The advertising diversity conundrum: Balancing diversity, accuracy and sales

Four people holding up eyes and mouths of other races over their own face to mask their race
Photo:”Diversity Mask” by George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On a recent trip to London, I entertained myself on long tube rides by analyzing their advertisements. What struck me most was the lack of diversity in their ads. Here I was, in one of the top 10 most diverse cities in the world, and about 90% of the people featured in ads where Caucasian. This reminded me of the advertising diversity conundrum that we all face:

Do we utilize people who will sell the most for us and not worry about representing who buys our product?

Adore Me uses A/B testing to decide which models to feature based on sales. The result is great sales and all of the models are very similar in look: olive skin, dark hair.

Do we accurately represent the population where we are advertising?

This stance usually means, if 33% percent of people in the population are one group and 40% another, then 33% of the people in your ads should be of the first group and 40% of the people in your ads should represent the second group.

Do you make sure and represent as many diverse groups as you can in each communication?

An example of this stance in execution: a college recruiting brochure should have one person from each racial group, one person that is a non-traditional age, one person with a disability, etc. Another recruiting brochure should have a similar mix.

Do we do some form of combination of the above? Or something else?

But it gets even more complicated than that. Some particular diversity in advertising conundrum questions I’ve faced in my career:

– Where is the line as to which groups should be represented? By putting one student, who was Native American, in one ad over the course of one year, we were over-representing the number of Native Americans who attended the college I worked at. But if we hadn’t included him, the Native American population would have been underrepresented.

– “Non-traditional” age students don’t respond less to ads with only “traditional age” (18-24) students in them. But traditional age students are less likely to respond to ads of non-traditional students. So, should we still put non-traditional age students in ads?

– I once conducted a focus group at a university where a student complained that, by representing every group in all of the recruiting brochures, the university had falsely given the impression that the campus was incredibly diverse. He was very disappointed when he arrived and found the campus a lot less diverse than he thought based on the brochures. Should the university stop this practice?

– It’s hard enough to get students to show up to photo shoots, how do you responsibly and ethically get a diverse mix of students to show up?

– What about other forms of diversity that are valuable, but hard to see in a five second ad? For example, veterans are an important part of every college campus, but usually don’t go to class wearing their uniform from when they were in the service. How do you accurately represent them in your ads?

These are not easy questions, but they are questions we all grapple with. How do you handle representing diversity in your ads? Which philosophy do you think is best?

Photo:“Diversity Mask” by George A. Spiva Center for the Arts is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Effectively Networking with a Conference Speaker

A woman giving a presentation in front of a crowd
“MozCon Day 2 – 2013” by Thos Ballantyne is licensed under CC BY 4.0

You just watched an amazing presentation by a speaker and you want to discuss their presentation, or something else, in further detail with them. Based on my experiences as both a speaker and a fellow presentation attendee, here is the best way to effectively approach a conference speaker for networking:


  1. Approach the speaker by standing a few feet away but obviously waiting for them, wait patiently for them to acknowledge you.
  2. Approach
  3. Shake their hand while introducing yourself
  4. Give them your short (1 minute) compelling reason you two should speak further at a later date. Examples:
    1. That was a great presentation! I have a couple of follow-up questions related to what you said about x. I’d like to schedule a time with you to discuss.
    2. I’m really interested in what you said about small business marketing and I’d like to discuss how I’ve used similar techniques successfully. I’d like to set-up a time with you to discuss.
    3. My company is doing something very similar to your organization and I think we could be great partners.
  5. Let them know you will be following-up via email to schedule a time to speak with them. Most speakers will hand you a business card at this time, but if they don’t and you think it’s going to be hard to find that information on your own, ask for one.
  6. Follow-up within a few days.

Common errors:

  • Don’t monopolize the speaker’s time. Give your 1 minute compelling reason to speak to them further. No more. If you try to ask any in-depth questions you have then or try to have an in-depth discussion right then, you’ll risk leaving a bad impression with not only the speaker, but other conference attendees who would also like the opportunity to say something (I’ve been behind a few of you in line).
  • Be ready with your compelling reason. Often, someone will approach a speaker without a cohesive thought on what they’d like to discuss. This takes up time and also can leave a bad impression.
  • Don’t sell your product. This is what the follow-up call is for. See the example above on how to pre-sell your product or service by saying you’d make a great partnership.

What advice would you add? What works best for you?

Time to retire the “elevator pitch”?

Photo of an old elevator floor indicator
“Elevator” by Steve Snodgrass is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“What types of products do you use on your skin?” the esthetician at the spa asked. I named a small list of products and ended with, “…and olive oil.” “Olive oil?  Why on Earth would you use that?” she said surprised.  Then she continued, “Well our products are all natural…”

I don’t remember what she said after that because, at that moment, she lost me.

She lost me because she said something that countered her position as “an expert” (olive oil is very natural, last time I checked) and she lost me because, at that moment, I knew my “custom” facial wasn’t going to be “custom” and her pitch wasn’t going to be relevant to me.

It’s important to have a consistent message and it’s important communicate key points of interest to your audience (Note: not key points of interest to you!), but your brand ambassadors and other front-facing team members need to have the freedom, skill, and training to be able to move away from the “elevator pitch” and customize what they say to match the situation they are in.

If the esthetician had, instead, responded with “Olive oil? Oh that’s great! I’m glad to hear you use natural products. Our products are all natural too and may provide an even better impact on your pale skin because it’s a blend of several natural ingredients…” I may have bought her $200 bottle of lotion.

Probably not though, olive oil is much cheaper.

Lessons from sales series: Three-legged stool, leg #1, you have to love people

Two young men holding signs that say "free hugs"
From Flickr: loudestnoise

When I was working at Adams Outdoor Advertising, they brought in Dr. George Pransky of Pransky and Associates to talk about what would make us successful.  One of the things he talked about was a three-legged stool. The three legs were: You have to love people, love your product, and be resilient.

Does loving people mean you have to go around hugging everyone? No.

Does it mean you have to love every person you encounter? No.

But, to me, it does mean that you have to like people in general.  You have to enjoy being around people, you have to love getting to know people, and you have to enjoy working with people.

So what if people aren’t acting so lovable? Well, that happens a lot, especially if you are in sales. You get doors slammed in your face, you get yelled at, people don’t return your calls, and people lie to you. In those moments, I remember two things:

  1. If someone is acting meanly, it’s more than likely not about you. Maybe someone just cut them off in traffic, or maybe they just had a fight with their spouse and you look a bit like them…you just don’t know. But, it’s more than likely not you.
  2. I once asked a boss, who worked with a set of professional people who lied a lot to his face, how he was able to take it so well. “You’ve got to view it as humorous, Nicole,” he told me. “It’s not worth calling them on their lie. So instead, laugh that you know the truth and move on. It’s not worth the energy and don’t take it personally that they lied to you. They like a lot. It’s not a personal thing.”  He was a big lover of people.

If you are working in sales, communications, or marketing, you’ve got to love people, whether they treat you well or not.

Effective marketing talks went well, thank you to all my supporters

Last week, I presented an Effective Marketing talk, which includes references to the Broken Windows Theory, to the Tomball Rotary Club and the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce. Both talks went very well and, because of those, I’ve received several requests to come and do additional speaking on marketing.

I would like to thank everyone who came to these talks (approximately 320 of you!), promoted them ahead of time by publishing them in their newspapers and websites, promoted them via social media, sent good vibes and prayers, came up before to wish me luck, came up after to tell me how much they enjoyed it, sent cards and emails of congratulations, and helped in some other way (took photos, set-up technology for me,  put-out my materials, etc.).

I’ve also received several emails from business owners and marketing managers telling me how they’ve incorporated the things I spoke about into their organizations and the results they’ve seen from doing so. These emails inspire me and I’m grateful for those who send them.

Thank you again!

– Nicole

Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Nicole Finkbeiner speaking at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.

Sometimes, it’s all in a name

Every once in a while, I’m amazed at how a simple name change can do wonders for a product or service. Check out the video below to see what I mean.

Lifetime Fitness model too thin. This billboard needs to come down.

A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says "I can do it all in my lifetime"
A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says “I can do it all in my lifetime”

Dear Lifetime Fitness,

Normally I don’t use this blog to openly criticize advertisements and the companies that put their brand on them, but I find the above billboard for your fitness centers in Houston, TX absolutely appalling.

This woman is not fit, she’s anorexic-looking. Particularly, her arms are the size of small twigs. They can’t be real; they must be graphically modified. At least, I hope so.

We’ve done a lot of work as an industry to get away from using too-thin models and, instead, using models that are fit AND healthy (for examples, see Shape Magazine or Oxygen Magazine). Advertisements like this that show someone who is simply too thin to be healthy are a step in the wrong direction and outright harmful to the impressionable.

Please take it down immediately, replace it with a model that is a true portrayal of health and fitness, and figure out a way to do so in all future ads.

Nicole Finkbeiner

P.S. If you are wondering why I chose this venue to bring this matter to your attention, it wasn’t my first choice. I was planning to send you an email and/or talk to you via your Facebook page. But, after reading comments on your Facebook page about unhappy consumers not being treated well by your customer service staff and seeing how Facebook complaints are handled on your page (most responses from your company are of the “We are sorry, but you, Mr, Customer, are wrong” nature), I decided to utilize my blog instead.