to perpetuate the image of white as the ideal standard of success and beauty,” he said.
For the researcher, there must be a greater presence of black professionals in advertising agencies, as well as a change in the ethical stance on the social issue. “The human dimension of black people as citizens, in general, is cast aside. Since the 1990s, it has been proven that the black population is an important consumer market. But advertising has not changed. This demonstrates that racism in the advertising medium is beyond the issue of consumption. There is an ethical component that is always scorned,” he said.
For the professor of publicity of the University of São Paulo, Clotilde Perez, the element left aside by the publicity is the subjectivity. Perez argued that there are, in fact, more black people in advertising, but that the growth is of the presence of blacks as representative of themselves, as when blacks do campaigns for shampoo for black hair or when black women convey their image in ads of makeup for black women. “Blacks are still legi-sign of themselves and not ‘of the human.” They are representative of humans, but only of a kind of human: the black human,” he argued.
Perez mentioned that publicity should contribute to the construction of a better society, since it has the responsibility to advance the relations and to elevate them to levels of full and unrestricted citizenship to all. “Advertising in Brazil is a privileged path to this achievement, but ‘insists’ in not taking on this role,” he said.
For the teacher, the laws need to be improved, but also the awareness raising of advertisers, agencies and all those involved in the planning, creation, execution, dissemination and research in advertising. “What we see is an exacerbation of individualism in all spheres and the inability to see the other as an equal, that is, an inability to reflect on the consequences of their creations,” he said.
It was precisely because of the search for greater representation in the media that the Tela Preta channel appeared. On the air since November of last year, the objective is to meet the demands that the market cannot supply, creating a more horizontal content that meets all. “When we talk about representation, we don’t only talk about protagonism as an actor, but on the issues of script, production and direction,” said Licínio Januário, director of the channel. Currently on YouTube, Tela Preta (Black Screen) proposes to create new narratives for the audiovisual. “We don’t want to see a black man with guns anymore, we want to see blacks talking about other things in our daily lives. The population needs this vent,” said Januário.
The director said that the entire team of the channel is composed of blacks, from the press office to the hosts, writers and producers. For him, the place of speech that blacks have today has been demanded for years and is being conquered. “We force the market to open. This merit is ours. It was thanks to our intellectual and aesthetic empowerment that the market began to open its eyes to that,” he said.
For Januário, there is still a long way to go. The director argues that the situation will only begin to change when people realize that blacks have the capacity to assume leadership positions and, especially, when they are valued in the same way. “If I owned a company and wanted to reach women, I would put a woman on to be with me. Only then would the conversation be horizontal. The same goes for blacks,” he said.
One of the producers of Tela Preta is Núria Kiffen. The actress, who almost gave up the life of the profession, only returned to work in the area because she saw in the group an opportunity to be represented. “I see my sisters in the daily rush and I see few opportunities. The conclusion of all this is that we need to make ours, with our black directors, writers, actors, to form our canvas,” she said.