Study: Depictions of race in Canadian advertising
The University of Toronto Mississauga has released a study on depictions of race in Canadian television advertising. The study, by sociologist Shyon Baumann, examined the appearance and context of white, black and Asian characters in 244 primetime television commercials for food products or dining services, aired in the Toronto area. The study found that white people were more likely to be represented, and shown in a positive way, than than black or Asian people. People from other cultural backgrounds, such as First Nations, Middle Eastern or Hispanic, were too under-represented to include in the study.
According to the study, white characters appeared in 87% of the sampled ads, despite representing only 80% of the general Canadian population. White characters were also more often associated with healthier whole unprocessed foods, while black and Asian characters were over-represented in fast food ads. White characters were more often associated with nostalgia, tradition, nature, high socio-economic status and family. Black characters were more often associated with low socio-economic status and less often with family and tradition. Asians were more often depicted as achievement-oriented but unemotional. White characters were also depicted in a wider variety of situations and experiences.
"Previous studies have looked at depictions of race in Canadian media, but this is the first to focus on advertising," said Baumann. "It's also the first to take a sample of commercials and use quantitative data to find the connections between products and different racial groups. Advertising reproduces broad cultural understandings of race so it can connect quickly with the audience. What this study shows is that ads are reproducing perceptions of race in ways that continue to be problematic for people who are not white."