Last week, members of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance presented the "HOT TOPICS IN GLOBAL ADVERTISING LAW” conference. The event was a great way to close GALA's Annual Global Meeting, which was virtual this year due to obvious reasons. 

The best part of it? The webinar this time was open to everyone (not only clients), with more than 500 attendees connected from their hometowns and having access to great content from around the globe.

I had the great pleasure of moderating the first panel on "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Global Campaigns" with my amazing GALA fellows: Denise Mirandah from Mirandah Asia (Singapore), Geraint Lloyd-Taylor from Lewis Silkin (UK), Kanu Priya from Kan & Krishme (India) and Valdir Rocha from Veirano Advogados (Brazil).

Having such a diverse panel to discuss this topic couldn’t make more sense because even when this is a global issue, it has its own local singularities due to our different cultural and religious backgrounds as well as the different economic, social and political context in each country. Therefore, it was enriching to have all of them onboard to share their insights.

As I mentioned then, brands are nowadays more aware of their social responsibility and how they can contribute from their side to make a change in society. On the other hand, consumers and users are more demanding, they want to know which side the brands take - Are they green? Do they support the Black Lives Matter movement? What position do they take on gender and diversity in their own structures? 

Moreover, even when we are all in the process of learning and improving our own policies, structures, and our way of thinking and communicating on a day-to-day basis, the truth is that brands and media are a fundamental part of culture. They are taste-makers and important contributors to the strengthening of social representations. That is why having the conversation on this topic was so relevant.

Throughout the panel we analyzed how current legislation and rules address the diversity and equity issue in advertising, explaining differences between traditional media and digital media; we also covered how stereotyping is most commonly used in advertising in the different regions by sharing very interesting examples and, also, we discussed how local brands are promoting diversity and inclusion around the globe.

There was so much to cover that we didn't have time to examine in detail the categories of products/services that are more or less "inclusive", that is, that are more prone to showing stereotyping or, on the contrary, to embracing diversity and inclusion in their ads and, likewise, we couldn´t discuss disability visibility in advertising and how people with disabilities are represented in ads.

So, as a way to close the panel properly, I share here some final thoughts of our speakers on this topic:

- In the UK, we have extra protection for ‘harmful gender stereotyping’, so do consider that when designing a global campaign. Essentially, it means not relying on tired old stereotypes about men and women, and instead taking some extra steps to improve representation in advertising.

- In 2016, it was reported that 1 in 5 people in Europe live with some kind of disability, but only 0.006% of people in advertising have some kind of visible disability. It’s an area where we’d all like to see advertisers do more and really move the dial. 

- In Brazil, due to the political polarization between conservative and progressive individuals, any advertising campaign involving the LGBT community, people of color or with special needs, should be carefully developed and submitted to specialized lawyers, for clearance, besides being approved by branding specialists, to avoid negative impact on the brand.

- In India, the advertisements which deride any race, caste, color, creed, gender or nationality are not permitted as per the code for Self Regulation of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). ASCI has specifically cautioned against the advertisements which reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin color or portray people with darker skin as inferior, or unsuccessful. So, when planning a global campaign, you should bear in mind that associating a skin color with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity is also prohibited.

-In Argentina, even when there are many national authorities in charge of enforcing the different pieces of legislation addressing the gender issue, it is usually the negative feedback on social media which makes brands automatically take down content, mainly because of the negative reputational impact. So, even when fines and sanctions could not be significant to international brands, bear in mind that we have very active consumers and civil associations on social media willing to blow the whistle.

-Regarding Asia, there has been a wave of brands in the West who have taken a stand on various social issues as part of their recent campaigns. It is best to exercise caution with respect to activism in Asia, particularly in Singapore. There are still some matters which are highly sensitive in various Asian countries, for example LGBTQ+ rights. Given that there remains a statute criminalizing homosexual activity between men in Singapore, this limitation on advertising is unsurprising when it comes to mainstream media. The Singapore advertising code itself mandates that the traditional family unit should be promoted. While the same advertising code applies to social media, there have been examples of influencers who are gay couples promoting products or services, for example hotel staycations. There are still errant advertisements which promote unhealthy body image or display insensitivity with respect to gender and race. Updates to the Singapore advertising code are forthcoming so, if you are planning a global campaign, stay tuned for any updates on diversity and inclusion.

Finally, when planning a global campaign seek for local advice, make sure to approach legal marketing professionals who have a criterion of whole analysis of the advertising pieces that takes into account the prevailing social sensitivity and is in tune with the times. It would be a plus if they have a diverse team themselves. Knowing and trusting your legal team/network is a huge part of your global campaign success!