Trying to cast the right mix of talent for an advertisement is often like walking a tightrope between authentic and not. Brands want diversity in ad campaigns, but cannot allow it to look as though an effort was put forth to have diversity in their ad campaigns. By simply creating a casting brief, we limit the type of model or actor that can be considered, which can be unintentionally restrictive or appear unnatural on film and in print.
One of the great benefits of User Generated Content (UGC) is its ability to organically unveil the diversity that exists in our consumer bases. Sometimes, it can even help us break down cultural barriers and encourage more cultural acceptance, like the examples below.
Mattel - Dads Who Play Barbie
Barbie has long been a powerful role model for young girls and an ambassador for diversity. Today, there’s a Barbie for every interest, hair color, ethnicity, body-type, and even potential career paths such as POTUS Barbie. The strides Mattel has made towards being a toy for everyone are obvious, though, in their recent User Generated Content (UGC) campaign they took aim at modernizing gender roles by bringing to light a common phenomenon - dads who play Barbie with their daughters.
The creative campaign drives home the idea that anyone with an imagination can have fun playing Barbie, even the man’s man father. Real-life dads can be seen turning off Sunday football to go on an outer space mission or practice yoga with their daughters and their Barbie dolls. And, while dads are often willing to do anything to make their little girls happy, these dads all make light of the fact that they enjoy the Barbie time.
The ad didn’t stop there, though. In addition to showing us that there is nothing emasculating about men playing Barbie with their daughters, the campaign also subtly shows us that the heart-warming phenomenon wasn’t limited to any market segments in particular - the dads and daughters themselves were also quite diverse.
This isn’t to say the father-daughter storyline wasn’t already popular before, but in choosing real Barbie customers as actors, Mattel was able to create an authentic testimony that there are no barriers to Barbie.
The Gap - I Am Gap- Portrait of an American Summer
For their “I Am Gap” campaign, The Gap took a different approach to casting. Rather than going to an agency to find models, they held a street casting. The ethnicities of the models varied, but the clothing brand focused on who each person was with a video showcasing their individuality.
”You are the quiet strength in a roaring city,” the video proclaims. “You are the free spirit who welcomes the unknown. You are the cattle driver, the BMX rider, the artist in the making. You are worlds apart in life but neighbors in optimistic spirit. You are America. You are Gap.”
Each model was also featured in print ad taglined, “I am Gap - A Portrait of an American Summer”.
The ad succeeds because of the real people it uses, each with their own unique story, quirk, and personality. We don’t see the diversities as a token gender or ethnicity or type, we see skateboarder named Alejandro and a cowboy named Chance.
Coca-Cola - Just Dance
In their “Just Dance” Campaign, Coca-Cola shows us that there is maybe nothing enjoyed by all walks of human life quite like dancing.
For this social media, User Generated Content (UGC) video campaign, the soft drink brand left casting requirements open to just dancers. As a result, the videos they received from real people reveal that nerds dance, girls and boys with blue hair dance, and young kids dance. We get to experience the dance life in cities, in dance studios, in living rooms, and even in an alternate gaming dimension.
The “Just Dance” videos demonstrate that, while UGC can be used to hyper-target the smallest segments such as dancers, it can also organically bring together the mixed bag of consumers who often make up the base of large brands.
These are just three examples of branded content creative strategies brands have used to bring real consumers into their advertising. Diversity is not a strategic business move, it's a real representation of the individual personalities, perspectives, and backgrounds that make up global consumers today.