Invisible consumers – Brazilian advertising ignores the representation of the black population

Signs: “Where are the blacks? Blacks don’t sell?” “Blacks don’t sell?” “For more blacks in advertising”

Note from BW of Brazil: If you live in Brazil or you’ve visited the country and have spent any amount of time watching television programming, and you analyze this media outlet from a perspective of race, surely you’ve noticed something: as in the TV programming in general, films and just about every other genre, you probably didn’t see many black faces in the TV commercials. By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially if you’e followed BW of Brazil for any amount of time. It is this invisibility that is is leading more and more people in the Afro-Brazilian community to adapt an attitude of “if I don’t see myself, I don’t buy.” As this ideology is far from reaching the general black population, it can only grow and with more adherents to the campaign, eventually Brazilian advertising will have to start taking notice and changing their policies if this sort of movement begins to affect its bottom line ($$$). Afro-Brazilians are tired of being made to feel that they don’t exist or when they are present, being represented as street-sweepers and maids. We will keep you posted on this trend, but for now, check what a new report found on the topic. 

Invisible consumers – Brazilian advertising ignores the representation of the black population

By Fernando Montenegro*

* Fernando Montenegro – Researcher of consumer perception, specializing in Afro-consumo (consumption of African descendants).


ETNUS | Afroconsumo, verified that the absence of black people within advertising/communication agencies and/or marketing/communication departments of companies is determinant in the correct inclusion of black people as aspirational.

In a 2015 study on the presence of blacks in the country’s fifty largest advertising agencies, conducted by monitoring and metrics analyst André Brazoli, the Ministry of Justice’s digital communications consultant, Danila Dourado, and the manager of social media projects, Teresa Rocha, it is evident that black people don’t participate in decision making. According to the survey, of every thousand employees of these places, only thirty-five are black. The survey also points out that afrodescendentes (African descendants) occupy only 0.74% of senior management positions.

In another observation of 2013, analyzing  afrodescendentes in advertisements in São Paulo newspapers, made by the team composed by Sibele Gomes de Santana Faria, Jouliana Jordan Nohara and Evandro Luiz Lopes, published by ANPAD (National Association of Postgraduate and Research in Administration), based on the count of Afro-Brazilians conducted by IBGE, it was found that, for each black represented in advertisements of the newspapers O Estado de S.Paulo and Folha de S.Paulo, it was equivalent to an average of 16.58 brancos (whites).

Advertisement of Vivo, Brazil’s largest mobile phone operator featuring popular YouTuber Jout Jout

Another interesting fact is the survey made by journalist and social media specialist Nadja Pereira, who studied the presence of black people in the publicity broadcast on Youtube, where, for example, only 27% of the publications of the Natura channel had the presence of black people, considerably less than their near 54% of the Brazilian ethnic representation.

In the week of March 14, 2016, we monitored the most expensive prime time program on Brazilian television, Jornal Nacional. Of all the commercials displayed for the São Paulo square, only 12.5% had as protagonists, black people.

Advertisement of Caixa Econômica Federal, presented during the interval of the Jornal Nacional, during the monitoring.

Supported by these data, adding clarifications with professionals in the field, analysis in digital media, advertising campaigns, etc., we could perceive that the lack of representativeness of afrodescendentes as consumer agents is due to two main reasons:

1 – The collective myth that black people have no consumption potential/don’t consume.

2 – Those responsible for communication/industrial production are non-black people, who have, as a repertoire, an imaginary well disconnected from the reality of the public with whom they want to communicate and still feed on the outdated stereotypes about afrodescendentes. These two main factors negatively influence, directly or indirectly, the role of blacks within the consumer society.

Promising market

Contrary to the crisis, some companies are charging high, since they saw potential consumption in this public devoid of identity relations with most brands: sometimes by chatter in language, or by not feeling served and represented in their ethnic-racial characteristics.

Consolidated as one of the main references in Afro-specialized consumption, through fashion, gastronomy, content production, music and art, Feira Preta will complete its 15th anniversary in 2016, further consolidating the strength of its brand and generating businesses that move around R$700 thousand per year.

Photo: Feira Preta (Reproduction/Facebook)

In an article published on Istoé Dinheiro’s website, another example, with revenues expected to reach its first billion in 2018, is the Beleza Natural network, which bet on the valuation of a specific market segment, which had been very little valued until then: the estética negra (black aesthetic). Today, it is one of the main models in the field, operating in several Brazilian states, with more than forty business units (including institutes, product stores and kiosks) scattered throughout the country.

In this same context, and feeling the effects of the 26% drop in sales of straightening products in the year 2015, announced by Abihpec (Brazilian Association of the Personal Hygiene, Perfumery and Cosmetics Industry), Salon Line, specializing in products of this genre, created a line totally thought to tend to this growing demand of the Brazilian consumer market: women with hair between crespo (kinky/curly) and ondulado (wavy), which, according to the estimate of the Beleza Natural network, represent 70% of Brazilians, since this type of hair requires different care than that of the naturally straight texture.

(Photo: Encrespa Geral/Blog Modices)

Therefore, in considering the above data, we prove in numbers the importance of these actions and measured the positive result that this brings, so that this representation serves as an incentive, being frequent and natural. We also show that respect for ethnic-racial differences and peculiarities brings the consumer closer to the companies and their products or services, making everyone win. We don’t just talk about including black people in advertising or agencies, but rather solidifying the representative importance that this has. It’s not enough to have more black people in advertising if the exposure isn’t correct. It’s not enough to have more blacks in the agencies if they themselves are not aware of the political importance of the representativeness of being in those places.

Fernando Montenegro

Fernando Montenegro is a researcher of Consumer Perception for ETNUS|Afroconsumo, communication consultancy and research specialized in the behavior and consumption habits of Afro-descendants. Having worked in marketing departments, design agencies, strategic planning and consumer research, he has worked on projects for brands such as Aché Laboratories, Nestlé, Passport, TV1, Fugini, Purina, L’Occitane, O Boticário, Bayer. Today, he devotes his studies to the understanding of how ethnic-racial relations interfere directly or indirectly with the consumption practices of Afro-descendants.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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