TRS.20.032 – Promoting inclusivity and social cohesion in and through advertising

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 047 How can we promote social cohesion in a society that is culturally and religiously diverse?

Resilient societies need imaginative images and narratives that make citizens feel included, connected, protected and understood; that encourage them to acknowledge and overcome their prejudices and fears; inspire them to meet people with different opinions and beliefs; stimulate them to imagine and co-create a more cohesive society that dares to embrace rather than resist change.
Advertising ‘one of the most expensive, pervasive, intrusive and persuasive forms of image making’ has, until recently, barely taken up this challenge. On the contrary, during the twentieth century advertisers, by perfecting the art of stereotyping, have solidified rather than challenged traditional norms and prejudices regarding gender, ethnicity, class and sexuality.
Over the last few years, Dutch advertisers and national advertising associations (both from the brand/companies as from the creative agency-side) have become increasingly committed to create advertisements that better reflect and promote ideals and practices of inclusiveness. However, the challenges are still huge. While the numbers of non-white characters have, for instance, substantially increased, their roles remain strikingly marginal. According to recent opinion research (Motivaction_BvA_2020), a majority of Dutch citizens urge the advertising industry to make a better effort in the way they represent Dutch society.
This project aims to unravel the complex mechanisms of inclusivity and exclusivity in the production and reception of Dutch advertisements, by bringing together expertise from history, media studies and sociology with expertise from the professional field. By combining quantitative and qualitative research methods we will analyze a) the composition and culture of advertising departments in companies and creative advertising agencies, b) shifting patterns of social representation in advertisements and c) reception of marketing communication by various audiences. Thus, we aim to demonstrate why making marketing more inclusive is both urgent and difficult, and help the sector to use its imaginary power, to make society more inclusive and resilient.


Advertising, class, ethnicity, gender, Inclusivity, social cohesion

Other organisations

Bond van Adverteerders, Culture and Communication, DHLab KNAW Humanities Cluster, Dutch Marketing Diversity Fund, Erasmus Universiteit (EUR), Fac. der Geesteswetenschappen, Fac. der Sociale Wetenschappen, KNAW Humanities Cluster, Motivaction, NL-Lab, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (RU), School of History, VEA Vereniging van Communicatie Adviesbureau's, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


Organisation Radboud Universiteit (Fac. der Letteren)
Name Prof. dr. W.J.H. (Jan Hein) Furnée