Students make up one of the most diverse consumer groups in the world, yet this isn’t reflected in the advertising used by brands or education institutions to attract them. The students we see in advertising still fail to represent real students. And how do students feel about this?

Well, we decided to find out. 

Over 48 hours, we ran a deep-dive survey with over 700 students from our panel on their views on representativeness and diversity in advertising, to understand whether students feel like they see themselves or people with similar identities to them in advertising. Do they see people that are a similar age, gender, have the same nationality or race or have disabilities?

What we discovered was equal parts astounding and also saddening. Uncovering how students really feel about the advertising they see every day, how they’re being represented, and how that makes them feel about brands. And what you need to be doing in order to do better. Here’s a peek into what we found.

1 in 5 students never feel represented in advertising.

So what does this mean - well there are roughly 30 million students aged 18-24 in the U.S. - so this would mean that six million students don’t feel represented in advertising ever? This is a significant number - and we need to do something about it. 

Less than a third of students feel that their ethnicity or nationality is represented. 

And then when we look at this for BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) students, we see that this reduces substantially to only 1 in 10 BAME who feel that they are represented. 

6 in 10 students don’t feel represented by the advertising used by universities. 

Despite being home to some of the most diverse student bodies, universities were not viewed particularly well by the students we surveyed—especially when compared to other sectors such as clothing. The education sector needs to do more…. 

Quite often in marketing, people start talking about targeting criteria like age or gender when trying to reach out to their prospective audience —and we then often forget about who these people are—their feelings and emotions and how these drive their decisions.

We asked students how they feel when they see people that look like them in advertising...

"Included" "Motivated" "Confident" "Happy"

"You can't be what you can't see," attributed to Marian Wright Edelman, American civil rights activist

Overwhelmingly, and unsurprisingly, students felt positive about this. 

Diversity campaigns make students feel included. We know that students are extraordinarily stressed, anxious, and worried—we hear this every day. We want to support them through the small and big things that we are in charge of, and one way to do this is by making sure that students feel included—part of something. The other feeling here that stands out is motivated—so this is not just a positive emotion but one with action behind it—going on to engage with you further and take the actions that you want them too. 

If you’re trying to build a campaign, then these are the feelings that we should be trying to instill in your audience to build your brand and get people to take action. Diversity is so important. 

Want to find out more? On November 27, Director of Research Kas Nicholls, Creative Strategist Lindsay Toone and Brand Manager for Student Hut, Chloe Hashemi will delve deeper into this game-changing research in our live webinar. They'll share creative strategies and case studies to inspire you for your next marketing campaign.

The webinar will be hosted in the UK at 11:00 am GMT. For those who can't make it, sign up anyway and we'll send you a recording afterward. 

Save your seat here


Wednesday 27 November | 11am (UK)

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Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Marketing Executive