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Today’s best kept advertising secret: Is targeting ethnic minorities currently the biggest missed opportunity for UK advertisers?

Thomas Hughes
By Thomas Hughes  //  Wed 17th April 2013
Whilst some advertisers in the UK have woken up to the opportunity that targeting ethnic minorities represents, the majority seem not to have. So the question is, with the staggering growth in minority communities as shown by the recently released national census data, why don’t more advertisers target these groups?

The census data released in December 2012 shows in detail the dramatic increase in ethnic minorities across the country, with a strong focus on London and other big cities. Incredibly, a third of the population of London is now foreign born and 55% say that they belong to a group other than ‘white Britons’. So how can an advertiser afford not have a specific strategy within their wider campaign portfolio for targeting these communities?

Which groups are growing fastest?
An incredible 55% of the population growth between 2001 and 2011 was due to immigration. These are communities that retain strong ties with their heritage countries and are daily consumers of media from those countries, so as a result are hard to reach via domestic mainstream media.

In contrast, the ‘ethnic white’ population decreased from 94% in 1991 to 86% today. Thus, any advertiser without a strategy for targeting ethnic minorities is ignoring the fastest growing sections of the British public. This is also a missed opportunity to build strong market positions for the longer term as these communities merge into the mainstream and bring their consumer habits with them.

So which communities are the biggest? Predictably Indians are the largest ethnic group, with a staggering increase over the past decade by around 500,000 to 2.5 million, closely followed by Pakistanis at 2 million. Likewise, in 2001 there were 378,000 black Africans in London, but by 2011 that figure had shot up by 50%, to 574,000. These communities are clustered in borough like Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark. Other communities, including from Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Middle East, are also on the increase. In the current anti-immigration political climate, dare I also point out the obvious that these national census figures do not include the hundreds of thousands who are living and working in the UK, but who are not legally registered!

London and other cities…
London is the most diverse city in the UK, if not the world, with the ‘white Britons’ accounting for under half (approximately 45%) for the first time. More than one-in-three London residents are foreign-born. The largest decrease in white British community was in Barking and Dagenham, where it fell by an amazing 31%. This pattern is also seen across other big cities in the Midlands and the Northwest. 

So, how can you target ethnic minorities?
Targeting ethnic minorities online can be problematic, either because ‘ethnic media’ in the UK are too small or too specific. Moreover, under the Data Protection Act, ethnicity is regarded as ‘sensitive data’ for which explicit permission is required for its retention Addressing these obstacles, Diversity can deliver campaigns that provide both scale and target definable ethnic groups, either individually or in clusters. Any advertiser interested is placing even a percentage of the ad spend towards targeting ethnic minorities should come and speak with the Diversity team.
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